According to neuroscience, emotions are processed and communicated not just in the brain as once believed, but on the outside of cells in the form of neuropeptides. Neuropeptides, discovered by researcher Candace Pert in the 1980’s, are the messenger molecules of your emotions. The discovery of neuropeptides as receptor cites on the outside of cells is one of the most significant science based links to the mind-body connection. Emotions were previously considered to be the domain of the brain. Now we know they are located in the brain, stomach, immune system, endocrine system, heart and essentially every major body system and organ. The top two places we find neuropeptides are in the brain and the stomach. This is one reason why digestive disorders are frequently related to emotions and why the term ‘gut feeling’ has real merit. Your stomach and large and small intestine are literally your emotional brain.
2ND Brain in the Gut
The gut/brain connection has long been recognized as a factor of physical and psychological well-being. The interrelationship between the central nervous system (brain) and the enteric nervous system (gut) is so significant that the brain in the gut is considered to be a second brain. Interestingly, what most people do not realize is that over 95 percent of one of your most important neurotransmitters, Serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain. Serotonin is responsible for feeling happy and emotionally balanced, and when your levels are low you tend towards depression and anxiety. As well, 60-70% of your immune system is located in the gut as a vast network of lymph tissue referred to as GALT (gut associated lymphatic tissue).
Anyone who has ever felt butterflies in their stomach before giving a speech, a gut intuition that defies any known facts or a sudden intestinal urgency before a presentation or important event has experienced the actions of the two nervous systems. Common health issues like anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and Parkinson’s disease manifest symptoms at the brain and the gut level. According to Dr. Mayer, professor of medicine, physiology and psychiatry at UCLA, “The majority of patients with anxiety and depression will also have alterations of their GI function.” Studies suggest that stress, particularly during childhood, can cause chronic gastrointestinal conditions. New understandings of the way the second brain works, and the interactions between the two nervous systems, are helping to treat many psychological and physical disorders.
Hilary Stokes Ph.D. and Kim Ward Ph.D. have been a team for 20 years, specializing in mind, body, spirit psychology. They are the authors of the bestselling books The Happy Map: Your roadmap to the habit of happiness and Manifesting Mindset: The 6-step formula for attracting your goals and dreams and founders of Authenticity Associates Coaching and Counseling. They are passionate about combining the best of holistic and traditional approaches to health and happiness. If you are interested in learning the answers to the most frequently asked questions on how to decrease stress and increase happiness sign up for their free video series.