Over 100 million neurons convert our intestine in a double dimension organ – nutritional and psychological. This neural network puts us in contact with complex emotions we feel ever since childhood.
In fact, and this is a tested and proven reality, before expressing our emotions in words, our digestive system guesses what we feel, giving body to our emotions that further reach our hearts making them beat faster.
The explanation comes from our attachment to our mothers (or to other primary foster) since the minute we are born, not only for the love and affection offered by them, but also for the food, most often offered at the same time with the care and affection shown. Starting with this phase of psychological development that Sigmund Freud depicted as the oral phase, nutrition and emotions come as a package and stay intertwined in our brains.
Even though the need for affection is previous to the one for nutrition, when the baby cries, he is in most cases asking for food and attention. The baby is not always receiving both, so he is becoming frustrated by not having both needs fulfilled. Which is not entirely a bad thing, as often in life we will have to struggle to surpass similar situations.
Another reason for the connection created between our stomach and our feelings is the neural network, composed by 100 millions neurons, that scientologists call the enteric nervous system, capable of independently producing the same substances – namely neurotransmitters – as the ones encountered in the brain (dopamine, serotonin etc.) that, besides regulating the intestinal activity, activate a profound stabilizing effect of our emotions. We have more serotonin in our gastrointestinal system than we do in our brains.
On the other hand, the intestinal microbiome represents a key factor, meaning the millions species of good bacteria living in our intestines. In modern times, it was discovered and acknowledged its influence on the systems regulating our response to stress, anxiety and memory. Despite the fact that the precise mechanisms through which this happens were not yet determined, it is clear that, when the balance of microbiome is threatened, we might be having gastrointestinal problems, including anxiety and depression symptoms.
“It is an intriguing idea that the intestinal microbiome is related to regulating our emotions”, says PhD Paul Forsythe from McMaster University in Canada.
Investigators conclude that “the communication between brain and intestines is constantly taking place, most regularly, at subconscious level, and plays a critical role in best maintaining a good health.”
So eating and being fed are by any means biological needs with one individual dimension, and a social one, but we’re talking also about a psychological action involving contradictory feelings. It is in this specific manner that our intestines connects us, since childhood, to complex emotions related to insides vs. habitat, familiar vs. unknown, desire vs. necessity.
By digesting and assimilating the nutritional ingredients, intestines allow us to configure not only our body armor, but also the psychic one.
“Our important truths lay hidden in our intestines… as gold in a mine.” (British poet John Donne).