Abdominal Brain, Gut, and Skin Connection
In 1984, I started studying the bodymind therapy of Chi Nei Tsang, a detoxifying and balancing abdominal massage. This began my ten-year study and teacher's training in this healing modality. I realized how crucial the abdomen is to our overall health; it is the center of our bodies and has a deep connection with the brain and emotions. When I eat highly nutritious foods, including digestive enzymes and probiotics, lower my stress levels, and exercise, including deep abdominal breathing, my overall digestion and my body and mind are healthier and happier.
The gut/brain connection is a subject of utmost importance, and I even included it in my book Harmonized Aromatherapy for Seasonal Wellness.
Research suggests that when the abdominal brain is out of balance (homeostasis), weight gain, inflammation (inflammatory reflex), and digestive system diseases. If there is an imbalance, this can also affect our attitude, moods, and general outlook on life. This is why a method of positive autonomic stimulation that, in turn, balances Enteric Brain function is a milestone in therapeutic healing approaches, with the potential to end a large amount of human suffering and disease.
In the book, The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health, Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg, PhDs. express, "A primal connection exists between our brain and our gut. We often talk about a "gut feeling" when we meet someone for the first time or to "trust our gut instinct" when making a difficult decision. This mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether we're experiencing stress or ingesting a disease-causing microbe. This information superhighway is called the brain-gut axis.
Over the last decade, there has been substantial evidence of a gastrointestinal (GI) nervous system, which is different and distinct from the Central Nervous System (CNS) comprising the brain and spinal cord; this has been recognized for over a century. This nervous system is located inside the GI tract wall, extending from the esophagus to the rectum. Technically, it is known as the enteric nervous system or ENS, but it has been given other labels, too: "second brain," "abdominal brain," "other brain," and "backup brain."
The Enteric Brain is in the sheets of cells lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestines, and large intestines. It is a separate entity because it could still function independently even if you cut all the nerves running to the Enteric Brain. This second brain comprises a network of neurons, neurotransmitters, and proteins carrying messages between neurons, interneurons, and immune cells.
The Enteric Brain contains 100 million neurons more than the spinal cord. Major neurotransmitters, such as Serotonin, Dopamine, Glutamate, nor-epinephrine, are found in the Enteric Brain. 95% of the body's Serotonin (best known as the anti-depressive or ecstasy molecule) is found here, along with the significant cells of the immune system's inflammatory network.
In 1999, Dr. Michael Gershon wrote The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine. He has devoted his career to understanding the human bowel (the stomach, esophagus, small intestine, and colon). His thirty years of research have led to an extraordinary rediscovery: nerve cells in the gut that act as a brain. This "second brain" can control our gut all by itself. Our two brains - the one in our head and the one in our bowels -- must cooperate.
Dr. Gershon's work has led to radical new understandings about a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, including gastroenteritis, nervous stomach, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The Gut-Brain and Skin Connection
The gut-brain connection has been known for decades; finally, it is receiving the attention and legitimacy it deserves. The health of our gut influences the health of our brains and vice versa, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that gut health impacts other organs, such as the skin.
The gut provides a barrier between the interior of the digestive tract and the general circulation, all that separates the contents of your intestinal tract from the rest of you. Anything that irritates the lining of your gut can cause it to become inflamed, like food allergens, alcohol, medications, antibiotics, processed foods of the modern diet that include food additives and artificial coloring, as well as foodborne illness (a.k.a. food poisoning), or diets low in fiber and high in sugar.
The microbiome plays a vital role in a wide variety of skin disorders. Not only is the skin microbiome altered, but also, surprisingly, an altered gut microbiome accompanies many skin diseases. The microbiome is a crucial regulator of the immune system, as it aims to maintain homeostasis by communicating with tissues and organs in a bidirectional manner. Hence, dysbiosis in the skin and gut microbiome is associated with an altered immune response, promoting the development of skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne vulgaris, dandruff, and even skin cancer.
The gut and skin barrier share surprisingly many features. The gut and skin perform a similar function in purpose and functionality and are essential for immune and neuroendocrine function.
The skin epidermis and its appendage structures, such as sweat and sebaceous glands, provide a skin surface of about 25 m2 and are one of the largest epithelial surfaces for interacting with microbes. The skin is a first-line barrier from the outer environment, continuously interacting with it. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the most significant interfaces between the host and its environment. About 60 tons of food is estimated to pass through the gut in a lifetime, significantly impacting overall human health.
In conclusion, as stated at the beginning of the article, daily self-care is of utmost importance to a healthy and happy life. Even if it is small steps to a bigger goal, having a life of vibrancy, radiance, and inner peace is worth the time and effort.
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Gershon M. The second brain: a groundbreaking new understanding of nervous disorders of the stomach and intestine. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers; 1998.
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Hill JM, Bhattacharjee S, Pogue AI, et al. The gastrointestinal tract microbiome and potential link to Alzheimer’s disease. Front Neurol. 2014;5:43.
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https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-feelings-the-second-brain-in-our-gastrointestinal-systems-excerpt/; Retrieved May 10, 2023 Gut–Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7916842/; Retrieved May 14, 2023 How Does Your Gut Health Affect Your Skin?; https://cdhf.ca/en/how-does-your-gut-health-affect-your-skin/ ;Retrieved May 14, 2023