The Enteric Nervous System
—Your Body’s “Second Brain”?
HOW many brains do you have? If you answer “one,” you are correct. Yet, there are other nervous systems in your body.
It is the enteric nervous system (ENS). One network of neurons is so extensive that some scientists have referred to it as a “second brain.”
In humans, it is made up of an estimated 200 to 600 million neurons. This complex network of neurons is built into the digestive system.
The sophistication of this chemical operation is mind-boggling. For instance, the intestinal wall is lined with specialized cells that act as chemical detectors, or taste receptors, identifying chemicals present in the food you eat.
This data helps the ENS enlist the right digestive enzymes to break the food down into particles that the body can absorb. Also, the ENS plays a vital role in monitoring the acidity and other chemical properties of food particles and in adjusting the digestive enzymes accordingly.
So the next time you are about to eat a meal, pause and think about all the monitoring, data processing, coordination, and communication that is about to take place in your digestive system!