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Backed Up for the Holidays? Ask the Second Brain for Help

At least 70 percent of our immune system focuses on the intestine.

Image via (cc) Flickr user bandita

More than 40 percent of people are constipated while they travel. Are you one of them? Apparently, your intestinal microbes are sensitive to changes in place, and may take time to adjust. That’s because, scientists are discovering, the intestines are smarter than we thought and just as sensitive as we are to new environments. Apparently there is truth to the idea of “gut feelings.”

At least 70 percent of our immune system focuses on the intestine as the battleground to conquer invasive bacteria and illness. Over the past few years, the study of the gut has consistently proven that the colon has a mind of its own.

Scientists refer to our colon as “the second brain,” and its role in our health cannot be ignored. The intestines use more than 30 neurotransmitters, and 95 percent of the body's serotonin is found in the bowels.

A study out of Oxford this spring found even further evidence of the link between gut bacteria and brain function. Subjects who were given “prebiotics” (carbohydrates that nourish the bacteria) exhibited less anxiety and “showed decreased attentional vigilance to negative versus positive information.”

Some scientists even posit the provocative theory that our brains and bodies evolved as vehicles for the millions of microbes inside us. They may be running the ship, not us.

So what’s the cure for vacation constipation? There’s no one solution, but think of your gut as a friend in need: Eat fiber, drink lots of water, and try to lessen stress. It’s a no-second-brainer.

(h/t The Atlantic)

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