Sensors —we see them everywhere. “Check engine”, “low battery”, a home alarm system — these all start with sensors, which send signals to some sort of intelligent device that figures out what the sensors are telling it and decides what action to take. Car sensors monitor oil pressure, oil temperature, gas flow, air mixture, coolant temperature, and even whether a door is open or closed, and send all that information to an electronic brain center which then activates certain lights or audible alarms to tell you what action is needed. Connecting the sensors and the brain center /computer are wires so that the signals can travel between the two.

Technology imitates nature, not the other way around. Where do we see sensors, signal connectors, and a brain center in nature? You are the answer — your own body has all these. You were designed with much more detail than even the most sophisticated computer, and we see that when we attempt to look into the details of the body’s nervous system. Thanks to modern technology, we all get a concept of what the body is doing because we see simpler versions in the devices we use daily.

You’ve got a lot of nerve(s)
Your brain, connectors, and sensors are all nerves. Specialized nerve cells handle different functions within the central nervous system. Neurons are the primary type of nerve cell that convey and process information, while glia support the neurons with support structure so the neurons can remain focused on their information processing. Neurons are further divided into sensory neurons, interneurons, and motor neurons.

Sensory neurons are — you guessed it — the sensors of your body. They generally have receptors, which are tuned to detect light, sound, smell, temperature, chemicals, electromagnetic fields, positional changes, and mechanical pressures. The receptors basically are the nerve end points, where they produce electoral energy in proportion to what they are receiving. When neurons with a specific type of receptor die, our ability to receive information about a certain type of input is reduced, such as loss of photoreceptor cells in the eye leading to loss of vision. Sensors are very sensitive and easily damaged or overloaded, requiring consistent good nutrition and protection from excess input. They also depend heavily on the support network of other neurons and of glia cells to keep their delicate mechanisms functional.

Interneurons are like the “wires” that connect sensors in electronic devices. They convey electrical impulses through the body. Touching a hot stove causes signals to be sent along these neurons which travel along the central nervous system to tell us to pull away from the stove. These “wires” are neurons that connect to other neurons forming a pathway for the signals to pass quickly to another portion of the body. Neurons connect with each other in two ways, using “dendrites” and “axons”. Dendrites are like antenna, receiving local signals from other neurons, and a single neuron can have upwards of 400,000 dendrites. Axons are also known as “nerve fibers” which are elongated tubular appendages to the neuron that connect directly to other neuron axons. Dendrites and axons are similar to the “wireless” and “wired” computer internet network in your home, where you either connect through the air, so long as you are close enough to the receiver, or connect directly by plugging into the network wall outlet. Together these communication techniques let your central nervous system neurons convey messages around the body. Unlike the broadband in your home, broken connections between neurons can be re-formed as neurons are replaced and new connections are made. This is a rather slow process, but means that the nervous system has some ability to heal damage and reconnect broken connections.

Motor neurons are related to movement, such as controlling muscle contractions and gland function. Although they control these functions throughout the body, these neurons are located in the brain and spinal cord. This means that before a signal is sent to a gland or muscle, it is first considered by the brain as to what action it wants to signal. This is somewhat like the old and new ways that cars start. The old way is to turn a key that completes an electrical circuit between the starter and battery, and the starter starts turning immediately because of that connection. The new way is to have the key nearby in the car, and you press a “start” button. The car’s electronic brain sees the signal to start the car and then checks to see if everything is in order before sending the signal to supply power to the starter. If it doesn’t see the right setup, it may not start the car. But generally it does, and within a fraction of a second it decides to send the signals to start the car. In your body, your brain is very active in most of your body’s motor (meaning “movement”) functions, even “involuntary” actions. This means your brain pays a huge amount of attention to what is going on throughout your body and it considers what to tell the body to do based upon what it is getting from the rest of the nervous system.

Putting this all together, your nervous system is what makes your body “intelligent”. Even many simple functions that we would think are “no-brainers” are actually “brainers”. This won’t surprise you if you realize that most of your brain functioning is subconscious. The amount of information that your subconscious brain processes is enormous and way beyond what your conscious mind could handle. Imagine if starting your car required the car to first send a request to a governmental computer somewhere to see if there is some pollution alert such that the government doesn’t want you to start your car right now. Even if it always answered “go ahead and start”, that extra processing would slow your car starting process tremendously. If the car had to constantly send information to the governmental computer while you were driving to authorize your car to continue running, that computer would have to be the size of a major city to be able to handle the information, and it would still be overwhelmed. Your brain is estimated to be operating between 95 to 99% subconsciously — the estimates vary, but we know that many body signals are routed through the subconscious brain, which then sends back signals to cause action. The main highway for these signals is the vagus nerve, the main contributor to the parasympathetic nervous system which is the “rest and digest” system.

Digestion is a huge part of our body’s automatic functioning. Your gut contains approximately 500 million neurons — thats a lot of nerves — to send and receive the signals that control digestion. Digestion is a complex process, and will vary partly based on information that is sent up the vagas nerve. To an extent, we have “intelligent digestion”, because the brain is directing digestion of various foods, and varying quantities of food, differently. It also takes into account the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the “fight or flight” system that tends to take over from the parasympathetic nervous system when under stress.

It knows if you’ve been naughty or nice
The gut-brain connection is a major communication highway running largely through the vagus nerve. When you eat food, sensors in the gut tell your brain a lot about that food. It doesn’t know specifically that you ate chocolate cake, but it does sense a lot of details about the food that you eat. The stomach recognizes the presence of proteins, and responds with the production of hydrochloric acid which is particularly useful in digesting proteins. Here’s a quick application: if you suffer from acid reflux, and are prescribed acid blockers, what might be a natural approach to consider instead? Might cutting protein reduce the acid produced in your stomach? Instead of acid blockers, how about not provoking the stomach to produce the acid? The majority of Americans eat way more protein than they need, and when that overload generates acid-related problems, they try to shut off the acid, resulting in poor digestion of that protein, leading to more digestive problems. Can you see the power of understanding what your body is actually doing, and working with your body’s natural functions?

Stomach sensors know when the stomach is full or empty, influencing decisions whether to continue acid production or shut it off. “Stretch” sensors in the stomach and intestines inform the brain to shut off your desire for more food. Sugar is sensed in the gut with “taste-like” receptors, which can influence insulin production. Fat is detected by sensors, and causes the gut to slow the processing of the food because lipids take a long time to digest. While your gut may not know that you ate chocolate cake, it knows the basic composition of your food so your brain can adjust digestion accordingly. Bad food can inflame the gut, which is communicated to the brain, which can negatively impact digestion and the brain because of their tight connection.

According to research from a study published in Cell Metabolism(1), researchers from various universities and research centers in Cologne, Germany showed that nerve cells in both the stomach and intestines have different but complimentary roles in controlling gut function. Some nerves detect chemical signals, allowing them to differentiate food nutrients. This information is passed to the brain to control digestion and absorption. Your brain knows a lot more about that chocolate cake than you might expect! Even if you fool yourself that the food is OK, you are not fooling your gut and subconscious brain. It knows.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA(2), researchers at the Monell Center demonstrated that the gut has sugar sensors just like taste cells do in your mouth, and that there are multiple types of sugar detectors that work in concert to allow different reactions to sugars under different circumstances. For instance, your perception of sweetness may change based upon your body’s energy needs, making sugar less desirable when you are getting plenty of energy. This interplay between a complex set of sensors in your gut, combined with the computing power of your brain, causes a very wide range of reactions to food.

Don’t forget the complex reaction of the gut bacteria to your food, which then change what your gut is sensing over time. If you eat bad food, your gut/brain will attempt to digest it anyway, but while that is happening the food is feeding and multiplying bad bacteria, fungi and other pathogens. These give off toxins which then inflame the gut in addition to the inflammation the food may cause directly. This means the bad food has a double impact: first directly, and then through the shifting of the gut flora balance towards harmful bacteria which are spewing more inflammatory toxins.

Happy gut, happy brain — happy brain, happy gut
We know that stress shuts down digestion. But we also know that good thoughts can have a positive influence on digestion. Likewise, we see that good food positively influences both gut and brain, while bad food has the opposite effect. Add to that the impact of the gut bacteria, and you can see how bad food can have a delayed impact as well as an immediate one on both gut and brain.

Your gut is not only connected to your brain via the vagus nerve information highway, but since your gut contains some 500 million neurons, it is your “second brain”. What you eat has strong influence on the neurons in your gut and brain, and when you eat foods which lead to inflammation, whether because it is a bad food, or bad for you specifically because you are reactive to it, you are hurting both “brains”. Knowing what foods are best in general, and for you specifically, and then following your correct diet, gives you a big health boost.

Your brain and gut are intimately tied together. Be kind to both.


Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
Your intestinal tract is your second brain and it tells your first brain what to do to handle what is coming in. If the food is inflammatory then the second brain tells the first brain to set off an immune response to fight what is coming into the blood stream. If the food is living, raw and plants that are natural for our health then the second brain tells the first brain to not waste immune cells but instead informs the first brain that many health sustaining biophotons, enzymes, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals along with digestible proteins, carbohydrates and fats that will support cell health have entered the body so the first brain prepares for absorption not only to be increased at the intestinal border but also at the blood-brain border. This is extremely important. With everything you eat there are two brains analyzing what the final outcome is going to be, how the body will either receive or reject/react to what food has entered your mouth. If the food you are eating is cooked (heat denatured) , and/or processed (chemicals added) animal proteins this sends off many messages. Two of them are:

  1. Immune response to attack the denatured proteins
  2. Decreased absorption of inflammatory molecules (the messages are to not let this in at the intestinal lining barrier).

Remember whatever does not digest fully and absorb fully becomes a toxin to the cells of the body which leads to early cell death.

So eat as much food as you can that brings the right messages to both brains. This will consist of living and raw plants not dead and cooked animals. Both your brains know and if you keep inflaming the body (even though you feel good) eventually you will have a blow out in your health. What we teach at Total Health Institute is to eat the food that is best for your cells in the best form. This excludes 80-90 percent of most people’s diet. Remember when you choose your next meal that both brains are analyzing everything. It is not just about what your tastebuds like but what messages are being received by both brains by the actual food molecules themselves. You are not eating for pleasure, but for proper information processing and cellular response.

Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:

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