Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Gut?
Sometimes I wake up very early in the morning. Long before the sun rises, when the eastern sky is just vaguely starting to brighten and in that dark stillness, I like to think deep thoughts. Occasionally my mind wanders to healthy eating and I wanted to share something I was thinking about this morning.
If you look back over the aeons of time, back to when the earliest cellular life sprang from some primordial ooze, we find cells that began to evolve “modern” metabolic processes. Our metabolism has been a part of us for more than 2 billion years – even before we became aerobically driven. Our metabolic processes evolved from a simple way to control nutrients for a multi-celled life-form into a complex and specialized multi-system or organs, enzymes and hormones that effectively processes nutrients for the beings we are today.
If a life-form’s most critical biological “function” is to replicate itself, then arguably and equally important must be the metabolic processes in place to sustain it so that it can achieve reproductive status. Our whole body is just a gigantic encasement of organs and systems around the primary enabler of life – our digestive and metabolic processes. We are, in effect, a sausage casing for our gut.
Even our brains, sophisticated and awe-inspiring as they are, only achieved a higher capacity for cerebral processing once we began to eat meat. Adapting to a primarily carnivorous lifestyle provided us with a new and powerful source of energy to support the massive brains we were about to develop and continue to carry around with us today.
Our newly enlarged and capable brains, working in tandem with our endocrine system, further refined our digestive processes to ensure a constant, reliable source of energy. Our brain functions trigger hormones that effortlessly manage the complex and delicate balance of energy partitioning that ensured adequate fuel for brain and muscle activities, temperature control and homeostasis in general, while also providing a storehouse of potential energy for when times grew lean and food was difficult to find.
So significant is our metabolism that it evolved to function without a brain. The enteric nervous system (ENS) found in the gastrointestinal tract is a network of over 100 million neurons that regulate the functions of the digestive tract. It monitors the contents of the gastrointestinal tract; decides how to digest its contents most effectively, controls the movements of smooth muscles and the secretion of glands that results in the digestion of food to provide nutrients to the body. Although the brain is able to monitor and control the ENS through autonomic neurons, the ENS often works autonomously and can even function after its nervous connections to the brain have been destroyed.
At the end of the day, no matter how sophisticated we think we are, how highly promoted or titled we become in our society, how Hawkin-esquely we try to fathom the mysteries of the universe, we are, after all, just a giant gut. To take our gut (or more specifically the metabolic processes involving our gut) lightly is to do so at our own peril. To ignore the fact that everything we ingest has some impact on how we move, feel and even think is to embrace a lifestyle that will certainly lead to decreased satisfaction, health and longevity.
We are a gut.
We are our gut.
Treat it nicely and it will do the same to you.