Turns out we actually have TWO brains. So where’s the second one? It’s in your stomach and intestines. Pretty crazy, huh?
The brain in the stomach is called the enteric nervous system – there are millions of neurons in the stomach and intestines, and scientists estimate that 90% of the serotonin in our bodies is in this brain. The idea of the second brain in the stomach was first proprosed in the 19th century by scientists who discovered that the stomach and intenstines continue to function, even when all connections to the brain in our head are cut, unlike any other major systems in the body, which cease to function when cut off from the brain. The idea of a second brain fell out of fashion in the early 20th century and it wasn’t until the mid 80’s that scientists started to think about it again.
This second brain is where our "gut instinct" comes from. It’s an emotional, feeling brain – an old brain like the one under our relatively new brain (the corpus callosum) which does the logical thinking. We sometimes follow our gut reactions (because the emotions and feelings come first) and only later discover the logical thinking behind our decisions.
Interestingly, Taoist theory seems to have held the view that we possess three ‘minds’, the first in our head, the second in the area of our heart and the third in our abdomen. This last ‘mind’ is also known as the Tan Tien:
The Three Minds correspond to the Three Tan Tiens or major energy centers within the body. They can store, transform and supply energy to and from eachother, the spinal cord, sexual organs and other major organs. The Upper Tan Tien is located within the Upper Brain, the Middle Tan Tien is located in the heart and the Lower Tan Tien in the abdomen.
If the Upper Brain generates too much energy, it can subsequently transfer and store it in the organs; heart, lungs, liver, spleen, stomach, pancreas and kidneys). Excess sexual energy can also be stored in the organs and the Three Tan Tiens. The Taoists, understanding these principles, learn to generate, refine and store continually increasing amounts of energy within the body. As these energies multiply, it becomes necessary to practice growing the virtuous energy which provides for true alchemy, exchange with heaven, earth and universal energies and all those whom we share our lives with.
Now doesn’t that introduce an intriguing element into our theories about stomach problems and disorders?