A person with signs of anxiety may notice a feeling of tension in the stomach. There is an explanation for that, and it involves the “second brain” or enteric nervous system.
If you have ever had the unpleasant sensation of stage fright (sometimes referred to as “butterflies in the stomach”) you are familiar with the influence this second brain may have on your well-being. Some researchers state that this connection lies behind various signs of anxiety as well as depression. Even ulcers and Parkinson’s disease may be related to this brain-gut connection.
Antidepressants cause gastric distress in one fourth of all who take them, lending credence to this argument. And of course those who have signs of anxiety and depression often have alterations in the function of their GI tract. In fact, most anyone who has experienced a case of nerves has had some gastro-intestinal disturbance at one time or another.
The enteric nervous system’s role is to manage digestion, all the way from the esophagus through the colon. This would include the stomach and small intestine as well. The second brain, or enteric nervous system, does this work using the same tools as the brain in the skull.
So instead of long circuitry connections leading form the brain all the way to the GI tract, all the necessary circuitry is right there next to the systems that require its control.
It is interesting to note that 95 per cent of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. This chemical is a neurotransmitter and signaling mechanism and keeps the brain in the head informed as to what is going on in the “second brain” in the gut. This communication is 90 per cent one way, from the gut to the head.
The relationship between signs of anxiety and the enteric nervous system are clear, but there are natural ways to treat this condition. For instance, research with fish oil has had some promising results.
Fish oil, a source of omega-3 fatty acids is crucial for brain functioning. The human body cannot manufacture these fatty acids, but does require them. Although the benefits of fish oil in relieving symptoms of anxiety have not been studied as much as the benefits of fish oil on depression, the preliminary results are positive.
There was a study published in the December 2006 Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology that examined the effects of DHA and EPA (the essential fatty acid in cold water fish) on substance abusers that also had anxiety disorders.
Among study participants, there was a significant decrease in signs of anxiety with the taking of fish oil.
Although the psychiatric industry (and their partners in the pharmacology industry) would state the only way to treat depression and anxiety is with their much touted dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, this is certainly not the case.
Whether the signs of anxiety a person experiences involves GI tract difficulty or some other symptom, there are ways to treat this condition without powerful drugs. The side effects of psychiatric drugs are often much, much worse than the original condition, and may involve permanent physical disability or worse.