The Universe Within

Some people are fascinated by space, the infinite expanse of the universe.  It is a fascination that is easy enough to understand while looking up at a star-studded sky on a clear night.

But I am going to have to admit that I am more fascinated by the microscopic universe within.  Lately, I have come across references to the brain in the gut.  From what I understand, this “second brain” is comprised a trillions of micro-organisms, mostly bacteria and millions of cells that line the entire gastrointestinal tract, esophagus to rectum, about thirty feet in length.

Scientists have named this system the enteric (relating to intestines) nervous system, ENS.  While it doesn’t seem to have the same thinking capability as the central nervous system, it apparently does communicate with the brain — often and well.  The cells of the ENS and the CNS develop from the same tissues in fetal development and their connection seems to be a two-way street with respect to sharing information.

Researchers at John Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology (their work badges must look like billboards!) have found a definite link between mental disorders of anxiety and depression and digestive disorders such as stomach upsets, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.  They are establishing that treatments traditionally used for one condition affect the other and vice versa. It’s not worth making this into a chicken or egg problem; they just work together.

The system of all these micro-organisms is referred to as a micro-biome. Many of the bacteria living in our guts are beneficial, even essential to our health and well-being..  The ENS is concerned with digestion from ingestion to digestion to absorption to elimination, but it also is involved in regulation inflammation and immunity.  Its working with the brain to do all this.

The thing that blows my puny mind is that this system of multiple tiny organisms function in an organized way as an organic whole.  It is as if our bodies are home to a universe of an independent living society.  I think about using a telescope to see the outer vastness and then using a microscope to examine an inner vastness.

 

quartz-crystal-silica-human-ascensionGoogle image

Of course, I over simplified so you can get the story HERE.

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7 thoughts on “The Universe Within

  1. I like your simplified version, the link was definitely over my head. The human body is an amazing thing and I do think the connection is there. I’m another one of those who has “tummy troubles” when I am stressed or upset. The rest of the time I have a happy belly just like I have a happy head and heart. There is a connection!

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  2. I have to admit I’ve always thought my stomach rules my brain and emotional well-being. I had a really bad case of the runs yesterday. I felt miserable. But was I miserable to start with? That’s the question. Chicken or the egg…

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  3. Wonderful post as always. I have read that topographically a human being is a torus, that is like a donut. We generally think of ourselves as a cylinder with appendages, but actually we are a torus with an internal passage that fortunately has a series of valves that allows us to remain polite for most of the time. But the idea is that what is inside our gastrointestinal tract is not really us. It is the exterior world within. The lining of our g i tract is an interface to an exterior world just as our skin is. It a world in which we partially control, temperature, digestive enzymes, the shedding of old red blood cells and so forth, but it is still not us, a separate world within, inhabited by other beings.

    There is Radiolab episode on this appropriately named Guts:

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/197112-guts/

    On a similar vein, I have read that our blood is like an ocean, chemically similar to sea water and it to can be considered a separate world, perhaps not to the degree as the G I tract but something different than us. Even our cells have other beings in them. Our mitochondria which we desperately need to remain alive, has its own DNA. It is a part of us but also separate.

    Your post also alludes to another one of my fascinations. We think of the universe as being out there, external, and the edge of the universe being a bazillion light years away. But actually the edge of the universe can be found found right in the palm of our hands. It seems that space (and time) is not infinitely divisible. Think of an inch and cut in half. Then cut that half inch in half and keep going. 1/2…1/4…1/8…1/16…1/32…. We are tempted to think this could go forever. But you can’t. It seems that space is ultimately chunky. You can cut down until your half of the half of the half…equals Planck’s length. 1.6 x 10^-35 meters (a decimal point with 34 zeros then 16 of a meter). Small yes, but not infinitely small. Anything smaller and you are out of our universe, what is known as the quantum foam. So not only do we have this other world within us, we quite literally have the edge of the universe within us and the quantum foam which is not even in our universe within us. Strange world indeed.

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  4. Olga, you should have been a research scientist. This is far above my poor little brain. No doubt the cells in our body have a communication system of some kind but it’s all beyond my understanding.

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