Culture

God Gave You Two Brains. Do You Use Both?

chocolateFingers

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate to cook? If I haven’t, I’d be really surprised. I say it often. In fact, I’ve said it so often, that at one point, my husband fired me from cooking for the family.

It’s true. Although he did do it nicely. He offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. “You keep the kitchen clean” he said, and then promised, “I’ll do all the cooking.” What fool wouldn’t jump on that? Especially since, at the time, we had four young children and I owned and ran a small business.

Mistakenly, I took his offer as a sign of his love and appreciation. When I excitedly thanked him with a kiss on the cheek, the truth fell out: “I’m just tired of the [expletive] you’ve been feeding us.”

He was right — it was bad. My motto at the time, “If I can’t nuke it, or pick it up in a hit-an-run, we don’t eat it.” When asked, what do you want for dinner? My children would call out names of their favorite restaurants rather than actual food.

His cooking and my cleaning arrangement only lasted until I closed my business to take care of our growing family full time. Once back on my own, and without the means or excuses for eating out all the time, I began complaining again — this time to the neighbor.

She didn’t offer me the same deal.

However, she did make me her pet project. Her new goal in life: Teach me to cook and love it. She only partially succeeded. Much to my family’s delight, she taught me how to cook venison, make homemade pizza and twice baked potatoes. But most of all, she showed me the happy faces of my children around a dinner table.

After expressing my sentiments on cooking to a recent houseguest, she looked at me in total disbelief. In fact, if she wasn’t such a lady, she might have called me a liar.

She may be right, and I just really didn’t notice the change. Preparing food for my family has taken on a completely different meaning now. It has become a life saving medicine for my husband, and a new way for me to see God’s provisional hand in every area of our lives. Taking extra pains to be sure we have meals that are as rich in nutrients as they are in flavor has become a small pleasure.

In this week’s reading of Jordan S. Rubin’s The Maker’s Diet  I realized why what we eat, and eating together, actually brought joy to a drudgery I hated. The author has a scientific explanation:

We all have a “second brain” in our gut that controls more than we think.

GutClip

According to Rubin, the “second brain” in our gut is called “enteric (intestine) nervous system” or ENS. The ENS is filled with neurotransmitters embedded in the layers of tissue that literally span the eating process from beginning to end.

The enteric nervous system possesses a complex neural circuitry and this second brain in your gut can act independently from the first brain in your body. Literally, it learns from experiences, remembers past actions and events, and produces an entire range of “gut feelings” that can influence your actions.

He goes on to quote Sandra Blakeslee from a The New York Times article:

Have you ever wondered why people get butterflies in their stomach before going on stage? Or why an impending job interview can cause an attack of intestinal cramps? And why do antidepressants targeted for the brain cause nausea or abdominal upset in millions of people who take such drugs? The reason for these common experiences is because each of us literally has two brains– the familiar one encased in our skulls and a lesser-known but vitally important on found in the human gut. Like Siamese twins, the two brains are inter-connected; when one gets upset the other does too.

Our gut also holds a fairly high amount of brain proteins called “neuropeptides” and is a rich source of benzodiazepines, which are psychoactive chemicals. You probably recognize that name from the popular mood-controlling drugs Valium and Xanax. The author believes that this is one way that God equipped our bodies to handle pain relief and stress.

His theory is that if you overeat because you feel anxious it could be your body’s way of trying to produce more benzodiazepine from the chemicals in our food.

This could also explain why good old fashioned hospitality, feeding weary people, or just communing with friends over a meal boarders on the spiritual level. God created us to use the foods He created to sustain us on levels that science is just beginning to understand.

Have you ever experienced that argument between your two brains, your head and your gut?  Which do you listen to the most?

*****************

Photo credit Shutterstock, Sergiy Zavgorodny