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The surprisingly charming science of your gut | Giulia Enders

TED Talks Daily podcast.

May 17

Ever wonder how we poop? Learn about the gut -- the system where digestion (and a whole lot more) happens -- as doctor and author Giulia Enders takes us inside the complex, fascinating science behind it, including its connection to mental health. It turns out, looking closer at something we might shy away from can leave us feeling more fearless and appreciative of ourselves.

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you're listening to a special archive presentation of Ted talks daily. This talk features doctor and author Julia Enders recorded live at Ted X D. Nubia 2017. Support for Ted is brought to you by Wells Fargo. This is a commitment to better banking. This is Wells Fargo.


Ah. Few years ago, I always had this thing happening to me, especially at family gatherings like tease with aunts and uncles is something like this. When people come up to you and they ask you, So what are you doing? And I would have this magical one word reply which would make everybody happy medicine going to be a doctor very easy. That's it. Everybody's happy and please, and it could be so easy. But this effect really only last for 30 seconds with me. Because that's then the time when one of them would ask so and wet what area off medicine, what specialty do you want to go into? And then I would have to strip down in all honesty and just say Okay, so I'm fascinated with the colon. It all started with the owners, and now it's basically the whole intestinal tract,

and this would be the moment when the enthusiasm trickles, and it would maybe also get like, awkwardly silent in the room. And I would think this was terribly sad, because I do believe our bows are quite charming. And while we're in a time where many people are thinking about what new superfood smoothie to make, or if gluten is may be bad for them. Actually, hardly anyone seems to care about the organ where this happens, the concrete and metal, me and the mechanisms behind it. And sometimes it seems to me, like while trying to figure out this magic trick. But nobody's checking out the magician just cause he is like an embarrassing hairstyle or something. And it actually their reasons. Science does like the gut for a long time.

I have to say this. So it's complex. There's a lot off surface area about 40 times the area off our skin. Then in such a tight pipe there, so many immune cells that are being trained there. We have 100 trillions of bacteria doing our sorts of things, producing little molecules. Then that's about 20 different home alone. So we are on a very different level than our Janet food, for example, and the nervous system off Our gut is so complex that when we cut out a piece, it's independent enough that when we poke it, it mumbles, beckon us friendly. But at least those reasons are also the reasons why it's so fascinating and important, and it took me three steps to love the gut.

So today I invite you to follow me on those three steps, and the very first was just looking at it and asking questions like, How does it work and why, maybe doesn't have to look so weird for that sometimes. And it actually wasn't me asking the first kind of thes questions, but my roommate. So after one heavy night of partying, he came into our shared room kitchen and he said, Julia, you study medicine. How does pooping work? And I did study medicine, but I had no idea said to go up to my room and look it up in different books, and I found something interesting, I thought, at that time.

So it turns out we don't only have this outer sphincter. We also have an inner sphincter muscle. The artist think that we all know we can control it. We know what's going on there. The other one, we really don't. So what happens is when they are leftovers from digestion, they're being delivered to the inner one first. So this inner one will open in a reflex and let through a little bit for testing. So there are sensory cells that will analyze. What has been delivered is a gash is or is it solid? And they were then sent this information up to our brain. And this is the moment when our brain knows I have to go to the toilet. The brain will then do what it's designed to do with its amazing consciousness. It will mediate with our surroundings, and it will say something like.

So I checked. We are at this Ted X Conference gashes. Maybe if you're sitting on the sides and you know you can pull it off silently, that's solid. Maybe later. So since our our just finger and the brain is connected with nervous themselves, they coordinate, cooperate, and they put it back in a waiting line for other times. Like, for example, when we're at home sitting on the couch, we have nothing better to do. We're free to go as humans are actually one of the very few animals that do this in such an advanced and clean way. And to be honest, I had some newfound respect for that.

Nice in a sphincter, dude, you know, not connected to nerves that care too much about the outer world all the time, just caring about me. For once, I thought that was nice, and I used to not be a great fan of public restrooms. But now I can go anywhere because I considered more when that inner muscle puts a suggestion on my daily agenda. And also I learned something else, which was looking closely at something I might have shied away from. Maybe the weirdest part of myself left me feeling more fearless and also appreciate myself more. And I think this happens a lot of times when you look at the gut. Actually, like this funny, rumbling noises that happens when you're in a group of friends or at the office conference table.

Going like this is not because we're hungry. This is because our small intestines actually a huge need freak, and it takes the time in between digestion to clean everything up residing in those eight meters off gut, really seven off them, being very clean and hardly smell like anything it will do. Achieve this. Create a strong, muscular wave that moves everything forward on that's been left over after digestion. This can sometimes create a sound but doesn't necessarily have to always. So what? We're embarrassed office, really a sign off something, keeping our insights fine and tidy, or this weird cricket shape of our stomach a bit Quasimodo ish. This actually makes us be able to put pressure on our belly without vomiting, like when we're laughing on when we're doing sports,

because the pressure will go up and not so much sideways. This also creates this air bubble that's usually always very good visible in X rays, for example, and can sometimes with some people, when it gets too big, create discomfort or even some sensations of pain. But for most of the people just results that it's far easier to burp when you're laying on your left side instead of erect. And so when I moved a bit further and started to look at the whole picture of our body and health, and this was actually after I had heard someone I knew a little bit had killed himself and attempting that I had been sitting next to that person the day before and I had smoke it. He had had very bad breath, and when I learned of the suicide the next day, I thought, Could the gut have something to do with it? My frantically started searching if there were scientific papers on the connection off gotten brain and to my surprise, I found many. And it turns out it's maybe not a simple as we sometimes think.

We tend to think our brain makes these commands and then sends them down to the other organs, and then they all have to listen. But really, it's more that 10% of the nerves that connect brain and gut deliver information from the brain to the gut. And we know this, for example, in stressful situations, when there are transmitters from the brain that are being sensed by our gut so that God will try to, like, load lower all the work and, um, not be sore working and taking away blood and energy to safe energy for problem solving. This can go a ce farce, nervous for mitting or nervous diarrhea to get rid off food that then doesn't want to digest? Maybe more. Interestingly,

90% of the nervous fibers that connect gotten brain deliver information from our gut to our brain. And when you think about it a little bit, it does make sense because our brain is very isolated. It's in this bony scholar surrounded by a thick skin, and it needs information to put together a feeling off. How am I as a whole body doing and the gut? Actually, it's possibly the most important advisor for the brain because it's our largest sensory organ, collecting information not only on the quality of our nutrients, but really also how are so many of immune cells doing, or things like the hormones in our blood that it concerns? And it can package this information and send up to the brain, and it can there not reach areas like visual cortex or word formations. Otherwise, when we digest, we would make,

we would see funny colors or we wouldn't make funny noises. No, but it can reach areas for things like morality, fear or emotional processing or areas for self awareness. So It doesn't make sense that when our body and our brain is putting together this feeling off, how am I as a whole body doing that? The guts has something to do contribute to this process. And it also makes sense that people have conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. They have a higher risk of having anxiety or depression. I think this a good information to share because many people were think after sculpting and maybe also if this you mental health thing and maybe because science is not clear on that right now, it's really just that their brain is feeling sympathy with their gut. This has yet to grow in evidence until it can come to practice. But just knowing about this kinds off research that are out there at the moment helped me in my daily life, and it made me think different off my moots and not externalized so much all the time. I feel often times during the day we are a brain on the screen and we will tend to like look for answers right there and maybe the worker stupid or our neighbor. But really,

moods can also come from within and just knowing this help me, for example, when I sometimes wake up too early. Nice not to worry and wonder around with my thoughts that I think Stop. What did I eat yesterday? That I stress myself out too much? Did I eat too late or something? And then maybe get up and make myself t something like to digest and as simple as the sound? I think it's been surprisingly good for me. Step three took me further away from our body and really understanding bacteria differently. The research we have today is creating a new definition off. What really clean, lean ISS ISS. And it's not, you know, the hygiene hypothesis,

I think many maybe know this. So it states that when you have two little microbes in your environment because you clean all the time, that's not really a good thing, because people get more allergies or two immune disease than so. I knew this hypothesis and I thought I wouldn't learn so much from looking at clearly nous in the gut. But I was wrong. So it turns out, real cleaning us is not about killing off bacteria right away. Really cleanly nous is a bit different when we look at the facts. 95% of all bacteria on this planet don't harm us. They can't. They don't have the genes to do so. Many actually help us a lot. And scientists at the moment are looking into things like, Do some bacteria help us clean the Dutch? Do they help us digest?

Do they make us put on way to have a lean figure? Although we're eating lots, are others making us feel more courageous or even more resilient to stress? So you see there more questions when it comes to clean Eunice. And actually, the thing is, it's about a healthy balance. I think you can't avoid the bed all the time. This is simply not possible. There's always something bad around. So what? Really the whole deal is when you look at a clean gut, it's about having good bacteria, enough off them and then some bad my immune system meets the bat to sew Knows what. It's looking doubtful. So I started having this different perspective on cleanliness,

and a few weeks later I held a talk at my university and I made a mistake by 1000 and I went home and I realized in that moment I was like, Oh, I made a mistake by 1000 0 God, that's so much. And that's so embarrassing. And I I started thinking about this is after a while, If that's okay, I made this one mistake. But then I also told so many good and ride and helpful things. I think it's It's okay, you know, it's a clean thing. And then I was like, Oh, wait, uh,

maybe I took my perspective on cleaning this further, and it's my theory at the moment. Maybe we all do take it a bit further than just cleaning our living room where we make it to sort of like a life hygiene and knowing that this is about fostering the good Justus much. Trying to shelter yourself from the bed had a very calming effect on me. So in that sense, I hope today I told you mostly good and helpful things and thank you for your time for listening to me.


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