Science is discovering more about the connection between the stomach and body/brain barrier and the role of the little-known and rare enterochromaffin (EC) cells. It may become central to our understanding of how the brain and stomach communicate with the body. We have all felt butterflies or that wrenching feeling in our stomach when we are suffering from anxiousness. We also know anxiety and depression and the neurochemical imbalance of schizophrenia often leads to various disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. We have known for quite a time that our mental health state can be affected by the stomach function, and what we are discovering now with the help of research is how stomach health affects the mental state of the brain and our general well-being. These days it seems that what has been missing from this circadian cycle is our understanding of the EC cell functionality.
Basis of the stomach/brain barrier.
To fully understand the role of these EC cells, we have to look into some basic concepts and also the facts. Our stomach has more neurons than our spine or sublime peripheral nervous system. This why the stomach is also known as the second brain. These neurons have various functions, like controlling stomach motility, protecting against irritants (via increased motility or throwing up), and many other functionalities not yet understood. In biology, motility is the ability of organisms and fluid to move or get around. The stomach neurons mostly work independently from the brain, but only when required, they send information and get feedback from the brain, thus functioning as a closed loop often called the stomach-brain axis. In the stomach/brain barrier the Vagus nerve is the chief control as this controls many of the vital organs fed via neurochemistry from the brain.
EC cells play a vital part in the stomach-brain axis. These cells have receptors that are always listening to various activities in the stomach and sending feedback to the brain and other neurons of the stomach through chemical messengers or hormones in neurochemistry. Although EC cells have functional similarities to glands, they are spread all over the digestive tract, and they form about one percent of the stomach’s epithelium. Although one percent may sound small, EC cells secrete more than 30 kinds of hormones and neurotransmitters. These facts will likely increase as more of the relative neurochemicals become identified. In fact the EC cells secrete more than 90% of the body’s serotonin. This is a neurotransmitter that is well-known for its role in various mental health states of mind and includes mental health disorders like the psychological traumas of depression and anxiety. Both can be seen as stress related to the Inner though Experience. These stresses are the Fight or Flight and Disassociation of the body/brain barriers Sympathetic nerve. It is also a lack of Ignorance that the Parasympathetic nerve which also causes Rest and Digest.
Now, it is well understood that the communication between the brain and stomach barrier is double-sided and forms as a loop. Thus, the mental distresses caused by stomach disorders may influence mental health states. EC cells have a critical role in this entire loop.
The brain and gastrointestinal (GI) tract disorders
Stress is known not only to cause GI disorders, but it can also worsen the symptoms and Psychological conditions. Stress and psychological trauma factors change the movement of the GI tract, worsen the brain’s inflammatory processes, and even increase susceptibility to various infections. In all of these processes, EC cells functionality play crucial roles.
The release of serotonin from EC cells is the key mechanism for controlling the motility of the stomach and many of the psychological mood conditions as well. They can be stimulated due to local irritation, as well as through nerve supply, especially the Vagus nerve. Therefore, psychological trauma therapy has a special place in treating GI diseases, along with pharmaceutical medicament therapy. EC cells are highly sensitive to the effect various chemical compounds like detergents and spices. They have been demonstrated to even have olfactory receptors. These are the same receptors that are present in our nose.
Stomach and brain disorders
Although the effect of mental stress on GI function has been known for quite some time, in recent times there has been increased interest in better understanding the influence of stomach health on the brain. Many psychological brain disorders are a chemical imbalance in the stomach/brain barrier This became particularly important after research demonstrated that EC cells not only have an indirect influence on nerves through serotonin, they also seem to have direct links with neurons. So EC cells appear to be directly connected to the brain via Serotonin. This means that changes in the stomach are transmitted to the brain in milliseconds. It is not in seconds or minutes as once thought via the Vagus nerve of the body/brain barrier.
The Vagus nerve in turn transmits to the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nerves. All three are in the Medulla Oblongata that controls the body/brain barrier. They also control the Peripheral sublime reactions that cause anxiety via the Sympathetic reactions of thoughtful anxiety disorders such as Schizophrenia. These three nerves directly affect the mood swings into depression and anxiety disorders.
This fact gains further importance when considering the vagus nerve (the main nerve connecting the brain and GI) that has more afferent fibers (those sending a signal to the brain) than efferent fibers (those sending a signal from the brain to organs). These afferent fibers cause feelings like nausea when you eat the wrong kind of food. The role of these vagal signals from the GI to the brain and their relationship with other aspects of mental health are being investigated. Conditions like arousal, fatigue, lethargy and poor regulation of our body temperature in the 3 Germ layers of our tissues, and may become the target of future mental health therapies.
The afferent fiber - a nerve fiber that carries impulses toward the Central Nervous System and efferent fiber that control the Peripheral Nervous System of sublime Psychosocial interaction when in a Setting and Performance. The efferent fiber is controlled via the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic reactions.
Treatment strategies targeting the stomach-brain axis
Many drugs for mental distress like depression have been used effectively to treat some stomach disorders. Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most prevalent of such disorders. Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have shown increasingly to be of importance in the management of this disorder. SSRIs help to control overactive EC cells. The role of SSRIs is not limited to the treatment of IBS. Their role is being studied in various functional diseases of the GI, in controlling nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, and many other disorders that can be linked to Chronic Inflammation in the brain. This disease of the GI can be a cause of the chemical imbalances in neurochemical reaction in the stomach to the body/brain barrier of Peripheral Psychosocial interaction.
To date, the same SSRIs that are used to treat mental health issues are being used to deal with GI problems. However, many clinical researchers are studying non-absorbable serotonergic agents for GI disturbances. Further studies are being done to target tryptophan hydroxylase, a precursor for the synthesis of serotonin.
The functionality of EC cells in stomach performance is being investigated in depth to better understand and treat disorders of the brain like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsonism, and autism. And as we learn more about these EC cells, we might better be able to treat many medical and mental health illnesses more effectively with less side effects. It is well known that many mental health illnesses are a neurochemical imbalance. That imbalance is from the stomach towards the body/brain barrier of the Medulla Oblongata.
In depression this area links to a Facial Conformity Disorder in depression and psychotic episodes.