Long Guts Explained

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Long Guts Explained

Just so-it is a game-just be glad they don’t make you put the hides on a stretcher and scrape them.

Just so-it is a game-just be glad they don’t make you put the hides on a stretcher and scrape them.

They should add this. However, there should only be like 2-3 of these across all the maps kinda like the forge. It would be too unrealistic to have them everywhere.

More unrealistic than being able to make them from branches and gut lashing. really. I think a better way of limiting the process would be to introduce losses due to spoilage (in reality hides spoil fairly quickly if you do something like leave them rolled up too long), poor processing skills, or maybe animals.

More unrealistic than being able to make them from branches and gut lashing. really. I think a better way of limiting the process would be to introduce losses due to spoilage (in reality hides spoil fairly quickly if you do something like leave them rolled up too long), poor processing skills, or maybe animals.

What would be the point in crafting one out of sticks and branches? There is no challenge in that you can get sticks and branches everywhere.

Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being

The emerging and surprising view of how the enteric nervous system in our bellies goes far beyond just processing the food we eat

  • By Adam Hadhazy on February 12, 2020

Science at the Winter Olympics

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As Olympians go for the gold in Vancouver, even the steeliest are likely to experience that familiar feeling of “butterflies” in the stomach. Underlying this sensation is an often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our “second brain”.

A deeper understanding of this mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, is revealing that it does much more than merely handle digestion or inflict the occasional nervous pang. The little brain in our innards, in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.

Although its influence is far-reaching, the second brain is not the seat of any conscious thoughts or decision-making.

“The second brain doesn’t help with the great thought processes…religion, philosophy and poetry is left to the brain in the head,” says Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, an expert in the nascent field of neurogastroenterology and author of the 1998 book The Second Brain (HarperCollins).

Technically known as the enteric nervous system, the second brain consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut, or alimentary canal, which measures about nine meters end to end from the esophagus to the anus. The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system, Gershon says.

This multitude of neurons in the enteric nervous system enables us to “feel” the inner world of our gut and its contents. Much of this neural firepower comes to bear in the elaborate daily grind of digestion. Breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling of waste requires chemical processing, mechanical mixing and rhythmic muscle contractions that move everything on down the line.

Thus equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the second brain can control gut behavior independently of the brain, Gershon says. We likely evolved this intricate web of nerves to perform digestion and excretion “on site,” rather than remotely from our brains through the middleman of the spinal cord. “The brain in the head doesn’t need to get its hands dirty with the messy business of digestion, which is delegated to the brain in the gut,” Gershon says. He and other researchers explain, however, that the second brain’s complexity likely cannot be interpreted through this process alone.

“The system is way too complicated to have evolved only to make sure things move out of your colon,” says Emeran Mayer, professor of physiology, psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.). For example, scientists were shocked to learn that about 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around. “Some of that info is decidedly unpleasant,” Gershon says.

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The second brain informs our state of mind in other more obscure ways, as well. “A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut,” Mayer says. Butterflies in the stomach—signaling in the gut as part of our physiological stress response, Gershon says—is but one example. Although gastrointestinal (GI) turmoil can sour one’s moods, everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above. For example, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve—a useful treatment for depression—may mimic these signals, Gershon says.

Given the two brains’ commonalities, other depression treatments that target the mind can unintentionally impact the gut. The enteric nervous system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the bowels. Because antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase serotonin levels, it’s little wonder that meds meant to cause chemical changes in the mind often provoke GI issues as a side effect. Irritable bowel syndrome—which afflicts more than two million Americans—also arises in part from too much serotonin in our entrails, and could perhaps be regarded as a “mental illness” of the second brain.

Scientists are learning that the serotonin made by the enteric nervous system might also play a role in more surprising diseases: In a new Nature Medicine study published online February 7, a drug that inhibited the release of serotonin from the gut counteracted the bone-deteriorating disease osteoporosis in postmenopausal rodents. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) “It was totally unexpected that the gut would regulate bone mass to the extent that one could use this regulation to cure—at least in rodents—osteoporosis,” says Gerard Karsenty, lead author of the study and chair of the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center.

Serotonin seeping from the second brain might even play some part in autism, the developmental disorder often first noticed in early childhood. Gershon has discovered that the same genes involved in synapse formation between neurons in the brain are involved in the alimentary synapse formation. “If these genes are affected in autism,” he says, “it could explain why so many kids with autism have GI motor abnormalities” in addition to elevated levels of gut-produced serotonin in their blood.

Down the road, the blossoming field of neurogastroenterology will likely offer some new insight into the workings of the second brain—and its impact on the body and mind. “We have never systematically looked at [the enteric nervous system] in relating lesions in it to diseases like they have for the” central nervous system, Gershon says. One day, perhaps there will be well-known connections between diseases and lesions in the gut’s nervous system as some in the brain and spinal cord today indicate multiple sclerosis.

Cutting-edge research is currently investigating how the second brain mediates the body’s immune response; after all, at least 70 percent of our immune system is aimed at the gut to expel and kill foreign invaders.

U.C.L.A.’s Mayer is doing work on how the trillions of bacteria in the gut “communicate” with enteric nervous system cells (which they greatly outnumber). His work with the gut’s nervous system has led him to think that in coming years psychiatry will need to expand to treat the second brain in addition to the one atop the shoulders.

So for those physically skilled and mentally strong enough to compete in the Olympic Games—as well as those watching at home—it may well behoove us all to pay more heed to our so-called “gut feelings” in the future.

Fish Guts Explain Marine Carbon Cycle Mystery

Research published today reveals the major influence of fish on maintaining the delicate pH balance of our oceans, vital for the health of coral reefs and other marine life.

The discovery, made by a team of scientists from the UK, US and Canada, could help solve a mystery that has puzzled marine chemists for decades. Published today (16 January 2009) in Science, the study provides new insights into the marine carbon cycle, which is undergoing rapid change as a result of global CO2 emissions.

Until now, scientists have believed that the oceans’ calcium carbonate, which dissolves to make seawater alkaline, came from the external ‘skeletons’ of microscopic marine plankton. This study estimates that three to 15 per cent of marine calcium carbonate is in fact produced by fish in their intestines and then excreted. This is a conservative estimate and the team believes it has the potential to be three times higher.

Fish are therefore responsible for contributing a major but previously unrecognised portion of the inorganic carbon that maintains the ocean’s acidity balance. The researchers predict that future increases in sea temperature and rising CO2 will cause fish to produce even more calcium carbonate.

To reach these results, the team created two independent computer models which for the first time estimated the total mass of fish in the ocean. They found there are between 812 and 2050 million tonnes (between 812 billion and 2050 billion kilos) of bony fish in the ocean. They then used lab research to establish that these fish produce around 110 million tonnes (110 billion kilos) of calcium carbonate per year.

Calcium carbonate is a white, chalky material that helps control the delicate acidity balance, or pH, of sea water. pH balance is vital for the health of marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, and important in controlling how easily the ocean will absorb and buffer future increases in atmospheric CO2.

This calcium carbonate is being produced by bony fish, a group that includes 90% of marine fish species but not sharks or rays. These fish continuously drink seawater to avoid dehydration. This exposes them to an excess of ingested calcium, which they precipitate into calcium carbonate crystals in the gut. The fish then simply excrete these unwanted chalky solids, sometimes called ‘gut rocks’, in a process that is separate from digestion and production of faeces.

The study reveals that carbonates excreted by fish are chemically quite different from those produced by plankton. This helps explain a phenomenon that has perplexed oceanographers: the sea becomes more alkaline at much shallower depths than expected. The carbonates produced by microscopic plankton should not be responsible for this alkalinity change, because they sink to much deeper depths intact, often becoming locked up in sediments and rocks for millions of years. In contrast, fish excrete more soluble forms of calcium carbonate that are likely to completely dissolve at much shallower depths (e.g. 500 to 1,000 metres).

Lead author Dr Rod Wilson of the University of Exeter (UK) said: “Our most conservative estimates suggest three to 15 per cent of the oceans’ carbonates come from fish, but this range could be up to three times higher. We also know that fish carbonates differ considerably from those produced by plankton. Together, these findings may help answer a long-standing puzzle facing marine chemists, but they also reveal limitations to our current understanding of the marine carbon cycle.”

And what about the future? The researchers predict that the combination of increases in sea temperature and rising CO2 expected over this century will cause fish to produce even more calcium carbonate. This is for two reasons. Firstly, higher temperatures stimulate overall metabolism in fish, which drives all their biological processes to run faster. Secondly, increasing CO2 in their blood directly stimulates carbonate production by the gut specifically.

Dr Rod Wilson continues: “We have really only just scratched the surface of knowing the chemistry and fate of fish carbonates. Given current concerns about the acidification of our seas through global CO2 emissions, it is more important than ever that we understand how the pH balance of the sea is normally maintained. Because of the impact of global climate change, fish are likely to have an even bigger influence on the chemistry of our oceans in future. So, it is vitally important that we build on this research to help fully understand these processes and how this will affect some of our most precious marine ecosystems.”

Your Digestive System & How it Works

On this page:

What is the digestive system?

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal tract—also called the GI tract or digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.

The small intestine has three parts. The first part is called the duodenum. The jejunum is in the middle and the ileum is at the end. The large intestine includes the appendix, cecum, colon, and rectum. The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch attached to the cecum. The cecum is the first part of the large intestine. The colon is next. The rectum is the end of the large intestine.

The digestive system

Bacteria in your GI tract, also called gut flora or microbiome, help with digestion. Parts of your nervous and circulatory systems also help. Working together, nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood, and the organs of your digestive system digest the foods and liquids you eat or drink each day.

Why is digestion important?

Digestion is important because your body needs nutrients from food and drink to work properly and stay healthy. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water are nutrients. Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts small enough for your body to absorb and use for energy, growth, and cell repair.

  • Proteins break into amino acids
  • Fats break into fatty acids and glycerol
  • Carbohydrates break into simple sugars

Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts that are small enough for your body to absorb.

How does my digestive system work?

Each part of your digestive system helps to move food and liquid through your GI tract, break food and liquid into smaller parts, or both. Once foods are broken into small enough parts, your body can absorb and move the nutrients to where they are needed. Your large intestine absorbs water, and the waste products of digestion become stool. Nerves and hormones help control the digestive process.

The digestive process

Organ Movement Digestive Juices Added Food Particles Broken Down
Mouth Chewing Saliva Starches, a type of carbohydrate
Esophagus Peristalsis None None
Stomach Upper muscle in stomach relaxes to let food enter, and lower muscle mixes food with digestive juice Stomach acid and digestive enzymes Proteins
Small intestine Peristalsis Small intestine digestive juice Starches, proteins, and carbohydrates
Pancreas None Pancreatic juice Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
Liver None Bile Fats
Large intestine Peristalsis None Bacteria in the large intestine can also break down food.

How does food move through my GI tract?

Food moves through your GI tract by a process called peristalsis. The large, hollow organs of your GI tract contain a layer of muscle that enables their walls to move. The movement pushes food and liquid through your GI tract and mixes the contents within each organ. The muscle behind the food contracts and squeezes the food forward, while the muscle in front of the food relaxes to allow the food to move.

The digestive process starts when you put food in your mouth.

Mouth. Food starts to move through your GI tract when you eat. When you swallow, your tongue pushes the food into your throat. A small flap of tissue, called the epiglottis, folds over your windpipe to prevent choking and the food passes into your esophagus.

Esophagus. Once you begin swallowing, the process becomes automatic. Your brain signals the muscles of the esophagus and peristalsis begins.

Lower esophageal sphincter. When food reaches the end of your esophagus, a ringlike muscle—called the lower esophageal sphincter —relaxes and lets food pass into your stomach. This sphincter usually stays closed to keep what’s in your stomach from flowing back into your esophagus.

Stomach. After food enters your stomach, the stomach muscles mix the food and liquid with digestive juices. The stomach slowly empties its contents, called chyme, into your small intestine.

Small intestine. The muscles of the small intestine mix food with digestive juices from the pancreas, liver, and intestine, and push the mixture forward for further digestion. The walls of the small intestine absorb water and the digested nutrients into your bloodstream. As peristalsis continues, the waste products of the digestive process move into the large intestine.

Large intestine. Waste products from the digestive process include undigested parts of food, fluid, and older cells from the lining of your GI tract. The large intestine absorbs water and changes the waste from liquid into stool. Peristalsis helps move the stool into your rectum.

Rectum. The lower end of your large intestine, the rectum, stores stool until it pushes stool out of your anus during a bowel movement.

How does my digestive system break food into small parts my body can use?

As food moves through your GI tract, your digestive organs break the food into smaller parts using:

  • motion, such as chewing, squeezing, and mixing
  • digestive juices, such as stomach acid, bile, and enzymes

Mouth. The digestive process starts in your mouth when you chew. Your salivary glands make saliva, a digestive juice, which moistens food so it moves more easily through your esophagus into your stomach. Saliva also has an enzyme that begins to break down starches in your food.

Esophagus. After you swallow, peristalsis pushes the food down your esophagus into your stomach.

Stomach. Glands in your stomach lining make stomach acid and enzymes that break down food. Muscles of your stomach mix the food with these digestive juices.

Pancreas. Your pancreas makes a digestive juice that has enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The pancreas delivers the digestive juice to the small intestine through small tubes called ducts.

Liver. Your liver makes a digestive juice called bile that helps digest fats and some vitamins. Bile ducts carry bile from your liver to your gallbladder for storage, or to the small intestine for use.

Gallbladder. Your gallbladder stores bile between meals. When you eat, your gallbladder squeezes bile through the bile ducts into your small intestine.

Small intestine. Your small intestine makes digestive juice, which mixes with bile and pancreatic juice to complete the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Bacteria in your small intestine make some of the enzymes you need to digest carbohydrates. Your small intestine moves water from your bloodstream into your GI tract to help break down food. Your small intestine also absorbs water with other nutrients.

Large intestine. In your large intestine, more water moves from your GI tract into your bloodstream. Bacteria in your large intestine help break down remaining nutrients and make vitamin K. Waste products of digestion, including parts of food that are still too large, become stool.

What happens to the digested food?

The small intestine absorbs most of the nutrients in your food, and your circulatory system passes them on to other parts of your body to store or use. Special cells help absorbed nutrients cross the intestinal lining into your bloodstream. Your blood carries simple sugars, amino acids, glycerol, and some vitamins and salts to the liver. Your liver stores, processes, and delivers nutrients to the rest of your body when needed.

The lymph system, a network of vessels that carry white blood cells and a fluid called lymph throughout your body to fight infection, absorbs fatty acids and vitamins.

Your body uses sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, and glycerol to build substances you need for energy, growth, and cell repair.

How does my body control the digestive process?

Your hormones and nerves work together to help control the digestive process. Signals flow within your GI tract and back and forth from your GI tract to your brain.

Hormones

Cells lining your stomach and small intestine make and release hormones that control how your digestive system works. These hormones tell your body when to make digestive juices and send signals to your brain that you are hungry or full. Your pancreas also makes hormones that are important to digestion.

Nerves

You have nerves that connect your central nervous system—your brain and spinal cord—to your digestive system and control some digestive functions. For example, when you see or smell food, your brain sends a signal that causes your salivary glands to “make your mouth water” to prepare you to eat.

You also have an enteric nervous system (ENS)—nerves within the walls of your GI tract. When food stretches the walls of your GI tract, the nerves of your ENS release many different substances that speed up or delay the movement of food and the production of digestive juices. The nerves send signals to control the actions of your gut muscles to contract and relax to push food through your intestines.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Watch a video of NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers explaining the importance of participating in clinical trials.

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

Contact Us

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