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Our section on The Digestive System affords a good idea of the structure and function of the different parts of your gut. But how does it all work?
The muscles in your gut contract to slowly push the food and digestive contents along the bowel. This is called peristalsis and the contractions slowly move the contents from the mouth all the way down to the anus. The muscles of the gut are in turn controlled by the nerves to the gut, called the enteric nerves and these nerves are now recognised as being incredibly complex and do much more than simply cause contraction of the gut. The enteric nervous system is so complex, that it has been called “the second brain’. As well as controlling movement of the gut, the enteric nerves communicate or ‘talk’ to the trillions of bacteria within the gut and this information is then fed back to the brain, via the vagus nerve and other nerve pathways, to create part of what we now call the Gut-Brain axis.
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