Quick — before you look below, answer this question: What is the body’s largest sensory organ?
Answer: It is a remarkable system of nerves that has a huge surface area. The eyes, ears, nose and even our skin pales in comparison, and cooperation between this organ system and the brain begins very early in life. Stress is thought to be amongst the most important stimuli discussed by the brain and this organ/system, and 80% of our immune system is located in this organ. The answer is contained in a lovely book by Giulia Enders, a Ph.D. candidate in gastroenterology in Frankfurt, Germany where here book Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ has already sold over a million copies.
I highly recommend reading the book, as it lends perspective to many of the ills that our patients cope with that may not be recognized as gut reactions. In the interim, a video interview with Ms. Enders will give you a flavor of the topic.
4/18/2016: An interesting column in the April 15, 2016 Review of Optometry: “What’s That Gut to Do With It?