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What Is the Connection Between the Nervous System and Digestive System?

The digestive tract begins at the mouth and ends with the anus and incorporates all the organs in between, including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
The human nervous system.
Some of the organs of the digestive system.
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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Images By: Maya2008, J E Theriot, Aliencat
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2014
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In physiology, many bodily systems rely heavily on each other to help keep the body alive. Just like friends in life help a person in a time of need, one system can kick in when needed by another. One example of this interaction exists between the nervous system and digestive system. When the digestive system is struggling to meet its demands, the nervous system senses this and reacts in a manner that offers a helping hand.

Understanding the dynamic relationship between the nervous system and digestive system requires a basic comprehension of each individual system. A helpful analogy would be the nervous system as a road to and from the brain. Picturing the digestive system as a sorting agency is also useful.

In order for a system to change, it needs to send information for processing and receive information about action. A system, like a person, must change when it's not performing properly. In the case of the digestive system, perhaps the breaking down of food or distribution of nutrients is off. Chemicals or enzyme levels may also not be appropriate for the current needs of the body. The nervous system and digestive system need to communicate to gather information about what exactly is needed at a particular time.

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Once this information is gathered, it needs to reach a level of higher processing. This is usually the brain, although the spinal cord is also responsible for nervous activity on a reactionary and subconscious level. This is because the digestive system is innervated, a term used to describe the presence of sensory nerves within a structure.

Sensing the need for change is only half the battle. Many citizens sense the need for change within a government or organization yet lack the know-how to solve it. The brain serves the function of problem solver in the body. It relies on nerves to send a message of change to the targeted organ. The organ, in this case the digestive system, implements the required change to improve its function.

The brain is not perfect but generally acts in the best interests of the body. Disease occurs when these interactions are off. Sometimes to blame is a genetic predisposition; other times outside factors affect the functional ability of these systems. In either case, the interaction of the nervous system and digestive system is crucial for a body to function in a healthy manner in the ever-changing environments of life.

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Discuss this Article

cloudel
Post 3

I believe that there is a connection between nervousness and the digestive system. So many people feel nauseous or get diarrhea when they are under a lot of stress.

I don't know how it works exactly, but I do know that it happens. I had diarrhea for a whole month after starting my stressful new job, and I had nausea for months.

I didn't have any other symptoms, so I knew that it was due to my nervousness. I'd heard of having a nervous stomach before, but that was the first time I had experienced it firsthand.

feasting
Post 2

It amazes me how well things in the body work together. The brain is the leader that seems to know how to solve all the problems that arise in the body, and everything else obeys it to accomplish its purposes.

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