Ruairi Robertson: How Your Belly Controls Your Brain at TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of nutritionist Ruairi Robertson’s TEDx Talk presentation: How Your Belly Controls Your Brain at TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.

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Ruairi Robertson – Author at Authority Nutrition

Imagine this: You have just won $10 million in the lottery. Congratulations.

You have just eaten the most delicious, warm, chocolate brownie that has ever been baked.

You have just had sex.

And you have just done all three at the same time. Congratulations to you, too.

In these situations, our brains produce chemicals called neurotransmitters which give us these great feelings of energy, excitement and happiness. And without such chemicals inside of us, we wouldn’t feel such emotions during such pleasant circumstances.

So instead, imagine this: You’ve just been fired. You’re about to sit an exam. You have depression. In these situations, our brains, instead, produce different chemicals, making us feel stressed and anxious.

The highs and lows of life are controlled by our emotions and these chemicals in our brains. This vital organ inside all of us that controls everything that we feel, think and do. However, as a biologist, I’ve always found it strange to comprehend that every feeling, thought, and action that we have is controlled by a three-pound, soggy lump of cells inside of our heads, until I discovered that this might not be the case.

The story I want to share with you today unfolds a fascinating new revelation in our understanding of human physiology, that we each have a second brain — another organ in our body which controls as much of our physical and mental functions as the brain in our heads, and which may be the key link between modern disease epidemics, globally, from obesity to cardiovascular disease, maybe even to mental health.

But first, to give you a little introduction to this story, I want to tell you a little bit about my background.

I was brought up in a family of psychologists. My mom is a clinical psychologist; my dad a professor of psychology in a university; my sister even has a PhD in psychology. So when it came to me going to university, I wanted to study something different. I’d heard enough about the brain and how it worked at home, so I wanted to study something new.

I considered what I was interested in, and I figured out that from a very early age, I’d had a big interest in food. I loved eating food. And so, I decided to study human nutrition. And this was great because I got to study food, how it affected our bodies, how it could contribute to disease, and more importantly, how we could use it to fight and prevent disease.

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This story begins back in 1845 with the birth of a curious young boy in Russia who became an incredible man, but who was forgotten by history and medicine. Ilya Mechnikov was fascinated by everything in nature, and by the age of eight, he was taking notes on all the living things in his vibrant back garden. He became so good at science that he discovered the role of phagocytes, some crucial cells in our immune systems, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1908.

But it was his science after winning the Nobel Prize that was even more crucial to our understanding of human health, through a tale of discovery, death, and self-experimentation.

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