Having a “gut feeling” is something I’m sure we’ve all experienced at one point or another in our lives. Maybe it was when you got bad vibes from someone or had that sudden unexplainable urge to ditch plans, or maybe it was when you felt butterflies in your stomach en route to a first date.
The advice has always been to “trust our gut”, a kind of unexplainable intuition that is thought to direct you toward the best path. However, you may wonder why we are often told to put so much trust in a feeling that we can’t quite explain.
This article aims to provide you with the knowledge and science behind gut feeling and how it can affect our decisions and choices in life.
The Science of Gut Feeling
Gut feelings are instincts or intuitive senses that provide us with “feelings” or information beyond logical reasoning. They often manifest as a feeling or sensation in the gut, hence the name.
Signs of having a “gut feeling” about something include:
- A flash of clarity.
- Tension in the body.
- A sinking sensation in the stomach.
- Sweaty palms.
- Feelings of peace and safety (post-decision).
So, how can science explain this?
Well, if you’ve read our other articles before or have a keen interest in gut health, you may have heard of the gut-brain axis.
In a nutshell, your gut is lined with a complex network of neurons called the enteric nervous system, often called our “second brain”. This network of neurons communicates with the brain through the vagus nerve, allowing for bidirectional communication.
This connection between the gut and the brain can influence us in many ways, including mental and emotional well-being, stress response, and cognitive function.
Still, it is also thought to play a role in our intuitive feelings. However, while the gut-brain connection can provide some insights into the phenomenon of gut feelings, it does not fully explain it.
Gut feelings likely involve a combination of factors, including subconscious information processing, past experiences, and emotional responses. The gut-brain axis is another piece of this puzzle, containing many neurons that can sense and respond to the environment, possibly sending signals that contribute to our intuitive feelings.
Can We Trust Our Gut Feeling?
As easy as it would be to trust our gut feeling when it comes to any kind of decision-making (shout-out to the indecisive folks out there), it’s sadly not always the best advice to follow!
Gut feelings are not always reliable or accurate, as biases, emotions, and other subjective factors can influence them. While gut feelings can sometimes provide us with valuable insights, they should be considered alongside rational thinking and critical analysis to make well-rounded decisions, especially for big life decisions.
Though, with that being said, our gut feeling can be useful in many situations where time is limited and we may rely more on rapid decision-making. They can also be the first feeling we consider when making interpersonal judgements or evaluating trustworthiness.
Ways to Improve Your Gut Feeling
The trustworthiness of gut feelings can be improved somewhat, but this is through developing and refining your general intuitive abilities.
This can be done through self-awareness and reflection, building knowledge and expertise, mindfulness and body awareness, and balancing intuition with rational analysis.
Fine-tuning these factors can help you hone your intuition and, therefore, your ability to trust your gut. However, it’s worth noting that some individuals naturally have stronger intuition and would, therefore, potentially trust their gut on a more regular basis, and finding a balance between intuition and rationality that works best for you is a personal journey.
Additionally, it goes without saying that improving your overall gut health would significantly influence your health and well-being and could, in theory, strengthen the gut-brain connection.
The following principles align with our timeless mantra here at The Gut Co, which emphasises the paramount importance of nurturing and enhancing gut health:
- Regular exercise, partaking in a physical activity that brings you joy
- Consume a healthy, well-balanced diet that focuses on a variety of food groups
- Chew your food, being more mindful at mealtimes
- Manage your stress levels, trying to be more mindful of life stressors
- Take or eat probiotics, either in the form of probiotic-rich foods or a supplement
- Eat more fibre, helping to regulate you and ease the digestive process
- Drink plenty of water; the key to overall health
Take Home Points
The phenomenon of gut feelings remains a fascinating and intriguing aspect of our intuition. While science may support the influence of the gut-brain axis on our intuitive senses, the nature of gut feelings and the question of trusting our gut remains elusive and complex.
Relying solely on our gut instincts may mislead us, as our natural biases and emotions can cloud our judgement. Finding a balance between our gut feelings and rational analysis is key to making well-informed decisions. Additionally, take care of your gut health, and your gut health will take care of you!