Did you ever experience a strong feeling, deep in your gut, about something that turned out to be true later? Could you ever logically explain this feeling? This feeling is commonly known as the gut feeling. Some people also call this feeling intuition.
Although we often dismiss or ignore such feelings as just a hunch, research confirms that this feeling results from a complex connection between your brain and the gut. This blog aims to decode this mysterious yet powerful feeling through study evidence.
Evolutionary theories suggest that our gut feelings or intuition is an innate survival mechanism, allowing us to make rapid decisions based on subconscious processing.
Related research indicates that gut feelings may have evolved due to our ancestors' need to navigate their environments efficiently and make split-second judgments about potential threats or opportunities. This subconscious processing involves integrating sensory information, past experiences, and emotional cues, leading to our gut feeling.
Some studies say that this gut feeling results from factors such as emotions, gut bacteria, and how our brain processes information. Interesting, isn’t it? Our emotions, in fact, majorly contribute to our gut feeling by releasing certain hormones. These hormones subsequently affect our digestive process and result in physical problems such as stomach aches, nausea, or diarrhoea. Also, it is known that emotions can affect what and how we think. You must have also observed in your everyday life that it becomes difficult to think clearly if you are in a bad mood. We end up feeling irritated and often experience brain fog. Neurological studies suggest that a network of neurons called the enteric nervous system gets triggered by our emotions (negative) and signals to the brain leading to a gut feeling. You will be amazed to know that the gut-brain relationship is strongly regulated by the enteric nervous system, often called the “second brain.”
Another factor that leads to this gut feeling is our gut microbes. They are usually responsible for our digestion and immunity. Research shows that people’s anxiety and depression levels often depend on the type of gut bacteria in their system. Certain strains of gut bacteria can produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in regulating emotions. Imbalances in the gut microbiome, often called dysbiosis, have been linked to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Fun fact: 13 types of gut bacteria play a role in depressive symptoms!
Another interesting research finding shows that our gut feeling does not only originate in the gut. It is also linked to the brain through the gut-brain axis. This axis is a communication channel comprising nerve pathways, chemical signals, and gut microbiota interactions. The vagus nerve facilitates the transmission of information between the gut and the brain. Moreover, our brain also processes information from our emotions and physical sensations, eventually making decisions without clear evidence!
While our gut feelings may sometimes be wrong, it is tough to dismiss them completely. While such feelings may not always lead to accurate conclusions, they may serve as valuable guides in decision-making. If you do have a gut feeling about something, you may want to at least pay attention to what it wants to tell you.
Here are a few tips for understanding your gut feelings:
Be aware of your emotions: When you're anxious, fearful, or excited, your gut feelings may be more frequent.
Pay attention to your physical sensations. If you're having physical symptoms like stomach aches, nausea, or diarrhoea, it could be a sign that something is wrong with your body.
Listen to your intuition. Sometimes, you know something is wrong, even if you can't explain why. Trust your gut feeling and act accordingly.
Other methods include cultivating self-awareness, practicing mindfulness, and actively reflecting on our gut feelings to help us better understand our intuition. Balancing logical reasoning and intuitive guidance is important, as both play essential roles in our cognitive processes.
In summary, the origin of gut feelings lies in the interplay between the brain, the gut, emotions, and the microbiome. Often dismissed as a mere hunch, this mysterious sensation has deep evolutionary roots. While research is still unfolding on the science of gut feelings, it is clear that this connection between the brain and the gut holds valuable insights. By embracing and harnessing our gut feelings, we can tap into a deeper level of intuition and enhance our decision-making abilities in both personal and professional spheres.
Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology: quarterly publication of the Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology, 28(2), 203.
Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and practice, 7(4), 987.
Lach, G., Schellekens, H., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2018). Anxiety, depression, and the microbiome: a role for gut peptides. Neurotherapeutics, 15, 36-59.
Limbana, T., Khan, F., & Eskander, N. (2020). Gut microbiome and depression: how microbes affect the way we think. Cureus, 12(8)