We have all experienced it. We are trying to make a decision, and while there is little to no evidence to back it up, something tells us which way to go. Whether you refer to it as a gut feeling, intuition, or being one with the Universe, there’s actually some science behind why we should listen to this sixth sense.
What is the brain-gut connection?
Within our intestinal area (the stomach and intestines) is the second largest network of neurons within our body’s nervous system, called the enteric nervous system. This nervous system is very powerful (second only to the central nervous system, and even some scientists are debating that point) and is capable of receiving and giving information to the brain. So literally our gut is connected to our brain.
Dr. Deepak Chopra, a neuroendocrinologist, has studied the connection between our consciousness and the physical body for years.
Chopra has postulated the power of the cells in our body and has come to the conclusion that each cell has its own memory that can be harnessed at a later date. So when we have an “intuition”, our cells remember the stored information and transmit the emotions associated with those memories from the enteric nervous system to our brain. Our brain then sends us signals telling us what to do, which is where intuition comes from.
According to Dr. Chopra, the enteric nervous system does not have the ability to doubt itself. This would explain why many gut feelings come to us quickly before we think about them and decide whether or not to follow them.
The enteric nervous system also explains why many emotions involve our gut. When we are very stressed, angry, or upset, we often feel sick to our stomachs. Those nervous “butterflies” we feel when we are initially attracted to someone or nervous and excited about an event flutter in our stomach. On the other hand, poor gut health has been linked to various health problems ranging from IBS and arthritis to mood disorders and cognitive dysfunctions.
How to trust your gut (and be more intuitive)
Some people seem to be more in tune with their gut and general intuition than others and they are almost always right when they trust their gut feeling. Like exercise or meditation, this takes practice.
Whenever our brain determines how to do something, it draws on our memories and patterns from previous experiences to determine the course of action with the least resistance. If the decision is successful, that information is stored, and the next time we encounter a scenario with a similar pattern, our brain will send us the corresponding information. Even if the information is vague, which is likely to be the case when the memory our brain draws from is old or stored very deeply, our intuition will still be able to give a “this is a good thing” or “this is a bad thing”. message.
The more patterns we create around similar events, the better our intuition will be. For example, if you go for a run every day, you’ll be pretty good at spotting potential safety hazards on your trail, even if you’re on a new trail you’ve never seen before.
Intuition like this is not always directly related to the enteric nervous system, but the terms ‘intuition’ and ‘intuition’ have become synonymous. Regardless of where your gut feeling technically comes from, it’s wise to listen to it.