Do 'Gut Feelings' Really Exist?

The science behind the 'second brain' explained.

We often talk about going with our “gut feeling” when making a difficult decision or meeting someone we’re no sure of, but does the sensation exist in a scientific sense?

According to Amy Shira Teitel from D News, we really do “feel things” from our gut.

Shira says our bodies are teaming with bacteria, most of which lives in our gut.

This bacteria regulates digestion and metabolism and helps programme the body’s immune system. It also plays an integral part in our experiences of “gut feelings”.

m-imagephotography via Getty Images

The gut bacteria is so sophisticated that it’s evolved into a complex neurological network, called the enteric nervous system, which is sometimes referred to as the “second brain”.

Scientists believe the gut and the brain are connected, influencing each other in both positive and negative ways.

For example, gut bacteria produces chemicals which regulate basic mental processes, influencing things like memory and mood.

Meanwhile psychological stress has been shown to affect the gut, by suppressing certain helpful bacteria and making us more likely to get sick.

This link between the gut and the brain helps us process things like body temperature, breathlessness and heart rate and helps our body react in an appropriate way, for example, drinking when thirsty and processing water.

“Whether or not we’re aware our body is sending these signals, they happen, particularly when we’re making risky decisions,” Teitel explains.

“They send information to the brain and affect the way we make decisions, so what you think of as a ‘gut feeling’ is actually you responding to those subtle cues.”

So there you have it, gut feelings do exist. Whether or not you should follow them is another matter.

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