Go with Your GUT!
“I KNEW IT!”
“I had a bad feeling about this!”
“That person gives me the creeps.”
“Something just doesn’t feel right.”
“I should have gone with my gut!”
What is it that we are feeling or sensing, and why don’t we (always) listen?
I have often told my daughter that the most important piece of advice I can give her in life is to “ALWAYS trust your intuition”. There have been so many times in my life when mistakes or difficult paths could have been avoided had I followed my intuition. Instead, I pushed for what I “thought” was the best course. Even when it didn’t feel easy or right. These decisions were generally driven by ego or trying to fill a need or want. I couldn’t be bothered with taking the time to sit and quietly go within…to listen.
According to the American Psychological Association, the definition of intuition is “immediate insight or perception, as contrasted with conscious reasoning or reflection.” Some other words or phrases used interchangeably include; a gut feeling, inner sensing or a hunch. But where does this “knowing” come from and why should we trust it or not?
Just as salmon or sea turtles know when and where to swim to lay their eggs, or birds and whales know when and where to migrate, we too are equipped with hundreds of neurotransmitters throughout our body that guide our knowing as well.
Here are some physiological facts about the phenomena of intuition:
Our body produces complex electrical activity in many different types of cells such as neurons, muscle cells and endocrine cells. These are called “excitable cells.”
Our digestive tract has an entire network of neurotransmitters called the enteric nervous system.
Our “gut” actually has a brain of its own which scientists refer to as our second brain.
Scientists believe that intuition operates entirely through the right side of our brain, the hippocampus and our digestive system.
When the neurotransmitters in your gut fire up or are activated, you may feel what is known as “butterflies” or a queasy/uneasy feeling.
Our bodies naturally (and continuously) produce electricity.
Every organ and cell in the human body has its own electromagnetic field.
As I mentioned earlier, whales, turtles, birds and salmon know when and where to go…they respond to the earth’s magnetic “field” to navigate where they are going. They are also guided by their electromagnetic field and often travel thousands of miles to meet their body’s needs. All humans have this same electromagnetic field which responds (constantly) to other magnetic and electromagnetic fields. Our body’s cells are designed to do this. Our own internal magnetic fields are generated by constant internal electrical activity within our cells. In fact, this is what keeps our bodies alive….cellular activity and communication between organs and organ systems.
Most of the electrical activity in our body happens in the cell membrane which, when healthy and active, carries a “charge”. This charge is what enables the cell to communicate with other cells, and become “excitable”, which in turn creates an action. In fact, the cell membrane acts much like our own brain and spinal cord (central control). This is where the cell receives information and directs activity…in the same manner our brain and spinal cord direct ALL activity in our body.
This is important to know because EVERYTHING about our health is dependent on the condition of our cells. Healthy cells mean healthy, reliable communication and activity. Intuition is one very important form of communication which serves as a warning system and protects us from danger. When the electrical activity of a cell is decreased or dulled, so is communication and activity associated with that organ system. When a cell becomes damaged or “sick” the voltage in the membrane drops, which means communication AND action are interrupted. As you can imagine, this can cause a domino effect which shows up as disease. For example, a healthy cell has a transmembrane potential (electrical activity or charge) between 80-100 millivolts. In comparison, a cancer cell often will only have transmembrane potential between 20-25 millivolts. This means the cell which is an important gatekeeper is literally crippled and unable to communicate and/or carry out necessary activity.
As you can see, our ability to rely on intuition or our gut feeling is greatly influenced by our cellular health, and therefore the health of our body in general. This explains a lot when you consider that 90% of disease in this country is STRESS related….90%!
When we hear the word stress many of us think about all the things we have on our plate or on our mind at work and at home. However, the reality is stressors come in many forms and are influencing our body constantly. A stressor can be physical such as disease, an injury, trauma or extra pounds we are carrying around. It can be mental such as work, school, finances or mental health issues. It can be emotional…relationship difficulties both at home and in the workplace, depression, anxiety and grief. Finally, a stressor can be chemical such as side effects from medication, environmental exposure to toxins like household cleaners and beauty products or pollution around us. One of the biggest chemical stressors to our body is what we ingest as food…chemically processed and pre-packaged foods and fast food laden with toxic oils. Not only is this one of the biggest stressors to our body, it is also the most frequent. Most of us eat 2-3 full meals a day and depending on what that consists of, the stress to our digestive tract (our second brain) can be enormous.
Our body reacts to a stressor by creating tension. This tension causes symptoms such as muscle tightness and rigidity which leads to decreased blood flow to surrounding areas or organ systems. These areas include our heart, lungs, digestive tract, endocrine system and brain! When this tension becomes chronic it creates irritation and inflammation, this inflammation then creates change in our cells and we know what that means…decreased communication/action and eventually disease.
Now that we know the phenomena of intuition is literally a physiologic response at the cellular level, what can we do to be more attuned to this messaging and ensure that the messaging is not dulled or interrupted?
PROTECT YOUR GUT - Eat whole, organic (when possible) natural foods that come from the ground, trees and from healthy animals or fish. The very best medicine for our gut health is nourishing food. If you know that you have not been treating your digestive tract well, be sure to replace good bacteria with quality probiotics and supplements daily.
MANAGE CHRONIC STRESS - Take a time out to assess where your stressors are coming from (physical, mental, emotional and chemical). Sort out what you can and cannot control in these areas. If you know you do not have control, this is easy, put that stressor in the “no control” basket and leave it! If you do have control, what are the actions you can take to manage the situation(s)? Are you willing to do these things? If so, great, take action. If not, be OKAY with that choice and move on to the next thing. ANY action or inaction we can take to reduce our stress level is invaluable. Some of these actions may include changing your eating habits, changing your environment which includes people, places and things…what and who do you surround yourself with? What do you engage in? What do you listen to or watch on television? Are these things fulfilling you and your life or are they draining your precious energy? Causing “tension”?
TAKE TIME TO LISTEN - Literally listen to not only your GUT and intuition, but listen to all of the messages your body gives you:
- If you are tired, REST…most adults need between 7-10 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Our body regenerates cells, repairs tissue damage and fights inflammation when we sleep.
- If you experience indigestion, heartburn, reflux or irritable bowel syndrome symptoms such as frequent constipation and/or diarrhea, STOP and evaluate what you are eating and drinking. Don’t just take medications to cover up the symptoms. These symptoms are messages from your body telling you it is struggling. With that struggle comes irritation and inflammation which means damage and dulled messaging at the cellular level.
- If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed take a TIME OUT. This can literally mean you take 1-3 minutes to stop and take three deep breaths and let your nervous system send the message to your body that you are safe and it is time to step out of “fight or flight mode”! It can mean that you learn to say NO to that extra shift, or project at work. Maybe you need to say no to extra activities for yourself or your children for a time. When our body and brain are overwhelmed, we are unable to fully engage, and are therefore, ineffective as a partner, parent, co-worker, friend and frankly ineffective at managing ourselves.
Chronic, unmanaged stress (in many forms) is a real and serious problem in this country and it is literally and slowly killing us.
Our intuition is a very valuable tool and messaging system designed to keep our body safe and well. If we take daily steps to keep this system in tip top shape by taking care of our body at the cellular level, we will not only feel confident in ALWAYS trusting our intuition, but we will come to rely on it on a regular basis.