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Where Did the Term “Gut Feeling” Come From?

A woman sits at a table in deep thought.
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We’ve all experienced it. We’re trying to make a decision, and even though there’s little to no evidence backing it, 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 gut 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 both receiving information from and giving information to the brain. So, quite 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 posited the power of our bodies’ cells and come to the conclusion that each cell has its own memory that can be tapped into at a later date. So when we get a “gut feeling,” our cells remember stored information and relay emotions associated with those memories from the enteric nervous system to our brain. Our brain then sends signals out to us 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 we will follow.

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 stomach. Those nervous “butterflies” we feel when we are initially attracted to someone or nervous and excited about an event fly around in our stomachs. On the flip side, poor gut health has been linked with various health concerns 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 are almost always right when they trust their gut feeling. Just like exercise or meditation, this takes practice.

Whenever our brain works through how to do something, it draws from 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 the corresponding information back to us. Even if the information is vague—which will probably happen when the memory our brain is drawing 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.

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Journaling your experiences could help improve your intuition.

The more patterns we create around similar events, our intuition will be better. For example, if you go for a run every day, you’ll get pretty good at identifying potential safety hazards in your path, even if you’re on a new trail that you’ve never seen before.

Intuition like this is not always directly linked to the enteric nervous system, but the terms ‘intuition’ and ‘gut feeling’ have become pretty synonymous. Wherever your gut feeling is technically coming from, it’s wise to take a listen.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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