Let’s say you are walking up the street and all of a sudden, a voice inside your head says you should check your bag for your phone. The moment you stop, a lamp falls a few steps away. You dodged the bullet because you listened to this voice in your head. This voice in your head is what they call “gut feeling”. 

“Trust your gut feeling. It is the strongest guide”, they say. It may be a piece of advice you came across several times – mostly when you have trouble deciding something or when you are lost in a loop of thoughts. Call it an intuition, a hunch, an inkling or just a feeling you can’t put your words on, but we’ll call this a “gut feeling”. We’re pretty sure everyone has at one point in time in life -whether it is a person your mind tells you is trouble or a road you should not take. 

 But have you ever wondered why? Is there a connection between intuition, mind and your gut? Does science validate intuitions? Well, for all the curious cats here, you must be surprised to know that the answer is in affirmative. Your mind and gut are connected and intuitions may also be real, as per science. In this blog, we will explore gut feelings through the perspective of science, instead of looking at it from a mystical angle. 

The connection between your mind and gut

To begin with, gut feelings aren’t always strong. Sometimes they’re faint whispers you ignore. Other times, they are loud voices coming from inside you that you can’t just ignore. But contrary to what the name suggests, a gut feeling doesn’t originate from the gut. But there is no denying that the gut and mind are interconnected. This is to say our emotional experiences can register as gastrointestinal issues. For instance, when you feel afraid or anxious and have an inkling that something is wrong, you may feel a bit nauseous and experience a slight twitch or pain in your stomach. But this feeling of discomfort may not always be there. 

Additionally, the human gut, often termed the “second brain,” houses a complex nervous system with 100 million neurons, operating independently from the brain. This network dubbing the enteric nervous system, ensures gut functionality even if severed from the brain. Gut flora, comprising about 100 trillion microbes, play vital roles in digestion, metabolism, immune system regulation, and gut wall maintenance. They also produce neurochemicals essential for mental processes like mood and memory. Gut bacteria, influenced by genetics and environmental factors, form a unique microbial ecosystem. Considering its diverse functions and bidirectional communication with the brain, the gut undoubtedly plays a crucial role in overall well-being and mental states.

Intuition from the perspective of science 

Intuition may involve decoding information gained subconsciously 

Normal brain processes and intuition are linked. These brain processes involve decoding non-verbal and emotional cues. Remember, it is your brain that collects sensory information from your surroundings, hence making you aware of some of the situations subconsciously. These processes are going in the background, so you may not observe or decode the meaning. 

Speaking in terms of science, the observations you make unconsciously warn you, and you may call it an intuition. 

It may be based on experiences you don’t fully recall 

You can also consider gut feelings as a collection of experiences you don’t recall fully. Let’s say your friends are planning a trip to a hill station. Something tells you that you shouldn’t go, and so you skip. The next thing you know there’s a flood there. It is very likely that you chose to skip the trip because you read a quick headline about severe weather conditions there the past week. You don’t remember, but this information guided your decision.  

Gut feelings may also be influenced by anxiety 

You may also feel you have a gut feeling when you’re anxious about something. Anxiety and fears guide your decisions, which you may sometimes label as intuitions. Gut feelings can cause the same physical sensations as anxiety. Consequently, it may become difficult to differentiate between the two. 

Closing thoughts

The exploration of intuition through the lens of science reveals a fascinating connection between our cognitive processes and subconscious mind. While traditional scientific methods may struggle to quantify or explain the concept and working of intuition, emerging research suggests its validity and value in decision-making processes. Trusting our gut instincts isn’t merely a whimsical notion; it’s a nuanced cognitive process honed by experience, perception, and subconscious information processing. Combining intuition alongside critical thinking can lead to more holistic and effective decision-making, enriching both our personal and professional lives. So, the next time your gut speaks up, consider giving it the floor—it might just lead you in the right direction.

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