What is a gut feeling and where does it come from? 13



View Profile

We’ve all had that deep down feeling that comes right from our bellies that tells us “yes, this is a good thing” or “no, beware”. But exactly how accurate is that and how does it even happen? How does our body know when there’s impending danger?

A new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, explored whether gut feelings really were generated in the fut.

“Traditionally, scientists have focused on the role of the central nervous system in regulating our moods and behaviours, but a paradigm shift is afoot, with new research revealing a unique role of our gut microbiota in influencing emotion,” writes the paper’s author, M.J. Friedrich, reports Fairfax.

It’s amazing to think that our gut microbiota could be linked to stress and anxiety, but it’s true – more and more research is proving there is a definite connection.

A 2011 study, authored by neuroscientist John Cryan, found that feeding healthy rats a strain of the bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus (found in some yoghurts) cheered up anxious and depressed mice.

Other types of gut bacteria have also been shown to produce “feel good” molecules although there are yet to be full, wide-ranging studies on humans.

“The field is still in its infancy, and there remains healthy scepticism as to whether recent work may have translational potential for treating anxiety and depression in humans,” Friedrich says.

And the secret to whether a gut feeling is accurate comes down to how healthy your gut is, but how can you tell!? Well, researchers are still trying to figure out exactly it means.

“Genetic and environmental factors mean that there may be significant variability in gut composition from person to person,” explains Sarah Dash, from Deakin University’s School of Medicine.

In the same vein, intuition is similar to gut feelings in that we get this overwhelming sense of right or wrong when we approach a situation. We can’t explain it and it feels like it comes from within, although not always that sick feel associated with your gut.

According to a study by Canada’s University of Alberta, when it comes to working out where the future lies, your unconscious mind is smarter, and more correct, than you thought.

Their study explored how the unconscious mind responds to objects in relation to an individual’s goals and how it continues to influence feelings about these objects once the goals are reached, whether or not the outcome has been successful.

“In the past few years, we recognised that some of [Sigmund] Freud’s ideas on the unconscious mind were, in fact, correct and that a lot of our decision-making and a lot of our feelings are based on things that we’re not really aware of,’ said Alberta School of Business researcher Sarah Moore.

In her and her colleagues’ study, they assessed basic needs like thirst or hunger, and were able to ascertain that the unconscious will evaluate objects and form preferences based on whether the object will help an individual achieve the goal.

For example, if you are thirsty, your unconscious knows, without you even having to consciously think it, that you need water and not a chocolate or some crackers. But once you have quenched your thirst, your unconscious will go back to thinking nothing of the chocolate or crackers’ value.

When the teams focus turned to longer-term goals, such as getting fit or studying, they found that the unconscious identifies and responds to positively to objects and triggers in the environment that support the person’s goal, but made note that the unconscious deals differently with these objects as it progresses towards long-term goals.

Interestingly, the unconscious mind will continue to positively value objects related to the long-term goals even after a level of success has been achieved. This is because we never truly finish our long-term goals.

The researchers expected the participants who failed at their goal to react negatively to objects related to their test goal, but it was found that failure resulted in a neutral view of the objects.

“You don’t hate the objects related to the goal because that goal is very important to you in the long run”.

More research needs to be done to secure the links between our stomaches and our mental, physical and emotional health, but in the meantime, listen to your gut. As John Cryan, puts it: “Your state of mind might be dependent on your gut”.


Tell us, do you follow your gut instinct? Or do you prefer to go with your heart?


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. It’s long been realised that we only use a fraction of our brain power. Gut instinct, I believe, is just part of that which we don’t fully understand yet. Yes I do trust mine.

  2. I agree with the article. When I was about 12 my Dad told me that little girls have an alarm in the back of their heads and when that alarm goes off I have to get out of there as quick as I can. Well that alarm didn’t go off until I was 18 and driving on a country road. There was a car apparently broken down with bonnet up and several young men peering in to it. I stopped and one of them came towards me. That’s when the alarm went off. Was it his expression? Something just told me I was in danger. I lowered the window an inch and said “I can’t help you at all but I can ring someone when I get to the next town if you like” He said “We’ll be right thanks” and I drove on. I was a bit shaken until I remembered what Dad had said. That’s the first time I knew my alarm worked. It has worked a few times in my life.

  3. I trust my gut instinct, hasn’t let me down. I have an uncanny ability to ring family and friends at just the right time, they have either just landed, or were just about to ring me, they needed a chat. Not sure what it means, but I always follow through when I get the urge.

  4. My father was a policeman. He always said if ever you get a strong feeling that something doesn’t feel right or when you meet someone and the hair stands up on the back of your neck go with your gut instinct. Get away from where you feel something is off. Don’t be left alone with someone who feels odd to you. Have had these feelings a few times over the years and they have always been right. Walked out from work one night like I always did, felt something was wrong ran back inside to get one of the managers to walk me out. We saw a car driving out of the car park as we walked to mine. Turned out it had just been stolen. Was obviously happening when I first walked out. Another time I was being chatted up at a bar while I was waiting for a friend. The guy was giving me the creeps. Turned out he was a Melbourne mafia boss. THANKS for the great advice Dad. Always go with your gut instinct.

  5. I work 99% of the time on gut instinct. When very sick I know something bad has happened to one of my family. I’m usually correct…….all the time. I just know what’s going to happen……..often before it does. Freaky actually.

  6. Intuition has saved my life at least twice. All young women should be given the advice about that instinct or alarm in the back of your brain to alert you to run.

  7. I work with preschool children we call them early warning signs and teach them how to recognise them

  8. This is where the Almighty God lives! Just make sure the soul ( brain ) listens and the body ( temple ) keeps it holy so the gift is always there !!!

  9. Trust mine implicitly. Too many cases where it has been proven to be correct.
    The main one was when my husband had to fly back to England to visit his sick Mum. I couldn’t go with him as had just come out from a knee replacement. About 1pm a few days later, I started to feel ill so went to lie down for a while until it passed. 4 hrs. later he rang me to say that his Mum had passed away & the time she did , in England, was about 1.15pm here.
    So Yes I certainly believe in instinct whether it be in circumstances, people, places or feelings inside yourself.
    Dogs have this ability too. 2 yrs. ago our beloved German Shepherd cross got off his bed one night whilst Hubby & I were watching T.V. He went to Hubby first & gave him lots of sniffs & licks, then to me with the same & finally to our other dog with the same – then went back & laid on his bed. 2 days later he collapsed – his back legs just gave out & he couldn’t get up. We called in the vet but unfortunately had to have him put down ( he’s now in our back garden with a bush planted for him which is growing beautifully )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *