The Science Behind What We Call The Gut Feeling

The Science Behind What We Call The Gut Feeling

By: Pamela Di Vella

N.B: This article was originally published on Medium by the author.

We often say “trust your gut” to express our intuitive decisions. It’s a common phrase like when we feel nervous and anxious and say we have “butterflies in the stomach.” But did you know that science is now proving the accuracy of our gut instincts?  

Recent medical research has discovered that the gut, also known as the “second brain,” takes charge of everything from digestion to mood, health, and even our thought processes. These discoveries are transforming the medical understanding and treatment of health issues. The gut microbiome is a complex group of microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, that reside in the digestive tract. They play a crucial role in digestion, metabolism, and the immune system. Moreover, they safeguard our brain’s well-being through the gut-brain axis, a communication system between the brain and the gut.  

The journal “Psychological Medicine” recently published innovative research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, revealing a connection between the gut microbiome and positive emotions. The study found that people who suppress their feelings have a less diverse gut microbiome than people who report happier emotions. The number of certain bacteria in their gut is lower in those people.  

Gut-brain axis – The Science of Psychotherapy Documentary 

Brief History 

In 1822, trader Alexis St. Martin was brutally shot at close range and had his stomach and ribs perforated as a result. As a result of a wound in his stomach that had not healed, Beaumont took it upon himself to do something that would most certainly be considered unethical in the 21st century: experiment on his digestive tract. 

Numerous scientific studies have highlighted the crucial link between the microbiome and gut function. However, these studies were only possible with the ground-breaking work of William Beaumont, an army surgeon from America. Revered as the “Father of Gastric Physiology,” Beaumont’s research led to many significant discoveries about the intricate interactions between the brain and gut, digestion rate, and disease. His work established the concept of the “gut-brain axis,” and medical professionals still rely on his findings to treat patients with various gastrointestinal disorders. 

But what is the gut and how does it function?  

The gut, also called the digestive or gastrointestinal tract, plays a crucial role in breaking down food and absorbing nutrients essential for our body’s proper functioning. It is responsible for vital functions such as energy production, hormone regulation, skin health, and mental well-being. Research indicates that the gut microbiome is home to more than 1,000 species of bacteria, with the types residing in the colon being significantly impacted by our diet, genes, environment, and medication use. 

Common factors affecting the microbiota-gut-brain activity on the left of the image and few behaviours are known to be affected by microbiota-gut-brain axis perturbation on the right of the image.  

Taking care of your gut microbiome is crucial as factors like chronic stress, lack of sleep, antibiotics, and a Western diet can influence it. These factors can impact hormone levels, immune function, disease risk, and weight. Experts suggest following a balanced diet and reducing stress to enhance your gut microbiome.  

Functional medicine is an approach that prioritizes collaboration and focuses on discovering the underlying causes of chronic diseases. This patient-centred and science-based approach takes a holistic view of treating chronic illnesses, looking at nutrition and the entire body. Integrated medicine providers work to identify the root causes of diseases, including triggers such as poor nutrition, stress, toxins, allergens, genetics, and the microbiome. Once triggers are identified, a personalized healthy living plan addresses various aspects of an individual’s life, including physical needs, nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mental and emotional stressors related to work, social, and community life. 

 With proper food, lifestyle changes, and behavioural interventions, patients can take control of their health and improve their well-being from the inside out. 

TEDx Talks – Erika Ebbel Angle – The Gut Microbiome: the most important organ you’ve never heard of.

Effective Ways To Maintain A Healthy Gut 

Maintaining a healthy gut is crucial for overall well-being. The following tips can help achieve this.  

To promote a healthy lifestyle, consuming a balanced and diverse diet with plenty of fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is vital. Practising mindful eating, like eating slowly, can help reduce the risk of developing obesity and diabetes. Adequate hydration is also essential for maintaining healthy digestion. To prevent inflammation and an imbalance of good bacteria, it’s recommended that you limit your intake of processed and sugary foods. Equally, incorporating probiotics into your diet can benefit your gut bacteria. You can easily find them in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and miso. To manage stress, consider engaging in regular exercise, walking, yoga, meditation, cultivating healthy relationships, spending time with a pet, and moderating your alcohol intake. Sleeping for at least 7-8 hours each night is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria. If you experience bloating, gas, acid reflux, or nausea, it’s worth considering the possibility of food intolerances. Lastly, it’s important to avoid antibiotics if not necessary. 

In conclusion, the gut-brain axis is a complex system that controls many bodily functions, including digestion, metabolism, the immune system, and our mood. More research is needed to understand how it works fully and its impact on health and illness. This new research and knowledge could lead to important advancements in managing chronic diseases. 


No content in this article, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.  

































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