Following Your Gut and Your Intuition
I have a good friend who recently told me I’m very intuitive. “What does that mean?” I asked. “You follow your gut maybe more than anyone else I know.”
We all have this amazing, intangible gift called “intuition,” just as we possess lungs and a heart. Unlike organs that we can see and touch however, intuition can sometimes be obscured and harder to access.
Rob Knight, PhD in Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University and author of Follow Your Gut, speaks in his TEDtalk about the “brain in your gut.” He discusses how the ancient Egyptians, when preparing the deceased for the afterlife, included not the brain as one of the organs they would need, but rather the intestines, home of the microbial community in your gut.
Intuition and Immunity Both Start in Your Gut
Maybe intuition, or rather the microbial community in our gut that has a “brain” of its own, is not as hard to see and touch as we once thought. Intestinal microbes outnumber all other cells in your body 10 to 1. And they have an enormous impact on your overall health.
According to Dr. Athena Aktipis, PhD, “Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good.”
Interestingly, about 90 percent of the fibers in the vagus nerve carry information from the gut to the brain, not the other way around.
A recent piece in Psychology Today says, “Studies have shown that probiotics can decrease anxiety levels in mice, and last year researchers from UCLA published results that the brains of people ingesting a probiotic for four weeks, had less activity in brain areas associated with excessive anxiety.”
Do You Really Listen to Your Gut?
I’ve had an interesting year and after doing some research to write this post, I firmly believe that my microbial population has shifted. My overall stress level fell from about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 to around 2.5, I stopped craving sugar, I felt more rested on less sleep and my overall happiness quotient increased tenfold.
How did this happen? It’s the proverbial story of, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Did my microbial population change first and then I started to feel clearer, less anxious and more grounded? Or did my anxiety start to disappear first and then my diet and cravings changed?
I’ll never really know. While microbial populations are much more adaptable in children than adults, I noticed a significant shift in only a few months, and arguably, it happened in a matter of weeks.
How Can You Hone Your Own Intuition?
So, how do you become aware of what has always been a part of you? The short of it is; just listen. Stop what you’re doing right now, stop reading this blog for a moment and take a deep breath…
Because stress and antibiotics are the two top factors that “mess-up” your gut flora… after some conscious breathing, try increasing your intake of daily probiotics from a variety of sources. While there are only a handful of strains available on the market — and thousands of strains in your body already — the best thing to do is mix it up. Raw yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and supplements will get you started.
There is so much happening inside of us, and our body’s ability to shift in a relatively short amount of time is astounding. In this transformative year, I’ve experienced more gratitude, more happiness, greater physical health and an extraordinary trust in my intuition in a way that I never knew was possible.
I’ve grown wings and roots at the same time, and I may just have billions and billions of microbial cells to thank for it.