go with your gut

Intuition — whether you listen to it or not, we all have it somewhere inside of us. I’m one of those people who likes to be “in control” of their lives. I plan, I use logic in (most of) the decisions that I make, I do things that sometimes go against what my mind or my body is saying. I’m not purely driven by my intuition. Others, however, are solely guided by this instinctual feeling. “Go with your gut.” It’s a common saying that many — myself included — have tried to live by. Trust your instincts. That gut feeling is never wrong. But what if it is?

I’ve made many impulsive decisions based on only instinctual feelings in a fleeting moment. I don’t particularly regret them, because that’s not a way to live. I always say that if I felt a certain way, or if I wanted that thing in the moment — even if they don’t currently align with how I feel now — then I don’t regret it. Lesson learned and something to grow from. However, sometimes I look back at my behavior, the way that I treated both myself and others, and know that I could have done things different. I could have been more patient. I could have been more kind. I could have been less obsessive. I could have been less anxious. I could have enjoyed that moment more. I could have loved more. I could have laughed more. I could have cared less. I could have acted and spoken with more positivity.

“Go with your gut.” I told myself this many times throughout my teenage and early adult years, but it wasn’t until I dove into health and nutrition in college that I began to see this saying as more than just a metaphor. The ENS (or enteric nervous system, aka your gut) is comprised of 100 million nerve cells, and makes connections with our actual brain all day and all night long. Its main responsibility is our digestion; from swallowing to the release of enzymes to absorption and finally to elimination. Our gut communicates with the brain and vice versa — the very thought of food can signal your gut to start producing the bile it needs to break it down. Essentially, with all of its power, the gut is our second brain. We know that we need to read often, move our bodies, or meditate each morning to keep our brain healthy. We take care of our mental health because we know it’s harder to make the best decisions for ourselves when our judgement (brain) is clouded. So, why don’t we take care of our second brains and keep our gut health in check, too?

Freshman year of college I offset my gut flora because I would diet, then binge, then try a different diet, then fall off, then overeat, etc. I would starve my body of certain food groups, only to overdo it on another food group. I was treating my body like shit and in turn, I felt like shit. I became dull. Angry. Stressed. Impatient. Unhappy. Anxious. Negative. Antisocial. Depressed. Obsessive. I remember feeling like, what happened to the bubbly, confident, and lively girl I was a year ago? The yo-yo dieting, the nights of endless alcohol, the 2 am hot dog or pop tart, and the self hate that lifestyle brought on took a toll on my gut health. I remember being in my dorm one night after eating dinner — pretty sure it was oatmeal and a banana from the dining hall— with extreme bloat and the worst gas. My roommate was like, “Dude, WHAT did you eat?” I felt helpless and called my mom, asking her what I can do to alleviate this discomfort. She didn’t know. I felt defeated. And so to deal with the frustration and hatred I was feeling towards my body, I ate two nature valley bars. Sugar = reward, right? Wrong. Quite frankly, I didn't know what my gut was saying. My body told me “I’m full” but I’d continue to finish the plate. It told me “I’m just an introvert” when really I was just too anxious to be social. It would tell me “I’m tired,” but I’d proceed to go to the gym and eat no more than 1400 calories. It told me “that food will make you gain weight” when really I just didn’t have a clue about moderation and portion control. It craved sugar and the more I fed it, the worse my bloating, constipation, and gas became.

My gut was sending me mixed signals. One day my brain told the lies, and the other day my gut did. If the foods I was consuming and the dieting lifestyle I was living were muddling my gut flora, isn’t it obvious that my mood, behavior, and decision making were muddled to? Trusting your gut is important — but making sure your gut health is on point and functioning optimally so that you CAN trust it is even more important.

“Go with your gut,” they say. But living an intuitive life is hard to do when you have poor gut health. Your energy is shot, you’re always irritable, you feel uncomfortable after eating, you don’t sleep, you experience brain fog, you’re anxious, and you find that you’re rarely in a good mood. I’ve been there and it sucks. However, you can reclaim your intuition, your mental health, your relationships with others, and your life by focusing on and improving your gut health.

It’s a beautiful thing to wake up and feel clear or levelheaded. To fuel your body with food and not feel bloated afterwards. To laugh with friends and be present in a moment. To have sustainable energy while working out and running errands. To be able to focus and be productive. To be nice. To give love. To take opportunities and make things happen for yourself. To trust your intuition and truly, go with your gut.

If you are interested in reading a follow-up post on how you can improve your gut health, please let me know in a comment below or through DM on Instagram/Facebook. I would love to help you reclaim your intuition.

RESOURCES

Harvard Health Publishing. “The Gut-Brain Connection.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection.

“The Brain-Gut Connection.” The Brain-Gut Connection | Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection.