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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Trust Your Gut—There's Nothing Woo-Woo About the Vagus Nerve

“Gut feelings” are referred to in medicine as “interoceptive sensations”. Interoception is the ability to sense physiological signals originating inside your body, such as heart rate, temperature, hunger, pain, irritable bowel, etc. Interoception and intuition go hand in hand. Oftentimes, a gut feeling is the first feedback your mind gets when making an emotional decision or conducting a ‘cost-benefit analysis’ of the pros and cons of a particular decision.
Your Vagus Nerve Sends Gut Instincts to the Brain and Can Keep You Calm
A wide range of visceral responses and gut feelings are transferred up to your brain via the vagus nerve. In previous studies, signals from the vagus nerve traveling from the gut to the brain have been linked to modulating mood and distinctive types of fear and anxiety. Having grace under pressure is directly linked to the calming parasympathetic response associated with healthy vagal tone.

Your vagus nerve is constantly sending updated sensory information about the state of your body’s organs, digestive tract, heart rate, state of arousal, etc. “upstream” to your brain via afferent nerves. In fact, 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are dedicated to communicating the state of your viscera up to your brain in the form of gut feelings.