Trust Your Gut

“The gastrointestinal system has over 100 million neurons. This “second brain” has more neurons than your spinal cord and is similar in number to the brain of a dog.”


TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about “trusting your gut”. Although a cliché statement, there is real basis for its utility. Our gut is the home of our enteric nervous system; a collection of over 100 million neurons that function as an interface with the outside world by carefully interacting with that which enters our alimentary tract.

Humans are complex creatures. Of this, our gut is an incredibly complex component. It needs to be emphasized that such a nervous system goes beyond simply digesting food. The enteric nervous system, also known as the “second brain”, is constantly feeding you information about the outside world. If you are willing to listen, it can serve as a confidant for the interpretation of complex emotions and communications.

“The second brain is constantly feeding you information about the outside world. If you are willing to listen, it can serve as a confidant for the interpretation of complex emotions and communications.”

One can take a deep dive on the enteric nervous system in a myriad of ways. From the digestion of food, to neurotransmitter functions, to the gut bacterial environment that is crucial for homeostasis, to gastrointestinal immunity functions, there are countless books on topics that are beyond the scope of the Sunday Surgical Scrub. What I want to focus on today is your gastrointestinal tract and enteric nervous system as a strategic interpreter for decision making. This may initially seem haphazard, but allow me to explain.

Intuition, which I define as immediate comprehension without reasoning, is an integral part of decision analysis. There will be instances when, despite carefully organized analyses and sound reasoning, the correct decision may remain hidden. The preferred path, in these instances, requires you to remain connected to your second brain as a means of gaining further input. Learn to trust your gut and follow your intuition. We all know what this feels like. The “butterflies” of excitement, the shallow queasiness of apprehension, the disgust at the pit of our stomach from a wrong path taken. These are feelings we have known long before we could reason complex arguments.

How do you hone the ability to focus on what your intuition and gut are trying to tell you?

There are several techniques that one can use to centre on what our gut feelings are telling us such as meditation, sleep, journaling. However, one I really like to use is the act of distraction. At times, we can become entrenched in analyses such that we become susceptible to tunnel vision and bias. At these times, we can rationalize the wrong decision surprisingly easily. If you need to connect with your gut, distract yourself with some physical activity, music, or even a nap. This will serve to refresh the connection between your first and second brains with respect to the conflict in question. There is an essential, evolutionary-tuned survival need to trust our intuition. Trust and follow your gut!


MEDICINE & MACULA: Many thanks to Dr. Jay Sridhar, creator and host of the fantastic podcast, Straight From The Cutter’s Mouth.

I was a recent guest on his show and had a wonderful time discussing retina, work-life balance, social media and my recent book Decision Diagnosis. Check out Episode 44: More Social Media with Dr. David Almeida.

You can find the episode here.

You can also check out the Straight From The Cutter’s Mouth website, blog, other podcast episodes and more here.


GRATIS: “You’ve got a song you’re singing from your gut, you want that audience to feel it in their gut.” Johnny Cash

My best to you,

David Almeida

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