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Why do we feel emotions in our stomachs?

Why Do We Feel Emotions in Our Stomachs?

There's a secret connection between your mind and your gut. Well, there's actually over 100 million secret connections ... but who's counting?

You've probably heard sayings like: you've got "butterflies in your stomach," "a knot in your stomach," or that what happened somewhere was "gut wrenching."

We even use phrases like "my feelings were hurt" -- which is meant to be a metaphor, but may have a more literal origin. We've known for a long time that sometimes we feel our emotions physically in the body. There are loads of MRI scans to back it up -- but why are so many of the negative emotions (like fear, anxiety, and disgust) felt in your stomach?

Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical Schools explains that the answer is pretty simple: your brain and your gut are best buds. They're in constant communication with each other, sending signals back and forth when your brain OR your stomach is distressed. Specifically, they're connected through the Enteric Nervous System, or the ENS, which has over 100 million nerves running directly from your brain ... to your stomach. So emotional distress can cause a distressed gut AND, strangely enough, a distressed gut can also cause emotional distress. It's a two way street.

What you'll notice about a lot of the emotions that people feel in their stomach ( butterflies, the gutwrench, the knot) is that they're all different ways of experiencing the same emotion: stress.

When there's something that stresses you out, it triggers the fight-or-flight response in the brain. This is an instinctive physiological response experienced by ALL animals in the animal kingdom. It's there to protect you in dangerous situations, to prepare you to fight in the case of an attack, or to outrun the predator. Part of fight-or-flight's physiological response is inhibiting the secretion of stomach juices while diverting blood flow from the stomach and into your lungs and muscles instead.

Pair this with all the stress hormones that your body is releasing, like adrenaline, and it produces a physical reaction that's experienced all over your body -- including your heart and your gut. Because of your brain's connection to the stomach through the Enteric Nervous System and the stomach's involvement in digestion, stress is also a common irritant of the digestive system. It can cause stomach aches, gas, constipation, diarrhea and a whole host of other wonderful conditions.

Some evolutionary scientists say that the human mind hasn't yet evolved to handle our not-actually-threatening 21st century woes. That's why a stress reaction meant to protect you from being eaten alive also happens all the time in everyday situations.

Join the discussion

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yayabeanes April 28 2014 at 7:39 PM

Why does everyone always seem to place their hands on their Intestines and not their actual stomach.

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rfalc32773 April 28 2014 at 11:39 AM

Well, I'm not quite sure we haven't 'evolved' yet beyond the 'unrealistic' threats of animals and neighboring cave dwellers yielding bats; has the author actually lived in New York City, Detroit, or any other major American city in recent decades?

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bjredmond64 April 28 2014 at 12:02 PM

i've learned to keep my mind on Christ Jesus and His word. helps stop a lot of those destressing stomach aches and a worried mind. He gives the peace that passes understanding.

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HI--JACKI April 28 2014 at 10:45 AM

take a ****

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normatimm April 28 2014 at 12:43 PM

"The relation that exists between the mind and the body is very intimate. When one is affected, the other sympathizes. The condition of the mind affects the health to a far greater degree than many realize. Many of the diseases from which men suffer are the result of mental depression. Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, distrust, all tend to break down the life forces, and to invite decay and death. ....."Courage, hope, faith, sympathy, love, promote health and prolong life. A contented mind, a cheerful spirit, is health to the body and strength to the soul. ..."
There's much more in the book from which I took this quotation that's as modern as tomorrow.
From the book, Ministry of Healing by Ellen White, p. 241, in the
chapter entitled, "Mind-Cure. FIRST COPYRIGHTED in 1905 and 1909. submitted by Norma Timm

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2 replies
gh38133 normatimm April 28 2014 at 1:05 PM

Thank you for the information~ =)

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Sandy normatimm April 28 2014 at 5:47 PM


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kandc1111 April 28 2014 at 9:19 AM

I have that feeling most of the day....any thoughts on controlling that anxious feeling in my gut?

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4 replies
ycplum April 28 2014 at 12:59 PM

"Some evolutionary scientists say that the human mind hasn't yet evolved to handle our not-actually-threatening 21st century woes. "

OMG, they cancelled "Friends"!?!?
3 balls/2 strikes, bottom of the 9th, down 2 points, but runners on 1st and 3rd, and here is the windup.....


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Gramma Pat April 28 2014 at 2:27 PM

To be able to know and feel the need for food and water....is the mind/brain life saving sharing between our body parts. The brain is the body part that directs all other parts to keep us alive and growing/thriving. We are all animated mammals....animals...who can not live without water, food, and the taking in and giving out of all water and food matter/materials. Human beings have turned aside from responding to those direct needs for water, food, rest, grazing, eliminating and caring for themselves in a "natural" moment to moment manner. No other animal needs 'drugs/medicine/pills or laxatives to empty their used food and water back to the ground. Our babes have no set schedule for suckling, making pee water or doing a 'doodle" in their diaper. Let our brain/mind direct us, immediately, to feed ourselves and to empty the used water, solids.....wherever we are at the time. Pay attention to our moment to moment needs to stay alive and healthy.

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Hal April 28 2014 at 2:41 PM

If that young lady woouldlearn toannunciate her words and speak some what slower I might be able to understand her.

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seeker4179 April 28 2014 at 8:02 AM

Amazing ! Nothing can match the body and its fantastic units--each and every part has its own part -compared to modern technology, the whole body wins- how ,who and why of creation ??? still beyond comprehension.

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