Have you ever just had a hunch? Or butterflies? Knots, pits, or somersaults? I’d venture to say you have. Because I’d also venture to say you have a stomach. Our tummies, guts, abdomens, or bellies are the home of those butterflies. The birthplace of vital emotions and the genesis of instinct.

Yep, you read that right. Emotions! In our tummies! Let me explain. Serotonin. You’ve heard of it? Well, just in case you needed a refresher, it’s the happy hormone! It gives you all those good feelings and the hormone that most antidepressant medications address. Neurons in our brains shoot and absorb these neurotransmitters 24/7 in order to keep our minds in a state of peace and balance. But did you also know that the linings of our stomachs are filled with 100 million neurons? And as if that wasn’t enough, did you also know that 95% of our serotonin is stored in those belly walls?

Yep. I have been studying psychology for nearly 8 years now and I just recently found this out. And now that I have, I really cannot stop thinking about it. I take extra special note of those butterflies I get when I see someone I love. I notice those knots and pits before the start of a new job or when I give a presentation. I also don’t take for granted the hunches and gut feelings that keep me from making the right or wrong choices. Because there was a time in my life when I did not get those feelings.

I was a teenager and elbows deep in my eating disorder. And yes, I despised my belly! I did everything imaginable to make my midsection disappear. A full tummy was the enemy and, at the time, my biggest fear. But what I did not realize was that not only was I depriving my body of physiologically necessary nutrients, but I was also starving myself of a fair shot at feeling the effects of serotonin. The less I fed myself, the less functional my tummy became. You see, the more stress we endure (ie- an eating disorder! Amongst countless of other things!), the more inflamed the stomach lining becomes and its ability to properly release and store serotonin becomes impaired. Which makes total sense! 15-year-old me was not getting butterflies nor was I able to go with my gut and make reasonable choices. And needless to say, I was far from happy.

But, the first thing I remember about my recovery journey was not the weight gain, meals, snacks, urges, not of it! It was the feelings I had in my stomach. I experienced sadness, with equal parts joy and gratitude, for the first time in years. Because even though I was experiencing all of the “bad” emotions that my eating disorder was allegedly protecting me from, I was finally feeling all of the good! And I can say without a shadow of a doubt that a life with both the good and bad, by far outshines a life with neither.

Resource for Reference: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling

Written and contributed by Megan Rose.