The Brain In Your BellyRemember a time when you had one of those strange, but insistent gut feelings? We’ve all had a strong, undeniable certainty of something we couldn’t possibly have known based on logic. I’m sure you’ve had the unmistakable flutter of butterflies or felt sick to your stomach as an in response to happenings.  Well, turns out there’s a valid basis for this innate wisdom or intuition.

In addition to having a second brain in your heart (see post: The Heart Of The Matter), you have a third brain in your belly called the enteric nervous system. The Chinese have long known this and refer to it as the “monkey brain.” Hawaiians traditionally reference it as the na’au which includes the bowels, the mind, and the heart.

The enteric nervous system consists of a network of some 100 million neurons lining the gut which is more neurons than are in the spinal cord. The enteric nervous system can function without any input from the central nervous system and actually transmits information to it. While this brain down below is not the seat (pun intended) of conscious thought, it does exert powerful influence on our physical bodies and emotional states.

The gut brain uses over 30 neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin just like the brain above, and a big part of our emotions are influenced by this brain. Recent studies link this brain to stress, depression, autism and even osteoporosis and may have possible implications as to how these are treated.

Our challenge is to learn to listen to the perceptions and the information of the brains in our head, heart, and gut and to allow all of them to integrate and have input in directing our lives and creating our realities. In western culture, we’re commonly taught early on to solely rely on the brain in our heads and to ignore other internal sources of wisdom.

In my own experience, the brain in my head bossily took over, spouting not-so-nice and anxious nonsense incessantly, until I was completely cut off from any other form of innate knowledge. I’ve since learned to calm the brain in my head and shut it up long enough to let the others have input.

It’s also each person’s challenge and responsibility to take care of each brain in a healthy, respectful manner through a healthy diet and exercise.  As you can imagine, the brain in our gut and hence, our emotions, are strongly tied to what we put in our bodies. Eat junk, feel like junk.

So the next time you experience a gut feeling, give it more importance and attention. Your body has a many ways in which it’s trying to communicate with you. Listen.

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  1. Tony Piparo Reply

    It's interesting that our psychic center is located two inches below our belly buttons, called the "nabhe" or Psychic Navel Center. You think it a coincidence? Maybe not.

  2. Debbie Hampton Reply

    I do not think it is a coincidence at all. Funny how science is just now validating all this spiritual stuff that has been around for a long time. The innate wisdom of this and other has always been there. Again, we just need to trust the source of the knowledge which is not always our intelligent, logical brains in our heads.

  3. Lori (JaneBeNimble) Reply

    Well said, Lovely Debbie!

    As a scientist myself (as you know) as well as a holistic health practitioner (again, as you know), I have spent years aligning the two practices/disciplines for what makes sense for me.

    What it all boils down to, for me, is what you remarked towards the end of your post, "Eat like junk, feel like junk," and I'd add to that, "What you think, you are."

    THanks for another wonderful post, Debbie. Thumbs up!

  4. Debbie Hampton Reply

    It really is pretty simple both in concept and to implement. Think better thoughts consciously and take better care of yourself all around and life will get better. It is as easy as that. Glad I figured that out! You too!

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  6. Jill Potter Reply

    Thank you for this article, I have been receiving very powerful signals from the brain in my belly for some time now and have ignored them……now that I am depressed because I did not make necessary changes, I am listening and intent on improving my life… aim is to once again have head, heart and belly brain working cooperatively so that I feel at peace again.

    • Good for you, Jill. Our body gets information and has intelligent wisdom to give us with more than just our brain. I can tell you that when I started tuning into my different channels again and started heeding my own intuition, my life really improved. All the best to you! 🙂

  7. Yes indeed.. In fact it is those little creatures in the gut who dictate what goes. Whatever you feed will rule your world in every way.

  8. Hey Debbie, wonderful that you are sharing the news about the brains in the heart and gut. We spent 3.5 years doing behavioural modelling research on the core competencies of these brains, work that was deeply informed by the neuroscience on them. We found some fascinating processes for communicating with these brains and aligning them for greater intuitive wisdom in decision making. If you are interested, please check out our website for lots of free resources, exercises, mp3’s etc. and info about our book mBRAINING.

    • Thank you for commenting. We have so much more wisdom and intelligence available to us than we are taught to take advantage of. When we start utilizing all of our resources, life get much more successful and joyful. Just checked out your book. Looks REALLY good. I’ll add it to my “want to read” list!

      • Hey Debbie, thanks so much for your kind comments about our book. I hope you get a chance to read it and enjoy it. It’s certainly made a transformational difference to a lot of people’s lives around the world.

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  11. Please replace the image accompanying this post as it’s the copyrighted cover of my book, written for Elsevier Food Sciences.

    • How can that be? I paid for a one-time usage copyright from Adobe istock. I can provide you with the details if you would like.

      • Sorry, you’re totally right! I was under the impression they created the image during the cover design process — but I realize now they used the stock image. I think it’s only the cover in its entirety that’s copyrighted. Apologies for my confusion.

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