I can’t stomach not knowing,  I can’t just take it in. It gives me a lump in my throat and makes me so up tight, but if the firm really went bust, then I know I’d never get off the toilet for a week.  

So many everyday expressions are based on parts of the gut.  How many can you think of?   I can’t stomach it?  I can’t swallow it?  Butterflies in the stomach?  Lily livered?   

When I was very young, my grandmother used to ask me;  ‘What’s the difference between a rotten egg, a grand piano and your face?’  I’d smile expectantly. ‘Well’, she’d say, her eyes glinting,   ‘a rotten egg makes you sick, a grand piano makes mu-sick and your face  – yes, you’ve got it,- makes me sick. 

And there’s ‘up tight’ and  ‘Gutted’.  One of my patients developed IBS for the first time after his girl friend dumped him.  And how did you feel, I asked.  ‘I were gutted’, was his response.  Exactly! 

Of course this isn’t at all surprising.  It’s nothing new!  Think of the some of the old words for emotion; melancholic, choleric, splenetic, phlegmatic.  There is no better barometer of our emotions than the way we ‘feel’.  That’s why we use the term feelings interchangeably with emotion.  And the gut has often been considered ‘the root of our feelings’. 

Indeed when we were very, very young before we could express emotion and we just had bodily feelings, so much was expressed through the gut.  Mothers knew only too well that when their baby was uncomfortable, frustrated, hungry, cold or just lonely, because then they wouldn’t eat, th’d choke, bring their feed up, their bowels were runny or they didn’t go at all or they had colic.  Such gut feelings and gut reactions are mediated by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which bring about actual alternations in gut function.   It’s only as we get older and begin to think, that we can bring our feelings to mind and deal with them.  Then the symptoms quickly go.

Of course, it may not always work like that.  If something happens that we cannot deal with, something that we feel so ashamed of we can’t admit it to anybody, then the tension and the feelings stay, wrenching the gut out of kilter and making our lives a complete misery. 

So listen to your gut.  It has a hot line to the mind.  It will often tell you that things don’t feel right even before you know it yourself.  Trust your gut feelings.  Understand your gut reactions. Learn to deal with the situations and events that cause them.  This will make you stronger, more resilient, give you the guts to cope with anything in life.  But in order to preserve that vital early warning system, look after your gut, treat it well, eat sensibly, don’t overload it, have enough off- time. You are the proud owner of a fine instrument, strung with the most delicate gut, tune it well and learn to trust it!

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