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The Body

7 Ways to Truly Trust Your Gut

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With its trillions of microbes working to regulate the immune system, produce vitamins and hormones, and communicate with the brain, the gut may just be the best advice-giver around, if you know how to listen.

As someone who struggled with at-times debilitating digestive issues for over a decade, whenever I heard the phrase, “Trust your gut,” I was almost offended.

How could I trust my gut? My gut was out to get me. It cramped, bloated, twisted, turned, tightened, loosened, off-gassed, and otherwise did not cooperate on a daily basis. No, I was certainly not about to trust my gut. All it had to tell me was confusing gibberish, with the joke always on me.

A Spiral, Spiritual Path

Sure, I knew in some vague, intellectual way that the gut is the so-called second brain, producing serotonin and other important neurotransmitters that communicate in real-time with the mind. But I couldn’t understand that my gut held vital messages for me—about intuition, emotion, and especially about how to heal.

In fact, it wasn’t until I learned how to really listen to my brilliant, wise, unappreciated belly that I gained the keys to my own healing. The thing I feared—trusting my misbehaving gut—opened up a new level of understanding about my own spiral, spiritual path.

[Listen to a “Guided Meditation for Loving Your Belly.”]

On a metaphysical level, our guts are where we digest not only food, but also life experiences, emotions, and, unfortunately, conflicts. Whatever doesn’t gain unobstructed passage through the GI tract gets trapped, only to manifest as stomachaches, gas, bloating, or even chronic digestive problems. And anyone with gut problems knows that the very real and distracting pain that comes with them leaves no room for gut intuition, never mind enlightenment.

So, whether or not you struggle with gut issues, learning to “trust your gut” is far more than a truism. Our guts, with their trillions of microbes working in symbiotic concert to regulate our immune systems, produce vitamins and hormones, and, crucially, communicate with our brains, may just be the best advice-givers around, if you know how to listen.

7 Ways to Build Trust With Your Gut

1. Clean Up Your Diet

Trust me: your gut will never trust you if you’re feeding it processed foods with ingredients you can’t even pronounce. In order to quiet the chaos and begin to let your gut’s natural wisdom through, it’s crucial to adopt a diet of whole, unprocessed foods full of colorful plants, healthy fats, and fibers. Minimizing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, and drinking plenty of water will accelerate the healing process so you can return to your body’s natural state of balance.

[Read: “Eating for Peace in the Body.”]

2. Detoxify Your Environment

Our modern world is teeming with harmful chemicals in our air, water, furniture, clothing, cleaning products, and cosmetics. Together, they create a toxic burden that does no favors for optimal digestion. Removing conventional cleaning and personal care products from your supply, regularly moving your lymph through exercise, and adding dry skin brushing to your routine can help lighten the toxic load.

3. Move With Intention

When it comes to your gut, mobility increases motility! A sedentary body makes for a sluggish gut—so move in a way that honors your natural body rhythms, such as walking, yoga, swimming, or dancing. The belly area is often maligned for its shape and form, which leads to aggressive exercising of the abdominal muscles, usually without providing equal attention to the lower back (not to mention that the belly can hear negative self-talk!). Movement should feel good, produce a state of internal and external equilibrium, and help get in touch with your body. Yoga poses such as cat-cow, camel, and cobra help stretch the gut muscles, while gentle twists oxygenate the digestive organs.

4. Connect With Your Gut

Once you’ve cleaned up your diet, detoxified your environment, and begun to move with intention, you will notice more space for connecting with your inner wisdom. I know that when I was in the throes of my digestive issues, I felt like my gut was completely separate from me—I was literally out of control of my own body. Begin to reconnect with yourself by simply placing your hands on your belly, naming it, and thanking it: “You are my beautiful belly. You do so very much for me. Thank you, belly. I appreciate you. I love you.” Take deep belly breaths to recalibrate your own rhythms. It’s astounding how much we live in our minds, without paying any mind to the magic and mysteries within.

5. Practice Emotional Digestion

You ingest far more than food: conflicts, relationships, and emotions all make it onto the plate. That doesn’t mean that whatever you ingest, you will digest. By coming into a state of peace and coherence, or what I like to call “rest and digest,” you can begin to digest your life experiences with ease. After connecting with your gut, repeat the following mantra to yourself: “I am fully ready to feel what needs to be felt in this moment.” Observe what comes up. Your gut will speak and you will know exactly how to interpret her message in your own way. You might do this once, or repeat daily as part of a meditation practice.

[Read: “Detoxify Your Gut: Relax Into a Healthy Rhythm.”]

6. Shift Your Energy

This step is very important, because once you have called forth the stuck emotions from your mind-body vessel, you must transmute them or else they risk remaining with you. My favorite practices for clearing and shifting energy are journaling, dancing, grounding on the earth, shaking, or singing—anything that creates a somatic outlet for embodied emotions.

7. Check In With Your Gut Regularly

Many gut problems will resolve tremendously through a regular emotional digestion practice. But the goal is to access a continual state of gut intuition, whether or not you began from a place of gut issues. Tune in to your gut throughout the day. Ask it what it needs. Breathe fully and deeply. Make space for listening to your body, and savor the answers that come through. Little by little, your inner knowing will appear. In other words, you will begin to trust your gut—only to realize that your gut was one of your most powerful guides and allies all along.

Keep the lines of communication going with these 15 affirmations for following your intuition.