Gut Feelings Book Summary - Gut Feelings Book explained in key points
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Gut Feelings summary

Dr. Will Cole

Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel

4.5 (67 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Gut Feelings by Dr. Will Cole is a guide to the gut-brain connection and how it affects our overall health. It emphasizes the importance of listening to our bodies and offers tips for improving digestion, reducing inflammation, and optimizing mental wellness.

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    Gut Feelings
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    Food for Thought: Shame and the Second Brain

    There’s a reason why the gut is linked so closely to intuition: the intestines contain somewhere between 200 and 600 million neurons. That essentially means your intestines are a part of your nervous system, in constant communication with your brain. When you’re feeling butterflies before a big date, or your stomach turns when you think about a betrayal, that’s not random – it is clear evidence of the gut acting as a second brain, sending important messages about what’s going on.

    These responses are so strong in part because these neurons are connected to the vagus nerve, the largest individual nerve in the body, which winds from the base of the skull down past the heart and onward through the gut. In other words, the gut not only controls digestion, but also regulates the immune system, mood, and overall metabolism.

    But because the gut is so full of neurons, it is incredibly sensitive to emotions and stress. This was a great advantage for early hunter-gatherers: if an angry lion suddenly pounced, their gut emptied itself before they’d even processed what was happening. They could run more quickly and perhaps live long enough to have children. 

    But in modern life, stress isn't as straightforward as running from a hungry lion. Modern stress is chronic. From financial worries to relationships, job struggles to traffic jams, many are dealing with stress on a daily basis, and it’s having an outsized impact on health.

    That’s because emotions affect the gut directly, which in turn influences mood. Remember the gut microbiome mentioned earlier? There’s about five pounds of microbes in your intestines. Chronic stress spurs the overgrowth of bad bacteria, leading to a widespread immune response – inflammation – in the digestive tract. While physical and mental health are treated as separate, they are, in fact, intertwined. And some emotions have a particularly strong impact on the gut – especially shame.

    Why shame? It’s because, of all the negative emotions, shame has at its heart feelings of inadequacy, fear, and worthlessness. These feelings send a powerful message to the physical body – so powerful, in fact, that the author has called this effect shameflammation. Like a negative spiral, unresolved stress leads to feelings of inadequacy and shame, which affects mood, health, and wellness, leading to yet more shame.  

    Sadly, shame also has a tendency to keep sufferers from seeking help – from thinking they’re worthy or capable of changing diet, or habits, or negative life situations that in turn fuel more feelings of shame. When this becomes chronic, inflammation may also become chronic, and begin to affect health.

    How to begin healing this relationship between shame and gut health? That’s what we’ll take on next.

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    What is Gut Feelings about?

    Gut Feelings (2023) illuminates the vital connections among emotions, the gut microbiome, and health. Taking a holistic approach to body, mind, and mood, the author offers a three-week plan to address the underlying causes of chronic illness, including stress, shame, suboptimal nutrition, and sleep.

    Who should read Gut Feelings?

    • Self-help fans looking for mind-body approaches
    • Those looking for more clarity on their relationship with food
    • Wellness gurus looking for the latest on reducing inflammation and enjoying better health

    About the Author

    Will Cole is an author, podcast host, international speaker, and functional medicine practitioner who has published many books on lifestyle and wellness topics, including Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and Intuitive Fasting.

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