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Somatic Intelligence – Eating According to Your Gut Feeling

Especially nowadays we are confronted more and more with “health” and we deal with it more. A development that I personally follow with enthusiasm! Because I think it’s long overdue. But the problem behind it is that, especially in times like these, more and more food myths are emerging. Super difficult not to let promises and miracle drugs with healing effects deter you right now.

I keep reading what you have to do and eat to stay and get healthy. Anyone who knows me and has been reading for a while knows that I am not a fan of generalizations. Everyone is different, has different genetic requirements, a different way of life, their own rhythm, different sleep needs, preferences, and instinctive aversions. And each of us knows that taste can be argued!

Somatic intelligence – learn to interpret our body’s signals

“Somatic intelligence” – this is our body’s own mechanism, which ensures that we are supplied with nutrients and energy as optimally as possible. Some also know it as eating according to “intuition”, “instinct” or “gut feeling”. The body’s own signals, which give you an understanding of what is good for you and what is not, are also part of it. Because special signals from our nervous systems in the head and stomach show you in a variety of ways whether your body needs something, can digest it or not. Not to be confused with the eating of food controlled by your emotional state. That is a very big difference!

The only problem is that we have forgotten how to perceive or even interpret these signals. Precisely because we are overrun by various signals from outside in everyday life and our brain has only a limited processing capacity. Pleasure, smell, digestibility, salivation, loss of appetite, satiety but also skin reactions and deficiency symptoms such as hair loss, fatigue, etc. are just a few of these body signals and reactions. Hunger and thirst, allergies, diarrhea and constipation are of course also part of it.

For example, many children don’t like spinach. Because spinach, chard or rhubarb contain oxalic acid, which many children cannot tolerate or metabolize sufficiently. In some people, oxalic acid can cause blood clotting problems or kidney stones. This is why children instinctively do not eat them or just reluctantly. Even when we’re sick, we don’t really feel like eating. Rather, our bodies are busy recovering. Heavy, time-consuming digestive processes put additional strain on our already groaning body. That is why we often have a lack of appetite when we are ill.

Pregnant women are often more aware of their nutritional needs

Many women seem to rediscover these body signals during pregnancy. This basic instinct even makes them eat foods that they disgusted outside of pregnancy. The very special nutritional requirement for supplying an embryo in the womb seems to act as a kind of remote control.

Demand-controlled eating can also be seen in athletes and competitive athletes: These often tend to eat salty foods in order to compensate for the loss of minerals (usually sodium and potassium) through excessive sweating. The same applies to the female cycle. Women have different eating habits due to their cycle and hormones, which also show how difficult it is to control this mentally. If we have abdominal pain, eating is often out of the question – all signals from our body.

There is a difference between your body’s needs and your emotional state

Also, many have no problem eating raw food in the evenings, others already have stomach pains just thinking about it. Some only drink tea, others only black coffee or only cappuccino. Some love coriander, others feel like eating soap. Many eat the kernels of the watermelon, others spit them out. Some even peel apples, for example, green tea tastes too bitter, they don’t get coffee, but they eat lemons instead. Some of these are habits, but a lot happens instinctively.

Anyone who has ever had “butterflies in their stomachs” also knows that you are satiated at first. At least my feeling of hunger is magically spirited away in these times. And yes, vegans can have butterflies in their stomach, too – as long as they are still alive! 😉
Animals are far ahead of us in Somatic Intelligence. Current research assumes that the majority of the animal kingdom feeds on the body’s own needs. An explanation for the fact that there are hardly any overweight animals!

Squirrels and many other animals have always lived according to the rules of Somatic Intelligence
Squirrels and many other animals have always lived according to the rules of Somatic Intelligence
Our belly houses our second brain

It may sound strange at first, but our gut and stomach are home to hundreds of millions of nerve cells. Together with the cells of the solar plexus, a sun-shaped network of nerves in the abdominal cavity, form our “abdominal and intestinal brain”, the Somatic Intelligence. For millions of years, our gut brains have even placed themselves far in front of our head brains. Through instinctive hunger signals, it showed our ancestors what nutrients they needed to continue evolving. Rather, it was all about survival – without scientific studies and tabular lists that our ancestors had on their smartphones in their pockets.

Some of these nerve cells in our stomach are completely autonomous. Others are connected to our brain through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve runs through our diaphragm, winds between the lungs and the heart along the esophagus up to the neck, and finally into the brain. This is how information is exchanged. As the site of our immune system, our gut not only has important information for the brain about general physical well-being here, it can also be learned from each other.

This does not mean that our stomach can think like our brain, but it is still capable of learning. If a food attacks our gastrointestinal mucosa, it recognizes this and also saves this information. These signals of the Somatic Intelligence arise unconsciously (vegetative). If we eat according to our “gut feeling”, one can also say that we eat intuitively. For this it is important to take care of your body and feel inside yourself. Sometimes more difficult than it sounds!

Bowel diseases can have serious psychological consequences

I also had to learn to first distinguish emotional eating to compensate for problems or boredom from demand-driven eating. Only then, I was able to personally observe the on-demand eating and listen to myself. Far away from marketing campaigns, trendy foods, and other frills that also want to influence us from the outside. Not easy!

Studies increasingly show that people with chronic stomach inflammation, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, have higher rates of anxiety and depression. A diseased intestinal mucosa can cause discomfort and bad feelings for a long time, similar to irritable bowel patients. People with irritable bowel syndrome suffer from increased gurgling and pressure in the abdomen, which is often accompanied by constipation or diarrhea. Persistent stress, acute lack of exercise, a low-fiber diet, alcohol abuse, high levels of pesticides, food intolerance, over-acidification, lack of sleep and poor intestinal flora can sometimes be the cause.

In summary, it can be said that a functioning intestinal flora is important not only for our physical but also for our mental well-being. I’ve already written a little about this in my blog post about Kombucha – more on intestinal health soon!

You can practice somatic intelligence!

Try to integrate these 10 things more into your everyday life. Your somatic intelligence will thank you!

  1. Practice more mindfulness in dealing with your body’s signals.
  2. Make sure you follow a high-fiber, low-sugar diet.
  3. Reduce your stress level. Practice serenity and gratitude!
  4. Get enough sleep.
  5. Watch out for long periods of fasting between your last and first meal of the day.
  6. Eat as much as possible based on organic, plant-based foods.
  7. Do more sports and exercise as much as you can!
  8. Do not eat by the way, but consciously and only until you are satisfied!
  9. Chew enough, this is where digestion begins and makes everything more digestible!
  10. Your body is unique. And so are your needs!
I love and tolerate raw food very well, but that does not apply to everyone
I love and tolerate raw food very well, but that does not apply to everyone
More mindfulness, more awareness, more gratitude – back to the roots

In general, it can be said that this area of ​​nutritional research has only recently been discovered. The necessity is evident in our society: More and more people suffer from obesity and the consequences of malnutrition. Because they no longer listen to their body’s signals, but fall victim to marketing campaigns. Additives, flavor enhancers, flavors, preservatives, colors, and sweeteners can also suppress your Somatic Intelligence. After all, they are found in almost all processed foods.

In addition, we suffer from an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Right now it is important that we regain our body feeling – a method that is being considered more and more intensively, especially in modern nutritional therapies. According to studies, men do better than women, who are more inclined to try out diets or emulate trends and are generally more critical with their appearance. Overall, it shows that intuitive eating goes hand in hand with fewer cases of eating disorders.

To stay up to date, here is my Facebook fan page – sharing is caring! Of course, I would be happy if you accompanied me a little bit on my journey! 😉


Sources for this blogpost

Bruce, L. J./Ricciardelli, L. A. 2016: A systematic review of the psychosocial correlates of intuitive eating among adult women, in: Appetite, Vol. 96, 2016, pp. 454-472.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666315300635?via%3Dihub

Denny, K. N./Loth, K./Eisenberg, M. E./Neumark-Sztainer, D. 2013: Intuitive eating in young adults. Who is doing it, and how is it related to disordered eating behaviors?, in: Appetite, Vol. 60, 2013, pp. 13-19.

van Dyke, N./Drinkwater, E. J. 2014: Review Article Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review, in: Cambridge University Press, Vol. 17, 2014, No. 8, pp. 1757-1766.
https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/CBC03E81A54FBAAC49B2A8B2EC49631C/S1368980013002139a.pdf/review_article_relationships_between_intuitive_eating_and_health_indicators_literature_review.pdf

Hazzard, V. M./Telke, S. E./Simone, M./Anderson, L. M./Larson, N. I./Neumark-Sztainer, D. 2020: Intuitive eating longitudinally predicts better psychological health and lower use of disordered eating behaviors: findings from EAT 2010-2018, in: Eating and Weight Disorders, Epub ahead of print.

Koller, K. A./Thompson, K. A./Miller, A. J./Walsh, E. C./Bardone-Cone, A. M. 2020: Body appreciation and intuitive eating in eating disorder recovery, in: International Journal of Eating Disorders, Epub ahead of print.

Tylka, T. L./Calogero, R. M. and Daníelsdóttir, S. 2019: Intuitive eating is connected to self-reported weight stability in community women and men, in: Eating Disorders.

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