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Gut Feeling Might Help You Make Better Decisions

Gut Feeling Might Help You Make Better Decisions

Have you ever been struck by a feeling of uncertainty or caution when going about your day? You could be walking down the street, totally normal, when you subconsciously notice someone and you think:

“Hey, keep away from that guy” or “Don’t stay here too long”

These feelings can strike at times when everything seems normal. We call these experiences “gut feelings” or “gut instinct” as if it is something bodily and disconnected from the mind.

However this name is not inaccurate. There is a close connection between the gut and the brain composed of a extremely complex network [1] of chemicals and neurons which inform your brain about issues in your body, not just the digestive system as you may expect. Not only does it inform your brain about hunger and thirst, but also stress and unease. Here lies the gut instinct.

But you’re a reasonable person, how can something reactionary, some trigger deep down in your brain stand to intelligent analysis?

Surely these feelings are residual evolutionary stuff, as useful for us today as the tail bone. Well, this is untrue.

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Some studies [2] have shown that it is often a good idea to trust your gut. In 2011 a group of researchers designed a card game wherein there was no real strategic way to play the game, and instead players had to rely on gut instinct.

When people started to win, most credited their victory on trusting their gut instinct. The sweat responses and heart rate of the players was measured to indicate when reactions occurred. Though some gut instincts lead players into playing badly, the general success rate implies that trusting gut instincts and reactions can be a good idea, however it is not a foolproof system (where would the fun in that be?).

When to trust your gut feeling

Though its not always accurate, sometimes its the best indicator you have when picking up trouble. Especially with these examples

Your health: what not to eat

Your enteric nervous system (the above mentioned complex network of chemical reactions and neurons connecting your gut to your brain) is extremely effective at picking up warning signs [3] from your body.

So if you ever suddenly think you shouldn’t have eaten that thing, or a part of your body doesn’t feel right, you should pay attention.

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Paying close attention to feelings in your body, especially if it is as severe as triggering a gut reaction has its benefits.

Some people train and exercise according to attention paid to the body and how it feels, this is called intuitive training, or autoregulatory [4] training.

Dangers and threats: Who not to get close with

Imagine you’re walking home at night, like you have done a million times before and you see a guy on the street corner. He seems totally ordinary, but something just isn’t right. As you get near you get a gut reaction to avoid him.

There are many stories [5]where people have had these reactions and later realized that they were saved from some horrible fate. We have evolved to have immediate responses to dangers that are beyond conscious thought.

Though it is always worth analysing [6] a situation if possible. These gut feelings of danger are always worth consideration.

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It is important to consider I think, we are all descendants of those who survived. Those who didn’t have senses tuned to potential dangers didn’t last.

Though of course perhaps 9 times out of ten you were warned of a non existent danger. Its better to be safe than sorry.

When not to trust your gut feeling: threats from objects

Life in the 21st century is stressful. If you live in a modern city, from the moment you leave your front door, you are bombarded by smells, sounds sights, upon sights than easily put your senses to the test. Though we have evolved enough to be able to function with when we live in places containing more sensory information than anyone in history evolved to deal with. Our ability to spot dangers has not evolved so much.

We, as human beings developed and evolved as in the wild, we were part of the food chain. Being killed by a wild animal was a real and every-day threat, instead of an unusual occurrence. As such we evolved to be able to spot animals extremely quickly and identify them as potential dangers.

You might have experienced this yourself. However our bodies have not adapted to the reality that a car, is far more of a threat than an animal. It has not totally got the message that we are no longer hunter gatherers.

In a study [7] people were shown photographs of animals and inanimate objects. Each photograph had a nearly identical duplicate immediately after, safe for one slight change. Test subjects were able to identify changes in animal scenes 100% of the time, and objects around 70% of the time.

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Because of this, you might get a gut reaction alerting you to a danger that simply isn’t there.

Also, if you have a panic disorder, or problems with your amygdala [8] then you might get gut reactions alerting you to danger, the flight or fight response at times when there is no danger at all. It might even occur randomly.
This I know from experience.

But as demonstrated above, we get these reactions for a reason. Though some times the course of action they lead us towards may be the wrong one, maybe the danger we are alerted to isn’t a danger at all.

There are times when, listening to your gut is the best thing you can do.

Reference

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Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Last Updated on June 5, 2020

How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements)

How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements)

There are a whole bunch of alleged memory vitamins and supplements to help you concentrate and boost your brain function. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation, dodgy studies, and things we just don’t know when it comes to which vitamins actually help with memory and concentration.

This article will dig into the current research to pick four of the best vitamins and supplements to boost your memory and overall brain function.

Vitamins Vs Supplements

First, let’s talk about the difference between a vitamin and a supplement. Vitamins are simply organic compounds that are necessary in small quantities to sustain life[1]. We’re talking the vitamin A, B, and Cs here. Vitamins are in the unprocessed, healthy foods you eat every day and are also available as daily supplements in pill form or as chewy, edible cartoon characters.

Supplements are just extra pills, liquids, or cartoon characters that you consume in addition to the actual food you eat. Supplements can include but are not limited to vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, hormone building blocks, and other compounds that are synthesized or extracted from natural sources.

What Research Says About Vitamins and Supplements

Now, we need to talk about the current state of the research on memory vitamins and brain supplements.

The only real consensus seems to be that much more research needs to be done to truly answer which vitamins and supplements are best for your memory.

Supplements are big business. In 2015, Americans spent 643 million dollars on supplements, and a quarter of Americans over 50 take them regularly[2]. That’s a lot of money spent on an extremely unregulated and under-researched industry.

Here’s what we do know:

The brain needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. We also have some studies on rats and in small samples of humans that show preliminary glimmers of hope[3] that certain memory vitamins and brain supplements may also have positive effects on our brains.

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How Do Memory Vitamins and Supplements Work?

Vitamins and supplements work in many different ways to improve memory and brain function. So, let’s break down how some of the major vitamins and supplements work.

Nootropics

Any vitamin or supplement that aids memory falls into a category called nootropics. Nooptropic is now a term that refers to any natural or synthetic substance that has a positive impact on memory.[4]

Each type of nootropic works differently in the body to affect memory.

Antioxidants

Some nootropics are antioxidants. Vitamins such as vitamin E fall into this category.

Antioxidants help memory by protecting cells from free radicals. When free radicals build up in the body (a natural by-product of metabolism, aging, and exposure to environmental toxins), they cause cellular damage, so antioxidants help memory by preventing and reversing some of this damage.

Regeneration

Some nootropics help memory by going a step further than antioxidants. Some, like Lion’s Mane mushrooms, may help stimulate new cell growth. This regeneration would help memory by stimulating new neural growth.

Memory relies on strong neural pathways, so nootropics that stimulate cell growth might be especially effective supplements.

Stimulants

In order to remember, we have to be awake and alert. The first part of memory is perception, so nootropics such as caffeine help us wake up enough to perceive in the first place. These sensory perceptions can then be turned into memories.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are believed to regulate your adrenal glands, which helps your body deal with stress. More research is needed, but some think that adaptogens help control hormone levels, which helps your immune system, energy levels, and brain functioning[5].

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Inflammation Reduction

Another way some nootropics help memory is by reducing inflammation in the brain. Memory relies on strong neural connections, and inflammation hurts these connections. So, nootropics that relieve this inflammation may be helpful for people to improve their cognitive functioning and memory.

Improving Sleep

Research is starting to show that sleep may also be critical for memory. Studies show that memory may require an active forgetting process during REM sleep[6].

While we sleep, we are actually clearing out less important memory pathways. This helps strengthen the memories that do matter, so sleep is a critical component in memory. Any nootropic that improves our sleep may also be helping to strengthen our memory and brain functioning.

So, which four memory vitamins and brain supplements top the list?

The Best Brain Supplements

If you’re looking to boost your memory, try any one of these supplements.

1. Vitamin E

If we’re just talking about vitamins, I’d put my money on vitamin E to boost memory.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it protects cells from free radicals. When there are too many free radicals in the body, they cause cellular damage. So, vitamin E helps slow the aging process (cellular damage), including the onset of Alzheimer’s-related dementia.

Studies have shown that people with adequate levels of vitamin E performed better on cognitive and memory tests and significantly delayed Alzheimer’s-related dementia. To boost vitamin E’s effects even more, some studies have also shown that it performs better with adequate levels of vitamin C[7].

2. Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane mushroom has been around in Chinese medicine for thousands of years but may not be on your radar just yet. Some preliminary studies on rats have shown that it may improve memory and protect the brain.

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Lion’s Mane has anti-oxidizing effects in the body, fighting off those free radicals, but it may also stimulate Nerve Growth Factor. As Dr. Mary Sabo L.Ac DACM explains:

“These proteins stimulate the production of new brain cells and support the health of existing ones. They also support myelin and brain plasticity.”[8]

Myelin is the fatty substance around nerve cell axons. Axons are like the wires between cells, so when we’re talking about memory, protecting the axon coverings is like protecting the plastic covering of electrical wires. When the covering is compromised, the wire itself is, too.

Like all the other nootropics, much more research needs to be done on Lion’s Mane, but the early studies seem encouraging. It may help stimulate neural growth, protect brain cells, and remove free radicals, which may help improve your memory.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A lot of research has been done on fish oil and how it affects overall brain health. Just like vitamin E, we should be getting the fatty acids in fish oil in our actual diet. But if you don’t, a supplement might be just what the doctor ordered (and again, please check with your doctor before taking any supplements).

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. The 3 in omega-3 refers to the 3 different fatty acids in omega-3: EPA, DPA, and DHA.

There still needs to be more studies to clarify which fatty acids have which effects on the brain, but preliminary studies show that omega-3, especially DHA, is the most important fatty acid for the memory of non-impaired adults[9].

Omega 3s are found in cell membranes, and studies have shown that consuming them may help protect cell health in the brain by helping build cell membranes throughout the body[10].

4. Rhodiola Rosacea

There’s an herb called Rhodiola Rosacea that may also help mental and physical fatigue. Rhodiola Rosacea is an adaptogen, which means it helps regulate the adrenal glands. This helps you deal with stress better.

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According to Dr. Sabo:

“One double-blind, placebo-controlled study on physicians working night shift showed it [Rhodiola Rosacea] was helpful in boosting cognitive cerebral functions when taken daily in supplement form.”

So if you’re looking for a supplement to help with your cognitive endurance, Rhodiola Rosacea may be the thing for you.

The Bottom Line

So, what should you keep in mind when considering memory vitamins and brain supplements?

There is still not enough research to definitively say which memory vitamins are best or which supplements will boost your brain the most. What most doctors agree on is that a healthy diet with natural, unprocessed foods, a physically active lifestyle, a good night’s rest, and strong social relationships are actually the best things we can do for our memories and our brains more generally.

However, if you’re making those positive changes with your diet, exercise, sleep, and relationships, you may also still be considering supplements. Consult your doctor first because memory problems may be a sign of something much more serious. As Dr. Sabo explains:

“Problems with memory and concentration can be symptoms of other conditions such as hypothyroid, anxiety, depression, or insomnia. It can also be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia in the elderly. While some supplements can help with these symptoms, getting the right diagnosis and medical care from an MD and targeted support from a holistic practitioner can be the best path for ongoing care.”

So seek an expert’s opinion and ask informed questions about nootropics, adaptogens, and antioxidants to land on your own decision for which memory vitamins and brain boosters are best for you.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Sweet via unsplash.com

Reference

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