Gut Feelings Can Be Good for Us

Summary: The more we pay attention to our internal bodily sensations, specifically gastric interoception, the more positive we feel about our bodies, a new study reports.

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

New research has found that paying greater attention to internal bodily sensations can increase our appreciation of our own bodies.

The study, led by Jennifer Todd of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and published in the journal Body Image, focused on gastric interoception, which are the feelings of hunger or fullness that originate in the gut.

The researchers carried out an experiment involving 191 adults in the UK and Malaysia fasting and then consuming water.

They measured both the quantity of water consumed in relation to stomach capacity, and the feelings and experiences of the adults during the task. This included completing questionnaires examining different aspects of body image, such as appreciation of the body and appreciation of the body’s functionality.

Body image refers to appearance-related thoughts and feelings, and positive body image refers specifically to an active love, respect, and appreciation for one’s body.

The study found that a greater change in the intensity of feelings in the gut after consuming water was associated with significantly higher levels of appreciation of the body and appreciation of the body’s functionality for adults in both the UK and Malaysia.

Lead author Jennifer Todd, a Psychology PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “Our study shows a clear link between bodily awareness, in this case the feeling of fullness, and body image. In other words, people who are more in tune with their body’s internal workings have a greater appreciation of their body in general. Interestingly, we found that this link exists in two very different countries.

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Body image refers to appearance-related thoughts and feelings, and positive body image refers specifically to an active love, respect, and appreciation for one’s body. Image is in the public domain.

“We think that greater sensitivity to gastric signals might increase awareness of the positive functions the body performs and improve the ability to respond to the body’s needs, both of which promote positive body image.

“Individuals who are less in tune with internal stimuli, such as feeling full, could be more at risk of developing negative body image, due to an over-reliance on external, appearance-related characteristics such as shape and size.

“It is possible that body image can be promoted by encouraging people to be more aware of internal sensations, such as feeling full. Gut feelings can be good for you!”

About this psychology research article

Source:
Anglia Ruskin University
Media Contacts:
Jon Green – Anglia Ruskin University
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Closed access
“Greater gastric interoception is associated with more positive body image: Evidence from adults in Malaysia and the United Kingdom” by Jennifer Todd et al. Body Image.


Abstract

Greater gastric interoception is associated with more positive body image: Evidence from adults in Malaysia and the United Kingdom

Gastric interoception refers to the processing of sensory stimuli originating in the gut. Previous research has found that gastric interoception (measured using a water load task) is associated with drive for thinness in young Western women. However, associations with broader facets of body image and in diverse national groups have not been previously investigated. To address these issues, we asked samples of adults in the United Kingdom (UK; N = 91, women n = 54) and Malaysia (N = 100, women n = 50) to complete a 2-stage water load task (WLT) and measures of positive body image (i.e., body appreciation, functionality appreciation). The results indicated that a greater change in the intensity of self-reported WLT-related sensations was associated with significantly higher body appreciation and functionality appreciation after accounting for gender identity, body mass index, and national group. Behavioural performance on the WLT was significantly associated with body appreciation and functionality appreciation for the Malaysian sample, but not the UK adults, after accounting for gender identity and body mass index. These findings extend previous research by demonstrating that there are significant associations between facets of gastric interoception and previously unexplored facets of body image in both Western and non-Western settings.

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