Science & Tech

Scientists discover that the potency of your stomach acid could be linked to fear and disgust

Mother ends up with hole in stomach after £16,000 'mummy makeover' surgery …

Scientists think that experiencing feelings of fear and disgust could make your stomach acid more potent, according to new research.

When you experience fear, it can be accompanied by a very visceral feeling of nausea. As panic rises, the queasy feeling in your stomach may actually be for a reason.

Researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome believe that the feeling could be down to our gastric systems preparing for the worst-case scenario.

In a study that has yet to be peer-reviewed, researchers theorised that humans have evolved to decrease the pH level in our gut when we feel fear or disgust, in order to make it more acidic.

In response to threatening situations, it’s not uncommon for the stomach to react to that emotional response, so scientists know that the gastric network plays a big role.

As part of the new study, psychologist Giuseppina Porciello and a small team of researchers investigated the “endoluminal milieu of the GI system” that saw participants using ingestible sensors that measure factors such as pH, temperature, and pressure as they pass through the digestive system.

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31 healthy males with no known prior psychological, neurological, or digestive disorders were recruited to swallow a “smart pill” that contained the sensor, along with a battery and wireless transmitter.

The smart pill was able to measure the muscular electrical activity of the digestive system while they participated in four viewing sessions featuring 9-second long clips depicting happy, disgusting, sad, and fearful content. There were also neutral clips to act as a control.

Data from the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine showed that during the emotive clips, the digestive system was pumping more stomach acid into the cavity. This acid was a lower pH during the disgusting video clips. There was also a correlation between the level of pH and how disgusted or fearful they felt.

The study could shed light on the link between mental state and bowel issues, however, a larger investigation with a more diverse range of participants would have to be conducted to generalise findings.

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