Eli5: Why do we feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous or excited?

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Eli5: Why do we feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous or excited?

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2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

(Gonna keep to the eli5 format)

In all situations, your body is really good at figuring out what is a necessary/ what is an important biological function to maintain – anything that isn’t needed is always slowed down and that energy is rewired into different areas.

Thousands of years ago, when we used to live in forests and hunted for food, there were many physical threats. For example- a pack of wolves.

When you saw wolves all around you – a new set of physical responses were engaged.
This is the “fight of flight” system- im sure you have heard of it before.

Your heart rate increases- and extra blood is sent to your muscles around your body.

You start to breathe faster and supply lots of oxygen to this blood- making the muscles work on overdrive.

However- we can’t just make extra blood. That’s a very difficult process. So what the body does instead, is says
“ well if I’m going to die right now to these wolves, why the hell am I giving all this energy to my stomach (and other stuff) to digest a meal??”

Digestion provides a large amount of energy over long periods of time (which you don’t have if your gonna die).

Therefore – your body stops supplying the stomach with blood.

That drainage of blood makes your stomach “drop “ as a physical sensation.

That blood is now rewired to arms and legs-

Your punches will hit harder
Your legs will run faster.

The human body evolves slower than society and social systems. Threats are not physical- it’s a lot more abstract now- “this power point presentation is going to make or break my career”
Unfortunately, we only have the one threat response.

So what do you know, you’re outside the waiting room and your stomach is drained of blood (butterflies) and your muscles are pumped- but you aren’t running or fighting. You’re probably sitting still- shaking your knee.

For excitement, I presume it’s just anticipation of the unknown – when you’re excited for something it tends to be a social event with lots of variables and therefore you haven’t a clue what is going to happen and how to adapt- which could be rather daunting. Our mood effects how we perceive things but it’s still the same response.

It doesn’t matter what the problem actually is – your brain is what determines what a “threat” is. You could be hella chill with wolves snarling at you and therefore your body will be to. The main player is the brain.

Anxiety is a disorder/difference where the person’s brain is quick to label things as threats – making them have very physical and unwanted feelings in what could be considered a regular situation.
The threat response is amazing in the wild and in sports. It’s terrible in social and societal world.

Tl;dr : fight or flight needs oxygen in muscles that are important for those two functions- digestions blood supply is rewired to supply oxygen (paired with increased breathing)

Anonymous 0 Comments

Supposedly, it’s due to a reduction of blood flow to the organ. During times of stress or anxiety, hormones hit your system that make you more jittery/alert, and pulls blood away from digestive system and towards your muscles, in preparation to deal with whatever “danger” is potentially coming at a moment’s notice.