A Moment of Science

Butterflies In Your Stomach

What happens in your body when you get nervous? Why do you feel like you have butterflies in your stomach?

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Photo: Armando Maynez (flickr)

Sometimes, when you are nervous, it can feel like butterflies are fluttering in your stomach.

It’s five minutes before your big job interview. As you wait in the outer office, your palms start sweating, your feet shuffle back and forth, and the butterflies in your stomach are fluttering double time.

Butterflies In Your Stomach?

In the late 1940′s, a pair of medical researchers came across an unusual patient a soldier with a permanent opening between his inner stomach and his skin. The researchers used this opening as a window on the patient’s stomach physiology.

If the patient was put in a stressful situation, the researchers discovered a sudden decrease in the amount of acid that the stomach produced. They also discovered a decrease in the blood flow to the stomach.

Fight Or Flight

The butterfly sensation is part of what happens when your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. If you’re confronted with a highly threatening situation an important job interview, perhaps adrenaline floods into your bloodstream.

This adrenaline raises your overall metabolism while it increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It also increases the sensitivity and strength of the smooth muscles in your stomach. This added sensitivity is what causes the fluttering sensation.

Tied In Knots

Butterflies are just one way that your stomach can react to extra adrenaline. If the adrenaline level continues to rise, the electrical activity in your stomach muscles increases and your stomach will begin contracting more frequently than usual.

You will stop feeling butterflies, and your stomach will start feeling “tied in knots” instead.

The best way to deal with these problems is to convince your body that it’s not in actual physical danger. Take a deep breath and relax. Job interviews aren’t that dangerous, are they?

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/UUMMHNXWBMNMOAB3WDOVHNA5NA Jessica

    What about the butterflies you get when you see someone? I have been in a relationship for four years with a guy. It didn’t work out. But not long after that I met a man that gave me butterflies everytime I saw him. I’ve been with him for over a year now but I still get the butterflies when I first see him.

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