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The Nourished Sensitive

A 5-Step Guide for HSPs & Empaths

Leah Tarleton
Leah TarletonPublished on July 20, 2022

The Root of Health & Healing.

What does it mean to be healthy…and to be healed?

These are the kinds of questions that have long fascinated me as a highly-sensitive human, empath and healer. Deeply-rooted questions. The kind that really ground you in to Life.

…get you thinking about it in a different way.

No exaggeration, I have been like this my entire life.

As far back as I can remember, I have had a starving curiosity, and an insatiable appetite for figuring stuff out.

At 5 years old, I can remember riding in the truck with my dad on the way to daycare, and though he held the steering wheel, it was clearly me driving him (absolutely bonkers) with my endless reem of questions.

… hey daddy, why’d you do it like that? (to anything he did)

…dad, why did (random person I saw on the street) do that?

…and dadddyyy, what does the word “love” mean? (or some other totally BIG word that put panic in the poor man’s eyes).

My dad, bless him, always came in with his signature straightforward answer for his charming little daughter:

“I don’t know, kid, why not look it up?”

So I did. I looked all of it up.

Growing up, I was the world’s biggest bookworm, and I loved school (like in an intense Hermione Granger/Mathilda kind of way).

Learning made me feel so POWERFUL, and reading?

well, that was just a world of wonders to me.

My point is: getting to the root of things is what I do, and 24 years later, as an HSP Nutritionist, Healer, Coach, Speaker, and Entrepreneur, I’m still trying to figure out the answer to everything so I can help my people heal.

So, here I am, putting all that wondering, curiosity and questioning into this post and writing straight from the heart to help you get to the root of something that I consider really important for overall health and healing.

Keep reading to learn the 5-steps I have taken on my path as an HSP and Empath to tune into gut wisdom for powerful self-healing.

Before We Dive In: can you relate?

  • were you a tiny human who peppered your parent with questions?

  • did you head to the library regularly, even on summer breaks?

  • your Life defined by wondering, curiosity, ideas and questions?

Share in the COMMENTS BELOW cause’ I love hearing about your experiences!

Exploring Gut Wisdom:

Okay, let’s jump in with some basic definitions. That is, how I personally define these terms (in my own head). As you read, feel free to imagine your own and share them with me in the comments.

Gut Wisdom: an inner sense of knowing arising out of the vast “intelligence” found in the human digestive system (“the gut”) that communicates with the conscious self in symbol, symptom & metaphor.

The human body is one of the most miraculous, awe-inspiring inventions Nature has ever created, and to me, there’s no better example of this truth than the human digestive system also called “The Gut”. Did you know that your gut isn’t just a collection of isolated cells, organs, and tissues? It’s actually a vast network and web of communication and system of information speaking to you all the time about what’s actually going on Here.

A “second brain”, if you will. An immune system.

Tuning into gut wisdom is all about acknowledging this intelligence and learning how to communicate with it.

Gut Intuition: the ability to understand something without conscious reasoning or analysis; a deeper inner-knowing or sense of trust that manifests physically, emotionally, metaphorically, and symbolically.

We all have an intuition. It’s part of being a human. Our species surely would not have survived and evolved without that inner sense of knowing that simply defies logic and reasoning.

But, as a highly-sensitive human, empath or intuitive, you have a rather strong intuition. It’s just part of your makeup…your wiring…your gift.

Even if you’re not yet tapped into it, gut wisdom is something you not only have but can cultivate…if you’re willing to slow down and listen.

What’s It Mean to be “Tuned In”?

“Tuned-In-Ness” is not easy to quantify. You can’t just measure your level of gut intuition & wisdom by getting a lab done or pass a test on “Gut IQ” and pronounce: “yup, I’m tuned in!”

And, it’s not like science has ever really tried to seriously investigate the question (if it has, please send me sources!)

So, maybe you’re like: “I didn’t even know that my gut was smart, let alone that I could just tune-in and have a conversation with it!?”

Well, let me ask you something: have you ever said to yourself: “if I could just “tune-in” to 100% of my brain, I’d be much more effective at [x]?”

What you’re really saying here is that you wish you had access to something deeper than just your current or basic understanding of stuff. Something powerful and wise that goes beyond the mere logic and reason accessible to your limited head-brain.

Well, good news!

YOU DO have 100% access to your “brain”, but you gotta tap into that 50% of it that speaks to you not from the space within your head, but from the space within your abdomen.

Okay…So, What If I’m “Tuned Out”?

From, my experience, gut wisdom is a bit binary (on/off switch): you’re either connected and listening to it, or you’re not. Of course, we’re all tuned out at some point. We can’t always be listening, and that’s why the system is binary. Sometimes you just gotta turn it off and be mortal.

What I’m talking about is “Tuning Out” (with a capital T). The kind of tuning out that’s like a candle in the wind. The room gets dark and you lose “access” to that illuminating light and warmth you once had. You’re alone, confused and utterly separate.

It’s like when you learned a language but then “got out of practice”; slowly forgetting the words, until eventually the ability to speak and listen in conversation has escaped you.

True “tuning out” is a tragedy actually, and for many of us, it happens pretty early in Life; unconsciously, out of a pure and innocent need to survive.

At the root of the tragedy is your suffering.

Life feels very disconnected, chaotic, overwhelming and scary in a Tuned Out state..

  • you feel chronically anxious about making decisions.

  • you don’t trust yourself to follow your purpose or passions.

  • you compare yourself to others you think are "better” or “smarter” than you

  • you feel a desperate yearning for validation and a deep sense of confusion

  • and you simply can’t get anything done cause you’re still…just surviving.

“Tuning out” in the deeper sense is not something you realize you’re doing, and it’s not your fault, but it does have real implications for your Life.

Wow, So What’s The Upside to Tuning In?

So, you might be thinking: well, this is fascinating, but how does “listening to my gut” actually help me?

Maybe you’re someone who feels like “tune into your gut wisdom” is something you’d hear in a yoga class, but wouldn’t feel particularly moved by.

Why break the status quo, and start tuning in? What’s there to gain from this?

You have everything to gain from this. Most importantly, yourself.

When you’re tuned into your gut: you stop relying on the external world for validation and you’re you again.

Existential anxiety fades away and you stop worrying about what’s gonna’ happen…if you’ll succeed…if you’re even okay.

You breathe deep again knowing that Life’s got your back, and holding yourself back becomes a thing of the past.

Best of all, you’ve got “The Guts” to make things happen in this world.

Tuning into your gut wisdom is not some “woo-woo” thing, it’s a powerful tool for self-healing and self-improvement.

But, if I haven’t convinced you yet, feel free to stop here, and do what you Will.

Nobody ever needs to “tap into” anything or “look deeper” if they simply don’t want to. This is your experience of Life, do with it what you desire cause ultimately, that’s still you listening to your gut.

I Wanna Learn How To Do It.

Okay, courageous soul, keep on reading.

I’ve broken it down into 5 steps that are way easier than you might think 🙏

Your gut literally makes noises. But, you already knew that, right? You just didn’t realize that you should actually care.

After the age of like 5, you probably never wondered again what that gurgle sound meant or why your tummy felt “squishy and round” after eating lunch.

Even if you had really “tuned in” models around you in your caregivers, friends (or that hippy neighbor you befriended), you may still have abandoned your ability to listen to and care about the sounds and feelings emanating from your body.

It’s called growing up, right? if it doesn’t hurt or make me miss work, what’s the point?

The point is: there’s a lot us adults can learn from children (or from our inner children), and one of those things is to be fascinated with our own body and what it all means.

Just like the story I told you in the beginning about 5 year old me, being curious is the first step to tuning in.

At first, it may seem like an abstract art, but I promise you: when you start paying attention regularly, you’ll find a lot of interesting things are going on.

Things you haven’t thought about or felt since childhood.

  • keep a record of your gut sounds and feelings. even if it’s just a post-it note or a jotted-on napkin while you’re eating lunch, the simple act of writing it down, putting words to your sounds and feelings, is enough to connect you with your gut.

  • put language to what you feel : butterflies, heaviness, clenching, pain, tightness, soothing, warmth, etc. words contextualize the Mystery of things for you and help you notice patterns so you can figure out what your gut’s trying to tell you.

    The “Gut” helps you digest literally everything, but its most obvious purpose is to help you take-in, break-down, assimilate and eliminate food.

The eating experience (aka meal-time) is literally the best time to hangout with “Your Gut” and get to know each other a little better.

For some folks, I have to put it more directly: make LOVE to your food, and notice how that makes you feel.

Really slow it down and tap into your 5 beautiful senses (maybe over a nice glass of wine or sumthin’), and just be Here with a capital H.

Why? cause the Gut operates on a very strict set of protocols.

if you’re not allowing yourself to relax and be present (cause you eat faster than a hungry antelope who just spotted a lion) you’re not allowing your gut to communicate with you.

When you’re stressed, rushing and disconnected from the meal, your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) activates and the whole dang digestive system shuts down and goes into survival mode.

I promise you, nothing wise ever comes out of that. So, slow it down.

  • practice slow & mindful eating as much as you can. practice > perfection.

  • focus on the experience of eating: it’s not about counting bites or chewing slowly. Be Here.

  • engage your 5 senses with food: what do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? note it.

You notice I put a strategic comma after Just Be, and In Nature. Why? Because Step 3 comes in 2 parts.

Part 1: you need to just let yourself be.

That means, chill on the self-criticism, let up on the perfectionism for 5 secs, and breathe, you’re okay just as you are, right Here, right Now.

You can think of “Just Being” as a code word for “Relax”.

It’s your rest and digest—the state that allows you to hear that gut wisdom, remember?

Part 2: you need to get out “In Nature”.

Communing with Nature was pivotal in my journey of re-learning how to connect with my gut wisdom.

Nature is what we all come from, it’s where we all belong, and it grounds us to the fact that we’re literally spinning around on a globe in vast amounts of space at thousands of miles per hour and we don’t even know why.

…but it’s okay cause the view is pretty.

The second you stop living your Life in an endless chase, feeling like you don’t belong and thinking you gotta be something other than exactly what you are right now (aka just being), is the second you look up at the sun, and you feel it’s warmth and you know without a “shadow” of a doubt, that you are connected in such a powerful way to everything around you. everything.

& BOOM like a light switch, you’re “tuned in”.

you feel so connected, so grounded. Just Being, In Nature.

and gut wisdom flows through you.

and Life feels like you do while summitting a mountain: breathtaking.

  • make a plan to (safely) be out in Nature: (and I mean truly out in Nature) at least once a month (more often if you can)

  • practice meditation. even just breathing at a red light… even just letting your mind relax while washing dishes. don’t overthink it.

  • repeat daily affirmations to overcome self-rejection and criticism. your gut loves you, let it.

Inspiration. I love this word because it means two very powerful things:

1) the sudden burst of brilliance that pushes you to flow and be creative.

2) the sudden flow of oxygen in to your body when you inhale a breathe.

Your whole body needs a constant flow of inspiration, and when it gets that it feels inspired: to create, generate, and illuminate.

Okay, maybe not right away. You don’t just start breathing like a Buddhist Monk overnight and manifesting like a goddess. No, breathing is a practice that if we’re honest with ourselves most of us aren’t really that good at. Notice your breathe right now. How is it?

When you start to really, truly learn how to breathe (in the same way you learn any new skill), you open up an endless fountain of wisdom and inspiration that not only nourishes you but “inspires” you to do and create really amazing things.

All of this is because your “two brains” (gut & head) need oxygen to function and survive. Shallow, uninspired breaths only lead to shallow, uninspired thoughts and feelings.

So, connect with your breathe right here, right now and breathe deeply before you move on to the 5th and final step.

  • tie your breathing practice to a cue: when you sit down at your desk…when your dog’s sniffing that spot…in the grocery checkout line or on the toilet, look for little moments throughout your day to stop and consciously take in a breathe.

  • do things that make your body breathe without conscious effort: that is, get your heart rate up. move…and your body will do the rest.

  • practice breathing in the hardest moments: when you’re in emotional upheaval, when your kid is sick and screaming, when you’re sick (& internally screaming), this is the most important time to practice breathing. If you let yourself practice breathing at all, please let it be when you need it the most.

Okay, so we’ve made it to the last step. What a journey!

I’ve put this step last because I truly feel that it’s what lies at the root core of tuning into gut wisdom, but is also perhaps one of the more “controversial” steps.

All I can do is share my own experiences as I guide others, so if this one doesn’t resonate for you right now, it’s okay to just stick with the other four. Although, eventually you’re gonna’ have to reckon with this one. It’s just that important.

I struggled with my sense of spirituality and connection to a “Higher Power” for many years. As a young kid, I had really bad experiences with “The Church”, and my parents didn’t raise me in any particular faith, so I basically stopped believing in anything bigger than my self.

As I grew up, I yearned for that deeper connection to “something bigger” but there was no religious tradition that resonated for me. With nothing to fill in the blank, I simply ceased to feel connected to any kind of source of strength or greater purpose.

From there, I felt very lost and confused indeed, and no longer had a clear sense of myself. I remember saying to my therapist once during a particularly difficult time in my life: “I just feel so utterly confused (inner voice: help!)”.

It wasn’t until I got into some deep work with my beloved counselor and spiritual teacher, that I began to remember that Life is about more than just me, this day-to-day experience, the people that wronged me, these things I worry about, those problems I gotta solve…

He encouraged me to look to Nature, and I found It there.

Perhaps your “higher power” is found in God, Jesus, Buddha or Allah (to name a few).

Perhaps it’s your inner sense of a “Higher Code of Living”: your personal “10 Commandments”.

Whatever this “Higher Power” is for you, it’s important that you connect with it if you ever want to truly connect with your gut wisdom.

  • if you already have a religion or spiritual practice that resonates for you: go deeper into your practice. Can you join a community, attend a special service, go on a pilgrimage or retreat? What opportunities do you have to become a deeper spiritual being within your existing spiritual framework?

  • if you do not have a particular spiritual or religious practice, start with Nature. Nature is something that’s obviously “way bigger than us” and just being in it is enough to gather a sense of deeper trust and belonging. Nature is a kind of Church in that way (at least it was for me).

  • If you have no spiritual leanings at all and have no interest in “communing with Nature”: simply ask yourself: what rules, standards, values and principles do I personally choose to live by? We are powerful beings. Connect to a Higher Power of your own making.

Final Musings:

You’ve taken in a lot here, so I won’t say much more. Just let your “gut” digest it all and check back in with me later.

I sincerely hope that these 5 steps have been meaningful for you in your path to self-healing.

As a highly-sensitive human who has found incredible joy, peace, and freedom from re-learning how to tune-in to my gut wisdom and intuition, I can promise you: the journey is hard but so worth it.

Here at The Nourished Sensitive I’m on a mission to empower highly-sensitive humans to reach their highest personal potential through the power of good food and a nourishing relationship with food and body.

Looking for additional support and guidance to help you connect to your gut wisdom and reach deeper nourishment as a highly-sensitive person?

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