The mind-gut connection is a hot topic in wellness these days. We now know that the health of your gut microbiome can affect everything from your weight to your anxiety levels. We also know there is a link between gut health and Alzheimer’s Disease, heart health, and even healthy sleep. So we shouldn’t be surprised that science now shows a link between gut health and personality.
Intrigued? Me, too. Let’s dig in.
How Much Personality Is Inherited and How Much Is Influenced by the Gut
We often consider personality, well, personal. But science tells us that personality is about 50% inherited, indicating that environmental factors also play a role in determining our personality traits. One of those environmental factors is the microbiome – the environment within us. Our microbiome can affect our digestion, metabolism, immune system, and more.
A new study authored by Katerina Johnson, Ph.D. and published in the Human Microbiome Journal indicates that people who have a vast social network also have a microbiome full of different types of bacteria. And that the more adventurous an eater you are, the more diverse gut microbiome you have.
Time to Talk Social
Not only do more social people have more diverse microbiome composition, but they also have more of certain types of bacteria lining in the gut than those who are less social. And diversity in the gut microbiome is linked to better health in general.
For instance, people who are more outgoing and have more social interactions are more likely to have an abundance of Lactococcus, Akkermansia, and Oscillospira bacteria in their gut. The most likely explanation for this diversity of microbiome composition is that social, outgoing people come into contact with new bacteria more often than less social, introverted types. Previous research has demonstrated that the gut microbiota can affect social behavior.
Other Key Factors from the Study
Also, the study indicates that adults fed mainly formula as children have less microbiome diversity. These results suggest that infant nutrition may have long-term significance for adult gut health.
Gut diversity was also positively linked to international foods due to increased exposure to unknown microbes and different diets. Overall, adventurous eaters had a more diverse gut microbiome, and those on a dairy-free diet had lower diversity. One of the least surprising results was that people whose diet was high in natural sources of probiotics such as fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut and prebiotics such as bananas, legumes, asparagus, onion, leeks, and whole grains.
What about Introverts?
Does this mean introverts are doomed to unhealthy gut microbiomes? Not necessarily. Although introverts indeed use alone time to recharge, this doesn’t mean they have no social interaction. Many introverts are very social, they just find that being alone refreshes their inner being.
And, there are other ways to increase gut microbiome diversity that doesn’t rely solely on socialization. For example, it is possible to be an adventurous eater, one of the traits of someone with more microbiome diversity, without hanging out in large groups.
Personality: All about the Gut?
Although differences in gut microbiome diversity and composition diversity are shown to be linked to personality traits in the general population, there is more than gut bacteria at play when it comes to determining personality. Many other factors play a role, including your family, cultural beliefs, environment, and experiences.
And lastly, it is important to take note of how our modern lives may be creating a perfect storm for gut health issues. We lead stressful lives with increasingly fewer social interactions and less time spent outside in nature. Our diets are generally fiber deficient, and our indoor environment over sanitized. Everything plays a role in the health of the gut microbiome and, therefore, may affect our behavior and personality.