Could the bacteria in a person’s gastrointestinal tract be responsible for part, if not all, of their personality development?
New research finds some intriguing associations between gut bacterial diversity and specific personality traits, including neuroticism and sociability. If the data holds, then the findings suggest that there could be mental health benefits to eating foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics.
Dr. Katerina Johnson from Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology designed a research study to look at the microbiome-gut-brain axis. Her findings discovered that extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness could all have links to an individual’s gastrointestinal health.
Having Friends Could Promote Better Gut Health
Johnson’s study found that the various types of bacteria researchers previously linked to the autism spectrum disorder also had associations with sociability differences.
Her team found that the people who have the most extensive social networks were also the most likely to have a diverse composition of bacteria in their gut. That means being socially active could promote better health.
At the other end of the spectrum, Johnson found that a low level of microbial diversity was directly associated with higher levels of anxiety and stress.
What Does This Mean for Personal Nutrition?
The research team found that people who consumed more foods with prebiotics or probiotics in their natural form had significantly lower levels of stress, anxiety, and neuroticism. This group was also less likely to develop a mental illness throughout the study.
Johnson’s team compared the people who at the natural sources of prebiotics and probiotics to those who added them to their diet in the form of supplements. They discovered that the same correlation was not present.
Another interesting finding from the research effort was that the adults who had been fed formula as an infant had less diversity in their gut biome.
That means it may be beneficial for people to include more natural sources of probiotics in their diet. Foods like sauerkraut and fermented cheese could work to restore gut biome diversity. Items with natural sources of prebiotics include onions, leeks, whole grains, bananas, and legumes.
You may also choose to add probiotic supplements to your diet to help support the health of your gut flora. Youtheory, Oxylent, and AlternaScript are all brands that have formulas that support gut health.
It is essential to note that Johnson’s work was a cross-sectional study, so there are limitations in this research. A direct investigation of the effects and impact that these bacteria have on behavior could result in exciting new therapies for issues such as depression or autism spectrum disorder concerns.