OXFORD, United Kingdom — Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about something? It turns out the bacteria living in your gut may have more to do with your feelings than we think. A researcher at Oxford University says behavioral and personality traits are linked to the diversity and makeup of your microbiome.
The study led by Dr. Katerina Johnson, discovers a person’s background can influence the composition of their gut. These changes then affect the health of that person and their overall personality. Johnson says even small differences, like being fed formula as a baby, results in a less diverse microbiome as an adult.
“There has been growing research linking the gut microbiome to the brain and behavior, known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis,” Johnson says in a media release.
Until now, Johnson explains most studies with humans focus on the role of the gut microbiome in neuropsychiatric disorders.
“In contrast, my key interest was to look in the general population to see how variation in the types of bacteria living in the gut may be related to personality,” she says.
Everything starts in the gut
Our personalities influence how we deal with stress, relationships, friendships, and even work. Animal research finds a connection between gut microbiome and conditions like anxiety and depression.
Johnson says previous studies also link your balance of gut bacteria to autism, a condition that affects social behavior and communication. This finding furthers Dr. Johnson’s research of how your internal chemistry impacts your sociability.
“This suggests that the gut microbiome may contribute not only to the extreme behavioral traits seen in autism but also to variation in social behavior in the general population,” Johnson adds. “Future research may benefit from directly investigating the potential effect these bacteria may have on behavior, which may help inform the development of new therapies for autism and depression.”
A healthy social life is good for the gut
Aside from more serious disorders, the study suggests the more social you are, the more diversified your gut bacteria is likely be. In most cases, researchers say a diversified gut health system means better general health.
“This is the first study to find a link between sociability and microbiome diversity in humans and follows on from similar findings in primates… This result suggests the same may also be true in human populations.”
The study is published in the Human Microbiome Journal.