Gut feelings is something we’ve all experienced from time to time. These feelings could be about the weather or people we’ve met. Or maybe they’re just a sudden, unexpected feeling in your stomach, such as fear or dread. Or we’re in a situation that gives us butterflies, such as being on stage to performer even in a business meeting.
We often think about these feelings as being instinctual signals that tell us how to behave or react to an experience. But it turns out that those feelings might be even deeper than instincts.
Gut Bacteria Linked To Personality
A recently published Oxford University study has found evidence of a connection between the bacteria living in our gut and behaviors and personality. Interestingly, the researchers found that numerous types of bacteria that had been associated with autism in previous research were also related to differences in sociability in the general population. Additionally, the study found that bacterial diversity in the gut or lack thereof correlates to various behaviors and moods, including stress and anxiety, but also adventurousness such as traveling frequently and eating unusual foods.
In other words, what’s in our digestive tract affects how social we are and what we do to socialize and vice versa. Those with healthy gut microbiomes may be more social because they physically feel better, while those with less healthy microbiomes socialize possibly less because they generally don’t feel well. What’s more, if this study’s findings are accurate, this behavior is likely self-reinforcing in that people who socialize frequently have a healthier, more diverse microbiome, and thus the socializing actually enhances their physical health.
Conversely, those who socialize less likely have a less diverse microbiome and are thus less healthy in general. And as many other studies have pointed out, chronic stress can lead to a variety of health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more. At the same time, socializing also has a number of physical and mental health benefits.
Of course, whether socialization and social behaviors are causes of a healthy gut or vice versa remains to be seen. We know at this point that they are connected, thus it’s likely that when we improve either one we improve the other. Luckily, improving both can be fairly easily accomplished. It can start at home by eating a healthier, plant-based diet with high-fiber foods, sleeping better, or just spending more times with friends and family.