Do you put much thought into what you’re feeding your body? You might’ve heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.” Sure, eating too many sweets can pack on a couple extra pounds. But it turns out, your diet can also influence certain personality traits too.
It all has to do with the kinds of bacteria living in your microbiome. A microbiome is located in the gastrointestinal tract and is home to millions of bacteria. Studies have revealed that the more types of bacteria a person has in their microbiome, the more sociable they are. In fact, even the opposite has been found to be true—people living with autism often experience digestive problems.
Of course, we can’t know which bacteria families are living in our guts without the help of a scientist. But the food you eat can offer some clues. Trying new foods and adding more probiotics to your diet are great ways to diversify the healthy bacteria in your microbiome… or make new friends!
Your Gut And Your Brain Are Linked
Your brain and gastrointestinal tract are in constant communication. Mood influences how well the GI tract is functioning and vice versa. Psychological distress will manifest itself in your gut. Do you ever feel nauseous right before giving a speech? Do you feel your “stomach drop” upon receiving bad news? It’s because the brain and gut really are connected!
Sometimes physical health issues are just the symptoms of a larger psychological problem. People who suffer from GI disorders have found that psychotherapy reduced their digestive discomfort. The solution might be more than medical treatment. It’s something to consider if you’re going through a rough patch in your life.
Gut Helps Govern The “Big Five” Personality Traits
Psychologists say personalities are comprised of the “big five” traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. What you eat can slowly shape these traits over time. Since your GI tract and brain are linked, first you’ll notice an effect on your mood. If your diet stays the same, your mood will influence who you are as a person.
For example, someone might have a diet consisting of sugar and empty calories. This will lead to a sugar high and the inevitable crash in their energy. When this happens, they’ll have a difficult time focusing at work or school. Eventually, people will notice that person acts withdrawn and burned out. Or they might become irritable and short tempered, leading to destructive levels of neuroticism.
It’s important to be aware of how foods can affect your mental health. If you’re eating junk food all the time, it will negatively affect your mood. Treat your gut poorly and your mind will suffer, too. Eat foods that help you adopt healthy personality traits!
Research Into The Gut Microbiome Is Ongoing
Everyone’s microbiome is different, just like our fingerprints. The types of bacteria in a person’s gut are determined by factors beyond their control, such as parents’ health, genetics, and their environment as a child. However, there are other factors you can control like stress levels and diet. No matter how your life is going, there’s always something you can do to give yourself a healthy microbiome.
Since it’s impossible for two microbiomes to be identical, there’s no model for what a perfect microbiome looks like. Medical experts are still working to figure out which bacteria families are best for a healthy gut. While probiotic supplements exist, there isn’t a pill that contains the perfect combination of bacteria.
Experts say people should focus less on what types of bacteria are in their gut and more on helping that bacteria function properly. Bacteria in your gut are responsible for absorbing nutrients and maintaining a barrier between toxins and the bloodstream. They also monitor your immune system, body weight and, you guessed it, your mood.
To help bacteria do their job, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet. Everyone is different, so check with your doctor to learn about what’s right for you. Also, get enough sleep! If you have troubles sleeping at night, that’s another thing your doctor can help you with (and it might correlate with your diet).
You Really Are What You Eat!
The phrase “you are what you eat” is about more than just the physical implications of your diet. With current research, it’s evident that food holds power over our mood and who we become as a result. With microbiomes affecting many facets of our health, it’s important to take care of them!