Valentine’s Day is often a time when we reflect on the health of our love life. But have you ever stopped to consider how your love life affects your health? As we all know, the stress in any aspect of life can show up on our skin, our fitness, and even, as Microba has figured out, our gut health. It has long been known that partners influence each other’s mental and physical health, and that unhappy relationships are an important risk factor for poor health. Dr. Paula Smith-Brown, PhD., Senior Accredited Practicing Dietitian at Microba, who reviewed 126 research studies, concluded that the link between better relationships and health was consistent despite where or how the research was conducted.
In fact, some of these studies even found that the quality of a relationship had a stronger link to health than smoking, drinking alcohol or exercise. We interviewed her and got the low down on the connection between love and your gut.
We all know that falling out with a loved one can make you feel down. Even prompt you to make less healthy choices. People in unhappy relationships might regularly be getting less sleep. They can turn to bad food, cigarettes or alcohol as well. That can lead to negative impacts on your gut health and overall wellbeing. On the flip side, even happy couples tend to share similar health habits with studies showing ‘a ripple effect’, whereby spouses show benefits when their partner improves their own health.
Emerging research is indicating that your relationship can influence your immune system and gut health. This suggests that links with your health might go much deeper than simply affecting your lifestyle. One study found that living with a partner had a bigger impact on your immune system than getting a tummy bug. This might be in part because partners tend to have similar gut bacteria which play an important role in regulating the immune system.
Your gut bacteria, collectively known as the gut microbiome, are vital to health. One of the many important functions they serve is protecting and nourishing the gut barrier. Poor gut barrier function can lead to compounds that should remain in the gut entering your bloodstream. Bacteria make a compound called LPS (lipopolysaccharide) that can trigger inflammation if it crosses the gut barrier into the blood. Research has shown that people in hostile marriages have more bacterial LPS crossing their gut barrier leading to more inflammation5 which could in part explain the link between bad relationships and inflammation-related diseases such as heart disease, depression, and obesity. She recommends trying Microba’s powered gut microbiome analysis, which includes an assessment of your gut bacteria’s potential to produce LPS as well as many other compounds associated with health.
When assessing your love life this Valentine’s Day, take a moment to consider your relationship status. It may is be affecting your health. If single, perhaps you can congratulate yourself on avoiding the negative effects of an unhappy relationship. Those in long-term relationships can thank their partner for not only sharing their life with them but also their gut bacteria.
While you’re here, check out these nutrient-rich foods that can boost your sex drive.