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The Surprising Science of Relationships and Gut Health

We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat.” While that is true in a lot of ways, it’s also true that “You are the company you keep.” From coworkers and best friends to your spouse and close family members, the people you surround yourself with throughout your life greatly influence who you are—your beliefs, habits, mindset, and even your gut health. 

That’s right, the social relationships you maintain, particularly the ones that are extremely close or romantic in nature, are secretly impacting your gut health for better or for worse. What’s more? Your gut health is likely also playing a significant role in how well those relationships are going. 

How Your Relationships Impact Your Gut

You already know that factors like diet, exercise, and certain medications can impact the balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome, but recent studies have found that another important aspect of your day-to-day life that has been covertly influencing your gut health all along—your relationships. 

As it turns out, your social ties can influence the composition of your gut bacteria, with closer, more intimate relationships having the strongest influence. What’s more? Researchers have also found that when it comes to relationships and gut health, quality matters. People with greater relationship satisfaction and open communication tend to have greater microbial diversity, which is associated with a healthy gut. 

How is it that our social relationships can have such a powerful influence on our gut health? If you ask us, the answer is two-fold—our physical proximity to others and our relational interactions with them. 

Physical Proximity and Gut Health 

Today, there is no doubt that your external environment can alter the microbial diversity of your gut. Things like the city you live in, the amount of space your house has, and whether or not you have pets or house plants can influence which microbes are present in your microbiome. Because of this, it makes sense that gut microbiota can be affected by your close relationships with others simply based on the fact that you are frequently in close proximity to them. 

This is especially true for romantic relationships or families and friends that cohabitate as the simple act of sharing living space with another individual exposes you and your gut to a wider variety of microbes that may end up making your gut their new home. 

Additionally, more intimate interactions such as hugging, holding hands, and kissing can facilitate the transfer of bacteria from one person to another. Researchers have found that even a short 10-second kiss can result in the transfer of as many as 80 million bacteria from one person to another. Of course, not all of these microbes will make it to the gut microbiome, but enough of them will that it can alter your gut microbiota composition for the short and long term.

Relational Interactions and Gut Health 

Your physical proximity to others isn’t the only way that your relationships may be influencing your gut health—the social interactions you have with the people in your life can also have an impact thanks to the gut-brain axis. 

The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication highway that allows your gut and your brain to talk to each other. This back-and-forth signaling is a complicated process that’s facilitated by the vagus nerve and allows your gut to let your brain know when something is wrong and provides your brain with a way to send the gut the information and signals it needs to help your digestive system operate as it should. 

This connection also means that your mental health, mood, and emotions can directly affect your digestive health. Negative feelings like anxiety and stress can lead to a less diverse gut microbiome while positive feelings like happiness and elation improve your microbial diversity. 

So, what does this mean for your relationships? In simple terms, it means that relationship quality matters. When you are in healthy relationships that leave you feeling trusted, listened to, and supported, you are more likely to frequently experience positive emotions, which in turn can benefit your digestive health. On the flip side, when you are in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship, you’re more likely to feel stressed, anxious, or even scared regularly, which can negatively impact your gut. What’s more concerning is that research also shows that individuals who are in unhealthy partnerships, particularly if they are hostile, tend to have more harmful chemicals cross their gut barrier, which can lead to a host of health concerns. 

It’s also important to note that your personal relationships can also influence your gut health more indirectly—through your habits and choices. Whether you realize it or not, the people you foster social connections with tend to hold some sway when it comes to the habits you create and the choices you make, especially when it comes to your health. For example, the food preferences of your spouse can impact your diet choices, and the physical activity level of your best friend may influence your own workout habits. 

The Flip Side: Your Gut Also Influences Your Relationships 

Just like so many other parts of life, the connection between your gut and your relationships is not a one-way street—the health of your gut is also capable of affecting your social ties. Why? Because your digestive system is responsible for the production of energy as well as the regulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. 

You already know that your body gets energy from food, and your digestive system plays a vital role in this process. When this system is operating properly, your body is better prepared to efficiently break down food and absorb the nutrients it needs to create the energy it needs to get through the day. On the other hand, when you’re experiencing digestive issues, your body likely isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to produce that ever-important energy. 

Furthermore, the helpful bacteria that live in your gut microbiome are often responsible for helping absorb key nutrients like B vitamins from your food. Without enough of these important vitamins, you are more likely to feel more fatigued than usual. 

So what happens then? Chances are, you are going to feel like you barely have enough fuel in the tank to get through the day, let alone interact with others along the way. This makes you much less likely to invest time and energy into your relationships, often to their detriment. 

On top of that, the ever-present influence of your gut-brain axis also comes into play. Thanks to this connection, the status of your gut can have a powerful impact on your mood. When your gut is not feeling its best, you’re more likely to feel sad, anxious, or depressed, which can cause you to pull away from even your closest friends and family members or have less-than-pleasant interactions with them that ultimately harm the relationship. Then again, when your gut is happy and healthy, you are more likely to experience feelings that align with that, and these positive emotions can encourage you to intentionally put more time and energy into connecting with the people you care about, improving your relationships and helping to further boost your gut health. 

How Can You Support Your Gut Health to Improve Your Relationships with Others? 

Since your gut health may be your relationships with others, taking steps to foster a healthy gut may help enhance your social relationships. To give your gut a boost, focus on eating plenty of whole foods, managing your daily stress levels, moving your body daily, and prioritizing sleep and hydration. 

Another quick and easy way to support a gut microbiome that is diverse and thriving is to add a daily probiotic supplement like Spectrabiotic to your routine. This all-natural probiotic supplement contains twelve powerful strains of probiotics blended with the prebiotic inulin and the near-perfect superfood Organic Wild Microalgae®. All of these ingredients come together to help seed your gut with beneficial bacteria and provide those new microbial communities with everything they need to thrive. 

The best part? You can put Spectrabiotic to the test risk-free with our 90-day money-back guarantee

At New Earth we are on a mission to positively impact the health of every body and soul we come in contact with. We specialize in producing third-party certified, organic whole food supplements including a variety of probiotics, and digestive support. Our supplements feature a rare, yet highly nutritious superfood, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA). Also known as organic Wild Microalgae®, AFA is a unique type of microalgae that is available in many forms including tablets, capsules, and powders all designed to help you on your journey to holistic wellness. The best part? We offer a 90-day money-back risk-free guarantee on all of our products. Visit our website to learn more.