New research showing a connection between communication and microbiomes shows when it comes to relationships, you might literally need to listen to your gut.
A recent Arizona State University study suggested the strength of a couple’s emotional connection is correlated with the diversity of their individual bacteria, or microbiomes, in the digestive tracts.
Microbiome expert Professor Rosy Krajmalnik-Brown told Futureproof with Jonathan McCrea we know a lot more about our gut now than we did 15 years ago.
“But we're just scratching the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
The gut helps us digest food, produce vitamins and interacts with our immune system – but it may also be able to interact with our brains.
“I will not say that I have definite evidence for that,” Prof Krajmalnik-Brown said. “But you might be aware of some of the research that my team has done with autism.
“When we change the microbiome in children that have severe gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, their GI symptoms improve and their behaviour improves: their cognition improves, their learning skill improves.”
Health expert Dr Shelby Langer explained a previous study suggested a link between your gut microbiome and how close you are to your partner.
“Those who felt they were closer had a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome,” she said.
Prof Krajmalnik-Brown and Dr Langer conducted their own study with 30 adult couples who were “relatively satisfied with their relationship” - and found a link between relationship quality and the gut.
“If you recorded were more satisfied with your relationships, you had a more diverse gut microbiome,” she said.
“If you were [higher] on this measure of intimacy, you had a more diverse gut microbiome.”
'It goes in a cycle'
The more tension or avoidance there was between couples, the less gut diversity they had.
People in less successful relationships didn’t have less microbiomes in their gut, but simply less kinds – and the more diverse your gut, the better.
“Even though this is just association and a correlation, that was the strongest correlation that we found,” Prof Krajmalnik-Brown said.
“It’s a chicken and egg... it's a gut-to-brain and a brain-to-gut communication. It goes in a cycle.”