They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. And if recent research about how your relationship affects your gut is to be believed, it looks like that’s actually more true than we realise.
And it’s not just that your biome is likely to be happier if you’re in love – couples’ cultures are much more probably to match if they’re in a satisfying relationship.
“There is a growing body of research that indicates that our relationships impact our gut health, with closer, more intimate relationships having the greatest impact,” clinical psychologist Catherine Hallissey told Stylist. “For example, spouses have more similar microbiota and more bacterial taxa in common than siblings.”
What’s going on here?
I’m going to be honest: when I first read that couples’ guts had a lot in common, I thought, well, yes – they’re probably sharing the same meals. But it turns out that relationship satisfaction has a lot to do with the bacteria in your microbiome, and not all types of relationships have the same effect on your gut.
“Individuals with better relationship quality (greater relationship satisfaction and intimacy and less avoidant communication) had greater microbial diversity, p < 0.05, a sign of healthier gut microbiota,” a 2023 study showed.
In the study, “most individuals shared similar alpha diversity with their partner, except for a subset of four couples who had much larger within-couple differences than other couples.”
Self-reported intimacy, more than other reported psychological factors, “was positively associated” with biodiversity, the study found.
And another 2023 study reveals that the bacteria spread orally through kissing could well help to influence your microbiome. “There was substantial strain sharing among cohabiting individuals, with 12% and 32% median strain-sharing rates for the gut and oral microbiomes, and time since cohabitation affected strain sharing more than age or genetics did,” they found.
In other words, kissing and living with your partner in a healthy relationship could well have unique benefits for your gut.
Being happy and having close relationships, in general, is good for your biome
This doesn’t mean single people have lost out on their gut health. “Socialness with family and friends is associated with differences in the human faecal microbiota,” yet another study found.
And just as successful romantic relationships seem to have a special correlation to happier guts, the inverse appears to be true, too.
“Marital discord, stress, and depression have strong bidirectional links, fuelling one another. Chronic marital stress and depression can elevate the risk for obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease by altering resting energy expenditure, insulin production, and triglyceride responses following unhealthy meals,” a study found.
Your relationship with your beau has an incredibly strong influence on your overall health – for better and for worse. So when it comes to picking the perfect partner, it truly is a matter of sticking to your gut.