Written by Annabel Sparrow
More and more research is highlighting that having strong social connections positively impacts our mental health. (1) But did you know it could also improve your gut health?
If you’ve read any of our other articles you’ll know a balanced and diverse gut microbiome is a powerhouse of positive health outcomes, from balancing our blood sugar to managing hormones and even impacting our mental health through our gut brain axis (along with much more!).
Therefore, it may not come as a big surprise that new research indicates that socialising may be linked to a healthy and diverse gut microbiota.
Let’s dig into research
A recent study analysed social behaviour and the gut microbiome in a community of wild chimps. Researchers found higher social interaction led to increased levels of ‘good’ gut bacteria. (2) What’s more, the microbiome composition was similar across the group – sharing is caring after all.
Why is this happening? The researchers suggest this may be because through increased socialising, there are more opportunities for bacteria to transmit and thus diversify, as well as potentially reducing stress levels. Both of which could result in a healthier gut microbiome.
We know, you’re not an animal, why does this matter to you? Well the evidence doesn’t stop there, in fact this is further supported by emerging research in humans. A longitudinal study of nearly 60 years, found socialness in family and friends was associated with differences in microbiota. Positively, married individuals with close sustained relationships had a more diverse gut microbiota. (3)
The science doesn’t stop there. Two further human studies found having a larger social network and higher levels of social support and social engagement is correlated with greater diversity within the gut microbiome. (4, 5)
All of this suggests that socialising and spending more time with your friends and family may play a role in promoting gut health and the diversity of your gut microbiome. Music to our ears!
So to conclude?
This really is just the beginning of research in this area. Further research on larger and more diverse human populations is needed to confirm findings and make them generalisable.
However, this emerging research does suggest getting friendly could be making not just you happy but your gut happy too. Plus it supports spending more time with your loved ones, which, lets face it, can never be a bad thing.
A bit about the author
Annabel is a Registered Associate Nutritionist with a personal and professional interest in gut health. With a BSc degree in Psychology and MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour, she is passionate about building healthy relationships with food and understanding the connection between food, mood and health.
Annabel applies her psychological background in combination with her knowledge of nutrition to help people manage and improve their health without restriction.
- 1 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.648475/full