Is Your Marriage Ruining Your Gut?

Digestive Health


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder


The importance of maintaining good gut health cannot be overstated. Our guts contain trillions of microbes (also called flora, bacteria or bugs). All these bugs that live in our guts make up the gut microbiome. And if we don’t have a diverse and adequate amount of the good bugs, we may negatively impact our mental and physical health. Simply put, gut health affects our mental health, weight, immune system, the ability to absorb nutrients from foods we eat and overall digestive health and even our risk of developing cancer.

The gut microbiome is even referred to as “the forgotten organ.” So just like our brain, heart and lungs, we might want to start viewing the gut microbiome as a vital organ. When our vital organs are not healthy, we increase our chances of having poor health.

And there are so many things that can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome. These include excessive antibiotic use, a poor diet, consuming artificial sweeteners, drinking too much alcohol, smoking and stress.

Now, stress is an interesting variable to consider. We all experience stress, but I think most of us don’t really appreciate how harmful stress can be. If you’re stressed, you probably eat too many unhealthy foods (stress eat) or don’t eat enough at all. Stress may also lead to excessive drinking. And all these stress coping mechanisms may disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome.

On top of this, just the stress by itself, (without the poor coping mechanisms), may have a detrimental impact on the gut microbiome.

When people are feeling healthy, relaxed, and safe, their gut microbiome communities generally work together harmoniously in a predictable symbiotic manner, according to a new study,” reports one source.

But on the other side of the coin, “...researchers found that when someone is under stress, his or her gut microbiome communities become discombobulated and behave erratically, in ways that are unpredictable and vary from person to person.”

And now, a very recent study suggested that hostility in a marriage, a particular type of stress that many people experience, may be very bad for the gut.

The study, the first of its kind, was conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“We think that this everyday marital distress – at least for some people – is causing changes in the gut that lead to inflammation and, potentially, illness,” said one of the lead researchers, in this report.

Study participants included 43 healthy married couples (between the ages of 24 to 61) who were married for at least three years. The couples took surveys about their relationships and were asked to discuss topics that commonly cause conflicts in a marriage. These topics were money and in-laws.

(Read here to see other popular points of contention in relationships and marriages, like chores, social media, substance abuse, commitment and more).

During these touchy discussions, the couples were left alone and filmed for 20 minutes. Researchers observed how they interacted.

“They categorized their verbal and non-verbal fighting behaviors, with special interest in hostility – things such as dramatic eye rolls or criticism of one’s partner.”

Prior to the couples having these heated discussions, their blood was drawn. Then their blood was drawn afterwards.

This is what researchers found when they compared the before and after blood samples:

Couples who had more hostility during the discussions had higher levels of LPS-binding protein in their blood after the discussions were over. Having a high level of the LPS-binding protein is a biomarker for leaky gut syndrome.

So it looks like marital stress is associated with a weak intestinal lining which, in turn, can be harmful to the gut microbiome.

Inside our bellies, we have an extensive intestinal lining covering more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When working properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. This may trigger inflammation and changes in the gut flora (normal bacteria) that could lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond,” reports Harvard Health.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that couples who had a history of depression and/or other mood disorders showed even more evidence of having a leaky gut.

In addition to this, “Compared to participants with the lowest LBP, those with the highest LBP had 79 percent higher levels of C-reactive protein, the primary biomarker of inflammation.” And as many of you may know, excessive inflammation is believed to be a source of many types of illness.

I’d like to think of all of this as some kind of “gut karma.” Perhaps if we are not so nice to our spouses and roll our eyes at him or her, our guts will not be healthy.

If we can avoid excessive stress and hostility in our relationships, then we can benefit more from a nutrient-rich diet. For example, certain nutrients, like magnesium, can make the difference in whether you have a healthy gut or not. Research suggests that dietary magnesium deficiency alters gut microbiota and leads to depressive-like behavior.

(Foods rich in magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate and bananas).

To read more about diet and specific lifestyle habits you might want to adopt for a healthy gut, read here. And as the pH health care team always suggests, consider taking a comprehensive nutrient test. You may even want to take the pH GI Effects test.

Finally, all this new research should motivate us even more not to go to bed angry. It might be bad for our guts.


Enjoy your healthy life!


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.  


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