A recent study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Harvard found a link between certain gut bacteria and positive emotions such as happiness and hopefulness, as well as healthier emotion management skills.
The study sheds light on the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional relationship between the gut and the brain.
The gut contains trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiome.
Previous research has found that disturbance in the gut microbiome can affect the gut-brain axis and lead to various health problems, including anxiety, depression, and even neurological disorders.
Many theories suggest that the gut microbiome plays a starring role in the gut-brain axis, linking physical and emotional health.
The study involved more than 200 women from the Mind-Body Study, a sub-study of the Nurses’ Health Study II.
These middle-aged, mostly white women filled out a survey that asked about their feelings in the last 30 days, asking them to report positive (feeling happy or hopeful about the future) or negative (feeling sad, afraid, worried, restless, hopeless, depressed, or lonely) emotions they’d had.
The survey also assessed how they handled their emotions.
The two options were reframing the situation to see it in a more positive light (cognitive reappraisal) or holding back from expressing their negative emotions (suppression).
Suppressing one’s feelings is often a less effective way of handling them and can lead to worse mental and physical health outcomes.
Three months after answering the survey, the women provided stool samples.
The analysis found that people who suppressed their emotions had a less diverse gut microbiome.
They also found that people who reported happier feelings had lower levels of Firmicutes bacterium CAG 94 and Ruminococcaceae bacterium D16.
On the other hand, people who had more negative emotions had more of these bacteria.
The researchers also examined what the microbes in the gut were doing on a functional pathway level, looking for links between changes in the capacity of this activity and specific emotional states and emotion regulation methods.
They found that negative emotions were linked to lowered capacity activity in multiple metabolism-related actions.
The gut-brain axis might affect physical health, as well. Previous research has shown that positive emotions and healthy emotional regulation are linked to greater longevity.
In contrast, negative emotions are linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality from all causes.
The study suggests that there is a complex interplay between the gut microbiome and emotions. It indicates that emotions and their management can affect the gut microbiome, and the gut microbiome can also influence how we feel.
Overall, this study suggests that the gut microbiome may be an important factor in emotional regulation and mental health.
The link between the gut microbiome and emotional health is likely bidirectional, with emotions impacting the gut microbiome and vice versa.
The study findings also suggest that suppressing emotions may have negative consequences for the gut microbiome and, therefore, overall health.
Future studies should explore the gut-brain axis and the role of the gut microbiome in emotional regulation and mental health.
Longitudinal studies would be useful in determining the direction of the link between emotions and the gut microbiome.
Additionally, studies should include more diverse populations to determine if the findings are generalizable to other groups.
If you care about gut health, please read studies about a major cause of leaky gut, and fatty liver disease, and eating nuts may help reduce risks of gut lesions and cancer.
For more information about health, please see recent studies that an anti-inflammatory diet could help prevent fatty liver disease, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.
The study was conducted by Shanlin Ke et al and published in Psychological Medicine.
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