Summary: Gut bacteria have been linked to positive emotions, such as happiness and hopefulness, and good emotion management skills.
Researchers have discovered that people who suppress their emotions have a less diverse gut microbiome, while people who report happier emotions have lower levels of certain bacterium.
- Researchers found a link between bacteria in the gut and positive emotions, healthy emotional management, and better physical health outcomes.
- The study included over 200 women who filled out a survey assessing their feelings and how they handled emotions, as well as providing stool samples.
- People who suppressed their emotions had a less diverse gut microbiome, and those who reported happier feelings had lower levels of certain bacteria, while people who had more negative emotions had more of those bacteria.
Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital
A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has linked bacteria in our gut to positive emotions like happiness and hopefulness and healthier emotion management skills.
Their results were published recently in Psychological Medicine.
Previous research has found that the brain communicates with the gastrointestinal tract through the gut-brain axis. One theory is that the gut microbiome plays a starring role in the gut-brain axis, linking physical and emotional health.
“The gut contains trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiome. Many studies have shown 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,” said co-corresponding author Yang-Yu Liu, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine and an associate professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.
“This interaction likely flows both ways—the brain can impact the gut, and the gut can impact the brain. The emotions that we have and how we manage them could affect the gut microbiome, and the microbiome may also influence how we feel,” said first author Shanlin Ke, Ph.D., who worked on the study as a postdoctoral researcher in Liu’s lab.
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, according to study co-corresponding author Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., a professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The new study included 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.