Science explains how hostility causes leaky gut, which leads to inflammation and disease.
The more you fight with your partner, the worse it is for your physical health. Married people who engage in hostile marital spats are more likely to have leaky guts, which releases bacteria into the bloodstream and increases disease-causing inflammation.
This intriguing discovery comes from a new study conducted at Ohio State University and recently published in the journal Psychoneuroendrocrinology. Researchers assessed 43 healthy married couples between the ages of 24 and 61, all of whom had been married for at least three years. The couples were instructed to discuss emotionally-fraught topics, such as in-laws, money, and communication, and their twenty-minute conversations were videotaped. The researchers watched how the couples fought, assessing behaviors such as contemptuous tone, dramatic eye-rolling, belligerence, criticism, and withdrawal.Blood was drawn prior to and after these 'fights', and revealed some interesting findings. The more hostile men and women were during their marital discussions, the higher their levels of one biomarker for leaky gut -- LPS-binding protein. Their mellower peers had lower levels of this biomarker. Evidence of leaky gut was even greater in participants with a history of depression.
From a press release,
"In the leaky-gut study, the researchers found a strong, significant link between hostility and the biomarker LBP, which indicates the presence of bacteria in the blood. And there was a strong link between that biomarker and evidence of inflammation. 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."
These findings are important because they underscore the very real health implications of being in an unhappy marriage. If a person is experiencing marital distress on a regular basis, it will have a long-term negative impact on gut health. When bacteria in the blood drives up inflammation, as study co-author Michelle Bailey explained, it "could potentially contribute to poor mental health, creating a troubling loop."
Indeed, the study found that hostile behaviors remained similar from one visit to the next, as did the biomarkers for leaky gut. This suggests chronic exposure. From the study: "Indeed, steady, lasting associations seem to exist between marital distress and intestinal permeability in a way that may chronically fuel inflammation."
Not that you need another reminder that choosing the right person to spend your life with is pretty much the most important decision you'll ever make, but here it is: you could be protecting your health in the process.