Issy Murray explores new research which indicates having your in-laws over during the Christmas period can negatively affect your mental health.
A headache might not be all the in-laws have left you with this holiday season. A recent journal publication in Elsevier has revealed experimental evidence that encounters with in-laws significantly alter your gut microbiota.
Microbiota refers to a group of microorganisms found in every multicellular being that form a symbiotic relationship with us and are unique to each individual. We know of at least one thousand distinct species of microbiota containing over three million genes (which is an around 150 times that of ‘human’ genes).
However in August 2019, by conducting faecal analysis, scientists discovered interactions with in-laws had the potential to change the microbiota of seven different bacterial species.
Gut microbiota in particular are involved with a plethora of different bodily functions, but are also affected by various factors including psychological stress and a person’s mental health. This, according to the Elsevier study, alters the microbiota’s core composition.
Previous scientific research has found that gut microbiota and the brain are linked within a causal relationship, naming this the ‘microbiota-gut-brain axis’. However in August 2019, by conducting faecal analysis, scientists discovered interactions with in-laws had the potential to change the microbiota of seven different bacterial species, concluding that they “identified a microbial signature that can discriminate between participants who visited their own family versus their in-laws during Christmas. However, observed differences […] are modest.” So, visiting in-laws can be shown to have implications for mental and as a result, physical health.
In other words, it’s a stomach-churning experience, relatively speaking.