Here's How Arguing with Your Spouse Actually Hurts Your Body

In a drag-out argument? You could experience leaky gut. (Seriously.)

A few month ago, a shocking study came out claiming that getting divorced can shorten your life by 46 percent. But if you're in a bad marriage, it's worth noting that sticking it out isn't doing your health any favors either.

Everyone knows that marital conflict has negative psychological effects not only on you and your spouse but also your children. But now, a new study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology has found that arguing with your spouse can cause a lot more than just stress.

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., and her team of researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center recruited 43 physically healthy married couples with an average age of 38 and asked them to try to discuss something that often leads to an argument (i.e. money issues or in-laws) and then try to resolve the issue. They left the couple alone for the argument but taped the interactions, and later analyzed them, taking note of how much criticizing, eye-rolling, name-calling, and general hostility each couple exhibited.

The researchers drew blood samples from the couples before and after their altercations, and found that couples whose arguments turned really nasty had higher levels of LPS-binding protein—a biomarker for leaky gut—than those who had managed to stay civil. Evidence of a leaky gut, a condition that weakens the lining of the intestines, causing the release of partially digested food and bacteria into the bloodstream, was found to be even stronger among couples who had particularly hostile interactions and a history of depression or mood disorders.

While scientists are still struggling to fully understand leaky gut syndrome, the symptoms include bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivity, and aches and pains, and it can lead to other auto-immune and inflammatory diseases.

"We know that inflammation leads to leaky gut and causes a number of age-related diseases," Glaser said. "Our research shows that marital stress is furthering that inflammation."

"With leaky gut, the structures that are usually really good at keeping the gunk in our gut—the partially digested food, bacteria and other products—degrade and that barrier becomes less effective," Michael Bailey, co-author of the study and part of Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research and The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said in a press release. "And bacteria in the blood driving up inflammation could potentially contribute to poor mental health—creating a troubling loop."

To avoid leaky gut, the researchers suggest sticking to a diet high in lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. But the most important thing you can possibly do is get rid of the stress factor that causes it, particularly if that factor is constant hostility in your marriage.

For more on the health benefits of a good marriage, check out Why Marriage Is Great for Your Brain.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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