There's A "Lovebug Effect" Happening In Your Microbiome

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Young Woman On A Rock With The Beautiful Scenery

We're learning more and more about gut health every day here at mindbodygreen, from how it influences immunity to mood to digestion and more. It's safe to say there's no shortage of benefits to maintaining a healthy gut, but researchers are now considering another surprising benefit—and they're calling it the Lovebug Effect.

Nope, not the romantic kind of lovebug; according to research from Flinders University and the University of Sheffield, microbes in our gut could be influencing us to get out into nature.

And given what we know about the healing effects of nature and biodiversity, this could be just one of many ways our guts are constantly fighting disease.

What is the "Lovebug Effect"?

While still a hypothesis, the Lovebug Effect is based on our knowledge of gut health and the gut-brain axis. We already knew the gut influences behavior, and this expands on that knowledge.

Initially, the object of the research was to find whether more outdoor time in the early years of life would also lead to more outdoor time later in life. Humans have developed something referred to as "biophilic drive" or "a tendency to affiliate and connect with nature," which likely arose as an evolutionary adaptation.

The "Lovebug Effect," then, is the idea that our biophilic drive is influenced by the microbiome. And researcher Jake Robinson, Ph.D., notes that this theory could change the way we look at and understand the need for nature, as well as a healthy gut.

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Why does it matter?

"By altering our brain chemistry, microbes may be able to manipulate our behavior to influence the food choices we make or the environments we visit," Robinson says. "Part of this process could involve our decisions to spend time in nature, that is, to be [surrounded by] invisible biodiversity and phytochemicals that are potentially beneficial to our health."

And what's more, this knowledge (if proven), could have disease-fighting implications. After all, we know rates of allergies and asthma have been on the rise as humans have become further removed from the natural world. Rates of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke are continuing to climb as well, with chronic inflammation often being an underlying issue.

But we know getting some nature time can help both of those things: "Our diminishing connection with the natural world is thought to contribute to a rising trend in non-communicable diseases, such as chronic inflammatory conditions and allergies," adds Martin Breed, Ph.D.

There are so many great health-conscious reasons to get outside. We know it's good for our gut, which affects everything from confidence to energy levels. It's pretty cool to think our bodies are aware, too—and they want us to get those benefits. Get started with a little "earthing," aka going barefoot on the ground.

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