Why Your Bacteria Might Be The Reason You're Still Single

Photo: Bordovski Yauheni / Shutterstock
woman wearing face mask

There are so many reasons why people break up. Sometimes someone cheats, or there's a moment of realization that you don't see the world the same way, or maybe in the saddest of terms, love just dies.

While those tend to be the most common reasons why people split, another reason, one that you may not have heard of, is that your microbes just weren't a match. That's right; your bacteria may have had their eye on someone else.

According to research, whom we're attracted to is more often than not dictated to us by our immune response to another's microbes, those pesky little bits of bacteria that live inside us and steer our health into either good water or bad ones.

For example, a person who smells heavenly to you can smell like total gut rot to someone else simply because of the microbes within each person being at odds. I mean, how phenomenal is that? As a germaphobe, I find all of this news to be stunning, and, going forward, am using it as a reason as to why past relationships came to an end.

I talked to Jason Tetro, microbiologist, Bio-K advisory board member, and author of The Germ Code, about how microbes affect our attraction. Here's what he had to say. Your mind will be blown.

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Here is why your bacteria might be the reason you're still single:

1. What senses do bacteria affect? Just smell or more than that?

Our bodies can notice more than smell when it comes to bacteria. Though odors are the first response, we can actually taste them through their byproducts. For example, the umami flavor is primarily due to lactic acid, which is formed by bacteria such as the lactobacillus.

2. Can people alter their microbes? If so, what would be the best and easiest way to do so?

People alter their microbes regularly as a result of diet, lifestyle, and geography. The easiest way to alter microbes is with antibiotics although it is not for the better. Probiotics can help to restore the balance of the microbiota, or microbe population in our gut, and improve overall health.

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3. Is it true that if the microbes aren't in sync, kissing can make someone feel ill? Why is this?

It's due to the immune response, which is involved in everything from the prevention of infection to allergies. For example, studies have shown a kiss from someone who has recently eaten peanuts can induce an allergic reaction in peanut allergy sufferers.

This is due to the rapid nature of the immune system. When we kiss deeply, some 80 million bacteria are transferred. With that much, the immune system will react. If the bacteria are recognized and liked, then the response is one of happiness, joy, and even addiction. But if they are not aligned, then like an allergic response, the person will feel uneasy and even defensive. When that happens, it's best to move on.

4. Can people be a match, but over time fall out of interest with each other because microbes change?

Absolutely. Depending on the way people live, eat, exercise, and perform hygiene, the microbiota can change over time. If this happens in one and not another, this could lead to a problem and possibly an eventual demise. To prevent this, the best way to help is to keep the microbiomes aligned using bacteria common to both. The best way to do this is through the use of probiotics.

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5. What are other signs that the microbes are in conflict with each other besides not being crazy about a person's smell or not feeling it when there's a kiss? Can it result in anything else — like a rash or something?

There have been studies looking at the transfer of microbes from one person to another — and mice — and some longer-term consequences can happen. This includes weight gain, depression, and possibly allergies. The research is still sparse in this area but the signs show microbes can have both a short-term and long-term impact.

6. Is it common to come across someone whose microbes your body doesn't like or is it a rare thing?

It's probably more common to find someone whose microbes do not align with yours, especially in a diverse world.

We all have a unique microbiome and as a result, the chance of finding someone with a perfect alignment is not easy. However when you do, through scientific experimentation such as "spin the bottle" or another less controlled field world like out at the bar, the best option is to find a way to harmonize with that person and then keep it.

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Amanda Chatel is a writer who divides her time between NYC and Paris. She's a regular contributor to Bustle and Glamour, with bylines at Harper's Bazaar, The Atlantic, Forbes, Livingly, Mic, The Bolde, Huffington Post, and others.