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What your armpits say about your health

deodorant_gut_healthRaise your hand if you’ve spent the past few years becoming completely obsessed with your gut health. [Editor’s note: The entire Well+Good staff raised its hands.]

You care about properly feeding your belly’s bacteria and keeping them happy because, as it turns out, what happens in your gut directly relates to what happens in your life.

Well, we’ve got a new body-and-bacterial obsession for you: your armpits.

A new study suggests that wearing deodorant or antiperspirant can actually predict what kind of bugs live (and, yum, breed) in your armpits, Time reports. In other words, they can seriously affect your gut health by disrupting your microbiome.

Scientist Julie Horvath, head of the genomics and microbiology research laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, wanted to find out if deodorant and antiperspirant were linked to different patterns of bacterial growth in the armpits.

Turns out, when we use deodorant or antiperspirant, we’re also affecting the type and amount of bacteria on our armpits, she told Time. At the beginning of the study, antiperspirant wearers had fewer microbes—and deodorant users had more—than people who didn’t use products. But after a few days of going product-less, the bacteria colonies were all fairly similar.

“From a lot of other microbiome studies, we know that variation is important and probably healthier. There’s so much more we need to learn,” Horvath, a longtime user of clinical-strength antiperspirant, told Time.

So what is Horvath wearing now? At the end of her research, she ditched her antiperspirant in favor of a aluminum-free natural deodorant. Which, a) welcome to the club! And b) makes us wonder if all-natural deodorant is the new kombucha.

While you ponder the microbes living in your pits, check out a few of our favorite natural options. —Alison Feller 

While you’re going the all-natural route, we’ve rounded up the best shampoos and conditioners—and low-maintenance natural beauty essentials for busy (or lazy) women. #Nojudgment.   

(Photo: Larkin Clark for Well+Good)