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Fermented foods reduce anxiety


Fermented vegetables, sauerkraut,

Credit: Kate Duncan

Society is a wonderful but daunting thing. Sure you get security, support and structure from society but then you also have to deal with societal fashions, freaks, and foibles. Every front has a back and for all that society liberates you from the need to forage for survival it also means you have to strive to belong and that striving is an effort that for some of people will create anxiety. Now a new study has shown that fermented food may be an answer to that social anxiety.

The study involved 700 university students (the favoured fodder for experimentation when a rat won’t do) who completed questionnaires as to food consumption, exercise frequency, personality, and also social anxiety levels. They also conducted genetic tests to establish if there was a genetic tendency to anxiety.

... People who consume fermented foods (like yoghurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut) have fewer social anxiety symptoms.

As well as looking at the food questionnaires to establish fermented food intake the researchers also looked at fruit and vegetable consumption in order to, along with exercise habits, control in their analysis for healthy lifestyles outside of fermented food intake.

The results showed that people who consume fermented foods (like yoghurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut) have fewer social anxiety symptoms especially if they have neurotic tendencies. They also found that exercise was linked to reduced social anxiety, but the fermented food link stood independent of exercise.

There might be an element here of predisposing personality in that self-possessed people might boldly reach for fermented food saying, I don’t give a damn if I smell like pickled cabbage, I’m going to eat this! Much more likely though, according to the researchers, is that the beneficial effects of fermented foods on gut bacteria have an impact on mood. This is probably via by products of good bacteria that enter the bloodstream and influence neurochemistry. The researchers say there is a definite mind-gut connection and fermented foods could be used alongside therapies such as medication in treating anxiety disorders.

So the good news is that next time you are feeling socially anxious you can just reach for a bowl of sauerkraut.



 

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.