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Social Anxiety? Fermented Foods May Help

  • Published on: 04 March, 2017
  • Last update: 24 August, 2017

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, remember my Uncle Marty’s ritual of eating 3 pickles every day when he gets home? It turns out this habit has huge benefits for everything from skin and gut health all the way to social anxiety!

Your Cravings Matter

Cravings happen for a reason. Although my uncle consciously chose this snack for pleasure rather than health, your body will SUB-consciously lead you to the flavors and plant compounds you need to address imbalances within the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each of the 5 flavors (salty, sweet, bitter, sour & spicy) relate to each of the 5 organ meridians, which I’ll discuss in my next post all about cravings!

In my family, we are prone to anxiety & fear, which relates to the {KIDNEY} meridian and is nourished by {SALTY} flavors – in moderation of course. It makes perfect sense that my uncle would reach for a salty food that’s packed with gut & brain-calming probiotics to keep his mind at ease.

Pickles & Probiotics

So just how powerful are the microbes in fermented foods like pickles? A study published in Psychiatry Research asked 710 college students to fill out questionnaires about their fermented food eating habits. The questionnaire asked about a variety of foods including: yogurt, kefir, miso soup, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, and kimchi. They also rated how worried (or neurotic) they tended to be, and disclosed whether or not they had social anxiety. Social anxiety is a disorder that fills you with a fear of being judged by others or embarrassed in front of them in ordinary situations.

In students with high degrees of neurotic feelings, eating more fermented food was linked to fewer symptoms of social anxiety. “Probiotics reduce inflammation of the gut,” said lead researcher Matthew Hilimire. “Because anxiety is often accompanied or intensified by gastrointestinal symptoms, reducing gut inflammation helps alleviate those symptoms.”

Probiotics have also been shown to improve the body’s response to stress, and a healthy (or unhealthy!) stress response is highly linked to mental health disorders, such as social anxiety.

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