New research suggests that a diet rich in fermented foods and beverages may help curb social anxiety in young adults, especially those who are highly neurotic.
The effect is likely to be due to the probiotics produced during the fermentation process.
The study was published in the August 15 issue of Psychiatry Researchand is availableonline.
The study included 710 students enrolled in introductory courses in psychology at the College of William and Mary. The participants completed questionnaires about fermented food consumption, neuroticism, and social anxiety.
The questionnaire asked about a variety of foods, including yogurt; kefir or food or beverages that contain yogurt; soy milk; miso soup; sauerkraut; dark chocolate; juices that contain microalgae; pickles; tempeh; and kimchi.
A higher frequency of fermented food consumption correlated with fewer symptoms of social anxiety in students.
Probiotics reduce the permeability of the gut, so harmful substances don't “leak out”. Probiotics also reduce inflammation of the gut. Because anxiety is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, reducing gut inflammation helps alleviate those symptoms.
Probiotics have also been shown to modify the body's response to stress, and stress response is highly linked to mental health disorders, such as social anxiety.
In addition, consumption of fermented milk has been shown to reduce the brain's response to negative facial expressions. By reducing the brain's response to negative social stimuli, social anxiety symptoms might be reduced.
Megan Brooks Social Anxiety? Fermented Foods May Help. Medscape. Jun 15, 2015.
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