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A Sour Solution for a Sweet Life

Eating fermented foods can reduce social anxiety

Author Nicholas DeRenzo

factA study published this summer in the journal Psychiatry Research suggests that the phrases “you are what you eat” and “go with your gut” may be more than mere rhetorical flourishes. Psychology researchers from the College of William and Mary and the University of Maryland recently polled 710 Intro to Psych students about their intake of fermented foods, such as yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi—foods rich in probiotics, or good gut bacteria—over the previous 30 days. They found that those who ate more of these live-cultured foods displayed significantly fewer traits of social anxiety or neuroticism, such as sweaty palms and increased heart rate. While the exact reason for this correlation is yet to be definitively determined, the findings support an earlier study, which showed that mice that were fed probiotic foods saw an increase in the neurotransmitter GABA, which acts much like anti-anxiety medications such as the benzodiazepines Valium and Xanax. In other words, a happy gut makes a happy mind. The takeaway: Before popping a pill, consider popping a pickle.

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