People who suffer from social anxiety might want to get familiar with fermented foods. A study led by researchers at William and Mary found that college students who eat such foods — think yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi — report fewer social anxiety symptoms.
The researchers suspect it's all about the "good" bacteria, or probiotics, in the food. “It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety,” says a lead researcher in a post at Science Daily. "I think that it is absolutely fascinating that the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind.”
More specifically, they think the bacteria trigger a neurotransmitter called GABA, which has an effect similar to that of anti-anxiety drugs, reports The Telegraph.
In their study, the researchers surveyed 700 undergrads about their eating habits and well-being. A post at Bustle cautions that "actual experiments — not just surveys" will need to follow in order to confirm the findings. But "in the meantime, at least we all have an excuse to eat more pickles."
Just note that not all pickles or sauerkraut have probiotics, so those who want to indulge should check the label for "live cultures," advises the Oregonian. (This study is also just one of the latest to suggest that our guts have a real effect on our mental health.)