It has been suggested that probiotic bacteria may help decrease feelings of anxiety. A recent study has found a link between eating more fermented foods that contain probiotic or good bacteria and a decrease in social anxiety, particularly in people with a high genetic risk of social anxiety.
Participants in the study included 710 university students, 445 of whom were women. All of the participants filled out a questionnaire that asked about their consumption of fermented foods over the past 30 days. It also asked how often they exercised, and their average consumption of fruit and vegetables.
After examining the data, the researchers found that higher intake of fermented foods was associated with fewer symptoms of social anxiety. The association was strongest in people who were high in neuroticism.
Increased exercise was also associated with decreased social anxiety.
This study was the first in what the researchers say will be a series of studies examining the association between actions in the gut and effects on the brain.
Researchers from the College of William and Mary conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on April 28, 2015, in Psychiatry Research.
Traditional fermented foods include kimchi and other pickled Asian vegetables. They can be found in Asian supermarkets and make a great addition to lunch or dinner. Previous studies suggest that fermented foods high in probiotics may also help with other forms of mental health.