Fermented Foods Associated with Lower Social Anxiety


A recent study finds that fermented foods may be associated with lower social anxiety. Fermented foods contain probiotics, which may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms.

Have you ever experienced “butterflies” in your stomach or had a “gut feeling”? The enteric nervous system has been referred to as the “second brain”. It comprises of millions of neurons in the gastrointestinal tract, managing many aspects of digestion. These neurons produce neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a significant role in your mood. In fact, more than 90% of the body’s serotonin exists in the gut.

Probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeasts, are thought to help regulate the gut. They help to increase the “good” bacteria and decrease the “bad” bacteria in your digestive system. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are just two common types of probiotics.

Researchers at William & Mary conducted a survey and personality assessments among about 700 college students. The questionnaire asked about eating and exercise habits. The main finding was that students who ate more fermented foods experienced less social anxiety symptoms; however, this relationship was modified by a personality trait, neuroticism. Thus, those who scored higher on a neuroticism scale were found to have a stronger relationship between eating fermented foods and reduced social anxiety symptoms. Another finding was that more exercise was associated with reduced social anxiety.

Below is a list of common fermented foods:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Miso soup
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi

More research has to be conducted to further investigate the link between social anxiety and fermented foods; however, it may be worth experimenting with fermented foods if you suffer from social anxiety. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be an efficacious treatment for social anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy addresses the emotional, behavioral and cognitive aspects of social anxiety.