Start spooning out the sauerkraut: A new study finds that fermented foods may play a role in mediating social anxiety.

The digestive system is involved in more than just processing food; it’s linked to mood, emotions, and more. Researchers have only recently begun to understand the true importance of the bacteria that live in our bodies, and it seems that fermented foods might interact with the human microbiome in a way that reduces our most neurotic tendencies. 

Fermented foods contain live bacteria, or probiotics, which influence the makeup of the bacterial colonies that live in your gut. In a study published in Psychiatry Research, regular consumption of fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi predicted lower social anxiety, at least in young people.  

The researchers, from the College of William & Mary and the University of Maryland, studied 700 university psychology students through questionnaires about their eating habits, exercise regimens, neurotic personality traits, and social anxiety levels. They found that people who had higher genetic predisposition to anxiety (as shown through neuroticism) but ate a lot of fermented food had fewer symptoms of social anxiety than those who didn’t eat a lot of kimchi. 

Previous research has suggested that probiotics could be a potential treatment for depression and anxiety disorders, but this indicates they could also help with lower levels of anxiety, too. Now don’t forget to eat your pickled vegetables before you hit up that networking event. 

[h/t: Medical Daily]