Eating Fermented Foods Can Help Trump Society Anxiety

Fermentation has brought us beautiful creations. Beer, sauerkraut, kimchi, soy sauce, pickles and kombucha all come to mind — and the list goes on. As if you needed another reason to indulge in these delicacies, a recent study shows that consuming fermented foods can help combat social-anxiety disorders in young adults.

So long, crippling fear of being too awkward to function!

College of William and Mary professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell and University of Maryland School of Social Work assistant professor Jordan DeVylder found that the probiotics in fermented foods increased a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA — the key to lessening anxiety.

According to Hilimire, GABA is "mimicked by anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines," which is found in drugs such as Xanax and Valium. Just think of pickles as your over-the-counter happy pill.

The study measured the amount of social-anxiety symptoms in the 700 students surveyed in terms of neuroticism and found that the correlation between higher consumption of fermented foods and less symptoms was strongest when neuroticism was present. In other words, eating more fermented foods so you can be sociable at parties works best if you're neurotic.

The research lays a foundation for future research into if and how fermented foods correlate with symptoms of autism and Asperger's syndrome.