Increasingly, the prevalence of studies on gut health and how this relates to our overall wellbeing is gaining more traction – and for a very good reason. Research has shown that controlling your gut health through various foods can have huge effects on everything from acne, menopause and autism, to depression and anxiety. Whilst nutritionists will cry from the heavens that this knowledge has been paramount to their field for, well – ever, the rest of the world is only just now catching up with this incredible news. Gut health is everywhere, and rightfully so.
For social anxiety disorders in particular, an increasing focus on gut health has meant that some patients are able to have more control over feelings of embarrassment, of being overwhelmed, as well as fears of being judged. Used alongside traditional therapy, foods that focus on restructuring the gut have had wonderful effects on sufferers of the anxiety.
The team at the College of William and Mary, where assistant professor Matthew Hilimire lead research into 710 students, looked into how much fermented foods effected the levels of anxiety in students who had identified as having experienced some level of anxiety.
The questionnaire asked about the existing presence of a variety of foods in their diets, including: yogurt, kefir, soy milk, miso, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, pickles, kimchi, tempeh and microalgae.
Whilst Hilimire states that not all of these foods contain the live, active cultures that some yogurts contain, they still contain the good bacteria that can heal the gut.
“Probiotics also reduce inflammation of the gut… because anxiety is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, reducing gut inflammation helps alleviate those symptoms,” said Hilimire.
Students who included larger amounts of fermented foods in their diets were found to have significant reductions in their social anxiety symptoms.
The researchers also took into consideration the amount of exercise undertaken by the participants as well as their previous diets.
“Probiotics have also been shown to modify the body’s response to stress, and stress response is highly linked to mental health disorders, such as social anxiety.”
Whilst the study will lead to greater and more comprehensive research into gut health and anxiety disorders, Bonnie Kaplan, PhD states that these findings “have implications for broad population health.”
Click here to view recipes for DIY pickling and begin to heal and improve your gut bacteria with simple alterations to your diet.