Can Fermented Foods Make You More Sociable?

It may seem farfetched but, apparently, it’s not. Maybe taking kombucha to drink with friends is more than just at tasty treat. It could be a strategy for supporting healthy gut bacteria and reducing social anxiety.

In a recent study looking at young adults, an association was found between eating fermented foods and a reduction in social anxiety. Researchers found that amongst students who were prone to being anxious and hyper, those who ate fermented foods were less anxious overall and that included social circumstances. Less anxiety = more sociable. Who knew it could be that simple?


Gut Health and Anxiety

To be fair, this research backs up previous research that indicated better gut health with a healthy composition of good bacteria also lowered anxiety in both mice and human studies. In one study from McMaster University, mice treated with antibiotics became more antisocial. Once their normal intestinal good bacteria levels returned, their behaviour returned to normal. I bet you never thought of mice as being social but apparently, they like each other a lot.

It is also interesting to note that people who suffer from IBS, also often suffer from anxiety and depression, and we now know that IBS is a condition where sufferers have lower good bacteria levels. In another mouse study, researchers used germ-free mice who were genetically were less social and gave them bacteria from highly social mice. The mice became more active and daring.



 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria

If you suffer from social anxiety, maybe instead of medication, you need a good poop transplant from someone who is much more of a social butterfly. Yes, in case you did not know, there really are poop transplants and they are showing a lot of promise for a number of conditions.

Now if you are looking for something less messy and less complicated to help anxiety, then fermented foods could be an easy and far more appealing option. The benefits have been linked to the fact that fermented foods contain probiotics (good bacteria) and previously, studies have found that probiotics (in the form of supplements) have also been helpful with anxiety and depression.

Supplements are good but food is more fun. And I love recipes using fermented foods. A good recipe has a combination of flavours that the fermented food enhances. Many good quality fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, miso, kimchi and yogurt are available in health food and grocery stores.

Always look for them in the refrigerator section. Please note that any fermented food that is found on a shelf has been pasteurized, which means the beneficial bacteria and enzymes are dead.


Quick Fermented Food Ideas

  • Add raw sauerkraut to a salad. I like the carrot and ginger sauerkraut from Karthein’s Organic.
  • Add yogurt or kefir to a smoothie. Yogurt contains two strains of bacteria but kefir contains many more varieties. Kefir can be made with either water or milk. When choosing yogourt or kefir look for options without added sugar.
  • Make your own yogurt or kefir. I’ve made yogourt in my Instant Pot and in my slow cooker. Homemade yogurt isn’t heated so high as to kill the active bacteria.
  • Try cultured coconut, almonds or cashews as a dairy-free alternative to yogourt. I like Yoso coconut yogourt. 
  • Try miso soup on a cold day. Most miso is made with soy, but you can find other kinds. I like chickpea miso.
  • Add miso or sauerkraut to salad dressing or dip as seasoning.
  • Make your own fermented pickles or vegetables. Or you can buy them to use a condiments or a tasty addition to a salad or buddha bowl.
  • Top a buddha bowl or wrap with kimchi or sauerkraut.
  • Try kombucha as an alternative to soda or sweetened drinks. Look for varieties that don’t have any added sugar. Instead choose something sweetened with juice.


What are your favourite fermented foods?

Fermented foods, neuroticism, and social anxiety: An interaction model, Matthew R. Hilimire et al, Psychiatry Research, Volume 228, Issue 2, 15 August 2015, Pages 203–208 A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, A Venket Rao et al, Gut Pathog. 2009; 1: 6. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood , Laura Steenbergena et al, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Volume 48, August 2015, Pages 258–264 Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve, Javier A. Bravo et al, PNAS vol. 108 no. 38 16050–16055 Systematic Review of Intestinal Microbiota Transplantation (Fecal Bacteriotherapy) for Recurrent Clostridium difficile Infection , Ethan Gough et al, Clin Infect Dis. (2011) 53 (10): 994-1002.
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