Can Fermented Foods Make You More Sociable?

It may seem farfetched but, apparently, it’s not.

I love fermented foods! I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve always loved it, it was a slow burn relationship, rather than love at first taste. In my defense, the first fermented food I tasted was while I was growing up, and it was dried fermented cassava granules (garri) rehydrated in water like a cold cereal, and it was so sour that my cheeks were sucked in and remained that was for what seemed like hours! It put me right off, but I love food and kept trying. 

As I got older and more adventurous with foods, I tried yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and a host of other delicious fermented foods and drinks. My absolute favourite has got to be kombucha and kimchi. I LOVE kimchi and eat it with almost everything; I’ve been known to eat it on its own. Delicious!

Some fermented foods
Kombucha

I don’t know about you, but when I don’t have any fermented foods for a couple of days (which is rare), then I don’t feel like myself, and find that I tend to get grumpy easily. Perhaps, I’m addicted to the stuff? What a thing to be addicted to though!

My kids love fermented foods especially sauerkraut, and always ask for it with their dinner. I notice that they always seem calmer when they have fermented foods regularly. Is this a coincidence? I think not!

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?

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 behavior 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.

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 extremely popular, 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 the recipes I have created 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, so do avoid them.

Are you Suffering From Anxiety?

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues like anxiety, it is important to seek help. You can also find a functional medicine practitioner to find and treat the root cause of the issue. As you’ve heard and read having anxiety or other mental health problems isn’t a simple thing to get rid of. The underlying cause(s) is specific to each individual and should be treated as such.

Anxiety and other mental health disorders are serious issues, and can be greatly improved by using a whole-body approach. This is why it’s important to talk to your functional medicine practitioner when you’re experiencing these types of problems. If you’re in the Preston, Chorley or Blackburn areas, click here to contact me. I look forward to helping you on your journey to whole-body health.

Have you tried any fermented foods or drinks? How did you get on with them? Do leave a comment and feel free to share your favourite fermented foods and drinks.

References

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.

2 thoughts on “Can Fermented Foods Make You More Sociable?

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