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The Mind-Body Link: Eating Fermented Foods May Help Anxiety

New research indicates that fermented foods high in probiotics may help to alleviate symptoms of social anxiety. As it turns out, “You are what you eat,” may be more than a proverb.

June 17, 2015

Social anxiety impacts two to 13 percent of the U.S. population — often including teens and adults with ADHD. It’s a serious condition that makes it stressful to interact in social situations, and has most commonly been treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises. Now, new research suggests that changes in diet may help to alleviate symptoms.

A study, to be published in the August issue of Psychiatry Research, found that young adults who consumed more fermented foods high in probiotics — like sauerkraut and kimchi — were less likely to experience social anxiety symptoms, even when those study participants were in high-risk groups. The researchers surveyed 700 students about their eating and exercise habits over 30 days. They found that people who had a high genetic risk for social anxiety disorder and neuroticism experienced the biggest reduction in anxiety from dietary choices. An additional finding showed that exercise also reduced social anxiety.

This study is the first in a series exploring the connection between gut health and mood. Scientists suspect that the probiotics found in fermented foods are responsible for improvements in anxiety, but have not yet established causality. The study suggests that adding exercise and supplements to a treatment plan are low-risk interventions could make a real difference.

Learn more about natural strategies to heal the brain in a free webinar from Dr. Amen that will explore ways to treat ADHD with supplements, dietary changes, exercise, therapy, and more.

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