Can Fermented Foods Make You More Sociable?

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

THE GUT AND BRAIN CONNECTION

Did you know that there is an intricate relationship between our brain and our gut?

Did you know that our gut is also known as our “2nd BRAIN”? This relationship is at the centre of our overall health and is called the gut-brain axis.


What happens in our head has a lot to do with what’s happening in our gut. Both play a very important part in our mood and emotional well being.

Our brains consist of 100 billion neurons and our guts consist of 500 million neurons and they are connected through the central nervous system.


I have personally suffered with anxiety over the years and most recently decided to work on my gut issues. I started off with a good probiotic that is formulated with the bacterial strains that help maintain a healthy mental health. I also implemented kombucha and saukerkraut into my daily diet and I have noticed a great improvement.


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.

Check out this recipe using fermented saukerkraut:

AVOCADO SAUERKRAUT BOWL

(Makes 2 servings)


Cut the avocado in half and scoop out the fruit, cutting it into chunks. Place it in a bowl along with the salad greens.


In a small bowl, mix together cumin, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil and drizzle over the avocado and greens.


Top with sauerkraut and toss together. Divide in half and serve on two separate salad plates. Delish!



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.

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