How Probiotics May Help Ease Social Anxiety

What you need to know about probiotics.

Now a new study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research shows that consuming these “good” bacteria in fermented foods may also help curb social anxiety. The study, from College of William and Mary, included more than 700 students (mostly women) enrolled in an intro psychology class. Each participant filled out a questionnaire about his or her consumption of fermented foods, like yogurt or sauerkraut. They also answered personality questionnaires designed to tease out patterns of neuroticism (a personality trait) and social anxiety. In the end, researchers found that people with neurotic personalities were more likely to experience social anxiety, and that eating fermented foods was tied to a lower likelihood of symptoms.

A human study from UCLA found that women who received a probiotic-rich yogurt rather than a placebo experienced brain changes that reduced their emotional responses to images of angry or frightened faces. Scientists say these effects are a result of a “communication highway” between the gut and the brain, and show that gut bacteria are powerful brain influencers.

While much of this research is still in its infancy, bolstering your diet by incorporating these four types of probiotic-rich foods is an easy (and tasty) way to take advantage of the potential benefits.

quicklist: 1 category: How Probiotics May Help Ease Social Anxiety title: Sauerkraut url: text:

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quicklist: 2 category: How Probiotics May Help Ease Social Anxiety title: Kimchi url: text: Add this Korean staple, typically made from fermented cabbage, radishes, or cucumbers, to omelets, veggie salads, whole grain rice or noodles, or use kimchi as a topping for tacos, pizza, or “clean” lean proteins, like seafood, poultry, or beans.

quicklist: 3 category: How Probiotics May Help Ease Social Anxiety title: Yogurt url: text: Make it sweet or savory. Use plain yogurt, seasoned with garlic, black pepper and herbs as a dip, or the base of a dressing for slaw, potatoes, or chilled veggie sides, like dilled cucumbers. Sweeten yogurt with fruit, along with herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, or mint. Add nuts and whole grains, like rolled oats, or cooked, chilled quinoa, to make muesli, or layered parfaits.

quicklist: 4 category: How Probiotics May Help Ease Social Anxiety title: Kefir url: text:

Drink kefir straight up, whip it into smoothies, or stir in add-ins, like fruit and shaved dark chocolate, and pour into popsicle molds. Plain kefir can also be seasoned in savory ways and used for sauces and dressing. If you don’t eat dairy you can find plant-based versions of both yogurt and kefir.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.