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Eating Kimchi Helps With Social Anxiety Disorder, Science Says

Eating Kimchi Helps With Social Anxiety Disorder, Science Says

If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, you know how hard it can be just to show up to things: a work happy hour, your friend’s birthday party, or even your own graduation celebration.

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder are debilitating—not just socially, but emotionally and physically as well. The fear of judgment and constant rumination on your perceived faults is exhausting. The cycle of anxiety prevents you from putting yourself out there and from building real connections with people around you.

Even though social anxiety can make you feel different and alone, you aren’t. According to the Social Anxiety Association, social phobia is the third most prevalent mental health issue today. In fact, national studies show that around 7% of the population suffers from social anxiety at any given time.

If these statistics surprise you, you’ll be even more surprised to learn what potential treatment a recent study has found for addressing social anxiety. (Hint: it’s red, spicy, fermented, and Korean.)

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Why Kimchi?

If you guessed kimchi, you’re right! But why would researchers choose to study kimchi?

Well, in this study, Professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell of William & Mary and Assistant Professor Jordan DeVylde of the University of Maryland sought to examine the effect that diet can have on mental health. They chose fermented foods like kimchi, miso, and yogurt because they are naturally high in probiotics, small micro-organisms like yeast and bacteria that are believed to have wide-ranging health benefits.

To look into the relationship between probiotics and mental health, these researchers asked nearly 700 undergraduate students at William & Mary how much fermented food they had eaten in the last 30 days. At the same time, the students were tested for the so-called Big Five personality traits and the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory.

Researchers then collected and analyzed student responses for any correlation between social anxiety and probiotic intake.

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So What Does the Study Say About Social Anxiety Disorder?

The results of this exciting study show that students who eat more fermented foods have less social anxiety. The results were most clear for students who rank highly on the neurotic personality trait scale, which implies that fermented foods most strongly affect those who have the most neurotic tendencies.

Scientific experts are still not certain how exactly probiotics work to reduce anxiety and alleviate other mental health concerns. Several studies suggest that probiotics reduce gut inflammation and leakage and increase GABA, a naturally-produced neurotransmitter that lessens feelings of anxiety.

After the results of this study, though, scientists will definitely want to continue researching how probiotics can have such an incredible effect on the mind.

Why Is This Important?

This study adds to the growing body of research on the surprising ways that gut bacteria can affect both physical and mental health. In the past, research into probiotics focused primarily on digestive benefits, but this study emphasizes the important role that probiotics play outside of the gut.

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Although this study indicates a possible link between fermented foods and social anxiety disorder, it’s important to note that this study was observational in nature. In other words, though the study shows that fermented foods and social anxiety are correlated, it’s impossible to state that fermented foods caused the reduced levels of social anxiety.

Next, these three researchers plan to carry out an experimental study, which would have the power to prove that probiotics actually reduce social anxiety. As Dr. Hilimire notes, this is very exciting because it would open doors for those who suffer from social anxiety disorder, allowing doctors to “augment more traditional therapies (like medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two) with fermented foods – dietary changes – and exercise, as well.”

Tips for Incorporating Kimchi Into Your Diet

Are you interested in trying fermented foods to help relieve your social anxiety? Read these five helpful tips for adding more probiotic-rich fermented foods into your diet.

If you are facing digestive pain or severe social anxiety, always seek advice from your physician or mental health professional first.

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1. Choose naturally fermented foods.

Naturally fermented foods have the highest concentration of probiotics. Look for yogurts that have live or “active” cultures and pickles that have been naturally fermented without vinegar.

2. Do not cook fermented foods.

Because high temperatures kill the good bacteria that provides the probiotic punch, avoid cooking any fermented foods or mixing them into hot dishes.

3. Make your own kimchi!

One way to be sure your kimchi is made the natural way is to make it yourself. Try OneGreenPlanet’s vegan kimchi recipe, or make another fermented dish like fermented red cabbage and apple. Both recipes are easy to prepare; the hardest part is waiting for the delicious foods to ferment!

4. Eat fermented foods in moderation.

Like anything else, eat your fermented foods in moderation and don’t start out too strong. Alana Sugar at Whole Foods suggests eating up to 1/2 cup of a fermented food every day or several times a week, depending on how your digestive tract reacts.

5. Try something new.

If you aren’t into kimchi or if you just want to add some variety to your diet, don’t worry! There are hundreds of fermented foods you can try. Top choices include kombucha, cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso. Try combining them in interesting ways, too, like Prevention’s mouthwatering blueberry-miso smoothie.

Featured photo credit: Foodio via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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