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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 October 15, 2018

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Extremely Tired And How to Fix It

“Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. When tiredness is persistent, however — when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get— it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here’re some of the most common causes of fatigue:

1. Dehydration

If you want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions.

If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energising oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

You cannot cure this crash with caffeine – the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

2. Lack Of Exercise

A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of our everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

3. A Poor Diet

The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats. The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by pizza or cheese.

Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

4. Skipping Breakfast

Physician Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan advises that eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

Ingesting food signals to your brain that there is enough food available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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Some great ideas for a healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

Or if meal-prepping isn’t your think, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit: 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

5. Poor Quality Of Sleep

We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed. But did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is.

TO feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time. And before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to prepare for a restful night.

Read more about how to develop a routine that will get you better sleep: Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

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6. Sleep Apnea (A Person’s Airways Get Blocked off While They Are Asleep)

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while they are asleep. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing as well as the use of a special breathing machine to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

7. Depression

Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating.

Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling and lifestyle changes like stress management to help manage this condition. You can take a look at these 15 Ways To Overcome Depression And Sadness.

Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

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8. Hypothyroidism

If a person has hypothyroidism, their thyroid gland does not produce adequate levels of these important hormones— and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain and feeling cold all the time.

Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills like Synthroid. Check here for signs of having a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

9. Anemia

People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements or B-12 shots.

While here are some drinks you can try to relieve symptoms of Anemia, it’s best to do a blood test and consult your doctor in case of any hidden medical conditions.

10. Cancer

While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surround tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

Diagnosis is usually by biopsy and treatment often focusses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery— and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

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