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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 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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