Could this be true? Eating fermented foods linked to fewer social anxiety symptoms? Fifteen years ago before the world of bacteria could be explored with state of the art genetic tests, this would have sounded too woo-woo. And now we say - could be. Next the researchers will test an experimental version of this study to see if they find causation. Right now all we can say they are linked or that we see an association.
But note that exercise also reduced social anxiety (this was also a finding in other studies). From Science Daily:
A possible connection between fermented foods, which contain probiotics, and social anxiety symptoms, is the focus of recent study...The researchers found that young adults who eat more fermented foods have fewer social anxiety symptoms, with the effect being greatest among those at genetic risk for social anxiety disorder as measured by neuroticism. "It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety," said Hilimire. "I think that it is absolutely fascinating that the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind."
The researchers designed a questionnaire that was included in a mass testing tool administered in the university's Introduction to Psychology courses during the fall 2014 semester; about 700 students participated. The questionnaire asked students about the fermented foods over the previous 30 days; it also asked about exercise frequency and the average consumption of fruits and vegetables so that the researchers could control for healthy habits outside of fermented food intake, said Hilimire.
"The main finding was that individuals who had consumed more fermented foods had reduced social anxiety but that was qualified by an interaction by neuroticism. What that means is that that relationship was strongest amongst people that were high in neuroticism," Hilimire said.The secondary finding was that more exercise was related to reduced social anxiety.
"However, if we rely on the animal models that have come before us and the human experimental work that has come before us in other anxiety and depression studies, it does seem that there is a causative mechanism," said Hilimire. "Assuming similar findings in the experimental follow-up, what it would suggest is that you could augment more traditional therapies (like medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two) with fermented foods -- dietary changes -- and exercise, as well."