In what could be science’s weirdest correlation yet, eating pickles might have a positive impact on your anxiety, relationships and health.

This isn’t some strange pickle-eating bonding session, nor a cult based around on the benefits of fermented foods.

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Instead, what is happening here comes down to simple nutrition: pickles are high in probiotics, an important component of digestive health.

Which, as it turns out, has a strong link to social anxiety and neurosis, according to a study published last year in Psychiatry Research.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

The research, conducted by scientists from College of William and Mary and University of Maryland, tasked 710 college students with self-reporting how much fermented foods they ate and any symptoms of social phobia, neuroticism, or anxiety they experienced.

They found strong evidence there was a negative correlation between social anxiety experienced and fermented foods consumed; essentially, eat more pickles, feel more at ease.

Subjects who especially struggled with neuroticism reported decreases in fear of social situations and shyness after upping their fermented food consumption.

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While it may seem like common knowledge feelings have an effect on the digestive system— anxiety makes us nauseous, depression lowers our appetites— the reverse of this is still very new. Though the correlation between digestive health and mental health is strong, scientists are still unsure exactly why it’s present at all.

The most viable contender currently is the microbiome, the population of bacteria that lives inside all our guts, keeping it healthy and in tip-top shape.

It turns out there’s evidence to support this: Smithsonian Magazine cites previous studies conducted with mice found that mice with their guts stripped of microbes are extremely anxious. 

They exhibited increased levels of stress hormone cortisol and lowered levels of brain-derived neutropic factor (BDNF), a protein linked to depression in humans.

National Geographic reports researchers guess that probiotics boost the production of GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that has an effect similar to anti-anxiety medications.

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Fermented foods may have even more benefits as well. As the Washington Post reports, fermented foods can also aid in digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system function.

What this all boils down to can be summed up pretty simply…

Your gut health is more important than we ever thought, and fermented foods give them a big boost.

The microbes in your digestive tract are remarkably sensitive; a single round of antibiotics can throw your microbiome.

So if you find yourself with a case of nerves, try some kimchi. Your gut will thank you for it.

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Here’s a delicious recipe to make your own fermented dill pickles.

Do you know any benefits of fermented foods?

I’d love to hear them, so by all means — SHARE them below!