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Can pickles cure your social anxiety? The experts say, “yes!”

in Potpourri by

Crowds put you on edge. Walking down a crowded sidewalk can make you anxious. Even hanging out with a large group of your peers might be a little uncomfortable. Well, maybe the problem is that you’re not eating enough pickles.

Yeah, you read that right.


Pickles and other fermented foods offer a variety of health benefits and a recent study – as cited by Rebecca Rupp for National Geographic – indicates a link between fermented vegetables and the easing of social anxiety. According to the study, published in the August issue of Psychiatry Research, foods like pickles, sauerkraut and yogurt specifically target a person’s neuroticism. William and Mary psychologist and co-author of the study Matthew Hillimire said:

“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.”

Maybe it's time to give kimchi a whirl.
Maybe it’s time to give kimchi a whirl.

So, when 710 college students report less anxiety and social phobias, you have to give props to the pickle. Even those who suffered from significant shyness did better in social situations after eating more fermented food. Are you surprised?

Alex Hozven, co-owner of the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, California (you may have seen the store featured on Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern) isn’t surprised at all. When we asked her what she thought about the findings in this study, she offered a very logical explanation:

“It might seem absurd at first but if you think about it, it makes sense. The smoother and more functional your digestive system is, the less socially anxious you’ll probably be. It’s in how your gut and brain communicate with each other and the neurotransmitters that flow between them; it just makes sense that the chemicals from a healthy gut would make it up to your brain.”

figured it all out too late. He got his degree in Psychology and realized years later that he wanted to write for a living. He now has 16+ years of digital and print journalism experience and currently entertains an ongoing love affair with the greatest literary classics (he savored every page of "War and Peace" and thought it could've been longer, and he will finish Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"). He also loves crossword puzzles, tennis, the outdoors, and working on numerous novels. One of these days, one will get picked up...and when it does, the world will make a little more sense.

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