We’ll be celebrating National Pickle Day on November 14. The day was created to celebrate the pickle as one of the world’s favorite fermented foods. Pickles are hot right now, with the number of pickle-eaters projected to proliferate to more than 250 million by 2023!
The latest research suggests that there may be even more to pickles than their taste. In what could be science’s weirdest correlation yet, eating pickles might have a positive impact on your anxiety, relationships and health. No, this isn’t some strange pickle-eating bonding session, nor a cult based around the benefits of fermented foods. Here’s why pickles can improve our anxiety.
Forget about probiotics, it’s time to eat pickles! Pickles are high in probiotics, an important component of digestive health. This has a strong link to social anxiety and neurosis, according to a 2019 study published in ‘Psychiatry Research.’
The research, conducted by scientists from the College of William and Mary and University of Maryland, tasked 710 college students with self-reporting on how many fermented foods they consumed and any symptoms of social phobia, neuroticism, or anxiety they experienced afterwards.
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.
The benefits of fermented foods
While it may seem like common knowledge feelings affect 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 possible reason 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, with previous studies finding mice with their guts stripped of microbes are extremely anxious.
Researchers also guess the probiotics found in pickles boost the production of GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that has an effect similar to anti-anxiety medications.
Fermented foods may have even more benefits as well. They can also aid in digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system function. The microbes in our digestive tracts are remarkably sensitive, so much so that a single round of antibiotics can throw off our microbiomes.
Our gut health is more important than we ever thought, and fermented foods give them a big boost. On National Pickle Day, make sure to make pickles a part of your daily diet!