Psychologists have traditionally looked to the mind to help people living with mental health issues. But a recent study led by William & Mary researchers shows that the stomach may also play a key role, suggesting that the old adage "you are what you eat" is more than a cliché.
W&M Psychology Professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell recently joined with University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Professor Jordan DeVylder to investigate a possible connection between fermented foods, which contain probiotics, and social anxiety. 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.
The journal Psychiatry Research accepted the study in April for publication in August.
"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."