Pry open the next MacDonald's Big Mac or Cheeseburger and you might find two pathetic looking slices of pickles - all shrivelled up and sad. When I was younger, I would pick them up with a disgusted look on my face to toss them into my brother's burger.
Little did I know, that little piece of vegetable can work wonders in calming any anxiety before a major exam.
It's estimated that around 7% of the world's population is suffers from anxiety. One of the most common forms is social anxiety - triggered by social situations such as public speaking, going for job interviews, or even interacting with strangers at a party. For some people, it can be so bad that it becomes a crippling fear.
The good news is that there is a long list of suggested ways to combat anxiety, from seeing a therapist, to taking medication, to gradually exposing yourself to a situation that makes you anxious a little bit at a time until you have built up some form of tolerance to it.
Research has shown that there is another way to combat anxiety that may be a safer alternative to prescription medicine, and if you like to eat pickles, you're in luck! Even better news, you can stock it up in your fridge.
Fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi, and pickles contain probiotics that seem to act in much the same way as some anti-anxiety medications do. They alter GABA - the brain’s neurotransmitters that trigger anxiety. According to research from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, people who regularly ate fermented foods were less likely to suffer from social anxiety, even though their scores on the neurotic scale suggests that they should actually be more prone to it.
As weird as it sounds, it’s building on something that has already been scientifically proven decades ago -- that there is a correlation between gut bacteria, and a reduction of anxiety and depression in animals. By narrowing this down to the type of food that increases the GABA in subjects’ system, researchers found that food high in good gut bacteria from fermentation (such as pickles and kimchi) have an effect in reducing anxiety levels.
It may seem a bit far-fetched that wolfing down a big jar of pickles before a big exam might help you feel more comfortable, but plenty of studies support the influence our gut bacteria have on what’s going on in our heads and bodies.
So adding the right kind of bacteria into our systems when we need it the most may seem the logical thing to do, don't you think?