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6 Ways Probiotics Heal More Than Your Gut

6 Ways Probiotics Heal More Than Your Gut

You’ve probably heard the term “probiotics” somewhere and have a loose definition in mind. You know it’s something for your stomach, right? Yep, but scientists found its benefits don’t stop at your tummy. It can alleviate autism and allergies — and even trim your waistline!

1. Helps You Lose Weight

Researchers found that regularly taking probiotics boosts your fat burning. They found that when you increase certain good strains of bacteria in your gut, your body seems to lose more excess weight.

One possible explanation is that the increase in good gut bacteria lowers your peripheral serotonin production. Wait, isn’t serotonin that wonderful chemical that lowers your appetite? Yes – but only the serotonin made by your brain. Some bad strains of bacteria in your gut are responsible for making serotonin too, but this “peripheral” serotonin has been found to hinder your body’s ability to burn fat!

If you have more good bacteria in your gut, they’ll keep your bad bacteria in check. This means there won’t be as many producing peripheral serotonin.

2. Alleviate Allergies

Believe it or not, scientists found that children with allergies have different proportions of gut bacteria than children without allergies. The key difference is that allergic children have lower levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

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Researchers found that taking probiotics daily lowers your genetic tendency to develop allergies! Eczema patients showed clinical improvement with probiotic supplementation. Lactobacilli are a main component of probiotics, and researchers theorize the increase in these species in your gut is how probiotics alleviate allergies.

This means you can help relieve your allergies if you take probiotic supplements every day. It also means that if you’re always eating junk food and you upset the balance of your gut bacteria, you could end up with allergies or worsen your existing rashes and hives!

3. Helps Prevent Dry and Irritated Eyes When Taking Antibiotics

If your doctor prescribes you antibiotics, she’ll probably warn you about side effects. These side effects can include dry or irritated eyes, which can also result from a mild allergic reaction to the antibiotic.

Researchers found that probiotics help lower general side effects of antibiotics, including dry or irritated eyes. In fact, patients given probiotics while on antibiotics experienced 12 percent fewer side effects than the placebo group.

Sadly, a little eye discomfort is the minimum of adverse possibilities that antibiotics can cause to your eyes. It’s well-documented that antibiotics have caused permanent eye damage, including damage to your corneas. These aren’t rare, strong antibiotics either – your run-of-the-mill ciprofloxacin that your doctor prescribes when you have a bacteria-caused cold and cough can cause retinal detachment. These are serious conditions that can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated.

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If you’re taking antibiotics and experiencing vision-related changes, don’t hesitate to see an ophthalmologist. If you usually see an optometrist (where you get your eyes checked for a new glasses or contacts prescription), he’s not able to diagnose any serious medical conditions caused by antibiotics. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors specializing in eye care and can make the right call if you come in with vision-related symptoms.

4. Makes Antibiotics More Effective

Taking probiotics while on antibiotics not only protects you from side effects, it also boosts the effectiveness of your antibiotics. Studies show that doing so can protect your gut from antibiotic-induced superinfections. Antibiotics can cause an imbalance in your gut bacteria, but probiotics help assure your good bacteria levels stay competitive. They also found that the good bacteria in probiotics help enhance the effectiveness of the antibiotics because they secrete molecules into your mucous linings that attack bad germs.

Researchers also found that because of these actions, probiotics lessen antibiotic-caused diarrhea.

5. Alleviates IBS

If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), probiotics can help with that too! IBS is actually a blanket diagnosis, ranging anywhere from constant constipation to severe abdominal pain.

Researchers are starting to find more evidence that a major cause of IBS is an imbalance in your gut bacteria. Too much bad bacteria can cause stomach pain, which is a symptom of IBS. They discovered that IBS patients who supplemented with probiotics daily experienced a decrease in bloating symptoms. They studied how probiotics interact with IBS and found that the good bacteria in probiotics keep bad bacteria from sticking to your intestines and control their growth. They also found that these good bacteria can boost your protection from salmonella.

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Studies also show that probiotics lower inflammation in your body, and researchers have linked inflammation with IBS. Inflammation also increases your risk for cancer, and inflammation in your digestive tract can increase your chances of developing serious conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Take probiotics every day and you’ll lessen your IBS symptoms and protect yourself from IBD and cancer.

6. Alleviates Autism

If you have children who’ve been diagnosed with a form of autism, probiotics can help manage their condition. Researchers found that autistic children suffer from constipation and diarrhea more frequently than normal children. These discomforts can worsen their behavior problems. Since taking probiotics daily can normalize the digestive system and alleviate constipation and diarrhea, they can help lessen any intestinal discomfort your children may be routinely experiencing. This should hopefully help them be more content.

Researchers also found that autistic children have lower amounts of a few key bacterial species in their gut, and in general, less gut bacteria diversity. They found that these lower levels of gut bacteria can worsen or even cause their autism since they discovered that gut microbes make substances that directly affect the nervous system’s processes. In fact, they found that these chemicals can cause hyperactivity, which is a hallmark symptom of autism. They theorize this abnormal gut microbiota may result in abnormal levels of these neural process-influencing chemicals, which throws their neural processes off balance and lead to autism symptoms.

Giving your children probiotic supplements every day can lessen any constipation or diarrhea they’re experiencing, while also making sure balanced levels of hyperactivity-causing chemicals are being made by their gut bacteria.

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Natural Probiotic Foods

Can’t wait to rush to the store to grab a bottle of probiotic supplements? Wait – you don’t need to take a pill to enrich your gut with good bacteria. Plenty of natural, healthy foods are teeming with the same bacteria that scientists found help alleviate autism, allergies, and gastrointestinal problems.

Here are a few:

  • Buttermilk is cow’s milk fermented with lactobacilli. It’s usually in liquid form.
  • Yogurt is cow’s milk fermented with lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. It has a pudding-like consistency.
  • Kefir is cow’s milk fermented with good bacteria. Kefir’s consistency is between yogurt’s and buttermilk’s.
  • Natto is soybeans fermented with good bacteria. Originating in Japan, it has a sticky nut-like consistency.
  • Tempeh is fermented soybeans originating in Indonesia. It has a cake-like consistency.
  • Miso is soybeans fermented with salt, rice, barley, and fungus. It has a paste-like consistency, and once upon a time, was critical for nutrition in feudal Japan.
  • Kimchi is fermented vegetables originating in Korea. It’s teeming with probiotics!
  • Kombucha is fermented tea originating in Russia. Studies show its probiotic properties can boost your immunity.

Taking probiotics does more than cure your upset stomach. It can help treat autism, calm your allergies, help you lose weight, and boost your immunity. If you don’t like taking pills or capsules, try some yummy natural probiotic foods instead.

Featured photo credit: GreatDaneInc via pixabay.com

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Published on November 18, 2019

How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques

How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques

Critical thinking is the art of filtering through information to reach an unbiased, logical decision that guides better thought and action. It can be learned through powerful techniques listed in this article.

Before you read further, it is important for you to know that critical thinking is a state of mind, not a tool or strategy.

If you are bogged down in the trivial day to day matters of your professional and personal life, learning skills to develop your ability to think critically can help you rise above these issues and focus your energies where they are needed – to solve problems and accomplish objectives.

It stands to reason that the better the learning techniques, the better critical thinking and reasoning will be. My experience in helping people grow means I know exactly what is needed to teach critical thinking (hint: it’s not just pondering over the problem).

There are 5 powerful techniques that form the base of critical thinking:

  1. Analytical thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Creativity
  4. Open-mindedness
  5. Problem-solving

Once you learn the techniques listed and start employing them in your daily life, you’ll quickly start to notice a change in the way you approach problems and consequently, how you resolve them too.

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1. Analytical Thinking

Analytical thinking is the gathering and breaking down of information into small bites that help make sense of it.

To use it for critical thinking:

  • Be very clear on why you need the information. This is to recognize your limitations and employ foresight to overcome them.
  • Gather information from as many sources as you can: peers and experts, podcasts, relevant literature and any other place you can think of.
  • Rephrase questions multiple times to get different perspectives on data available and possibly arrive at different solutions.
  • Break down the data into factual subsets and relate each to the issue at hand.
  • Think on paper to make new connections. Write, doodle, make mind-maps or use spreadsheets. Data presented visually can help you make new connections make sense of emerging patterns.
  • Tidy up the workplace. Once data has been gathered, your workspace and your brain will both be cluttered with excess information. Neaten the physical space and clear your mind with meditation. The change in focus will help you view the information in a new light, potentially helping you reach newer, better conclusions.

Want more information and tips on adopting this powerful technique? What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success has all the information you need.

2. Communication

Communication is a key technique for critical thinking as it gives you access to the thoughts of people around you.

Data can be communicated through audio and visual means and in many cases, through careful observation of body language:

  • Ask for different points of view and seek justification for the same thing. When you invest in the matter, you will be able to explore all options to reach the best solution.
  • Listening without interrupting and only asking questions or voicing concerns once the speaker is done helps you make better connections.
  • Be 100% focused on a verbal or written discussion, you can better hear/read the opinions of the people involved.
  • Paraphrase the speaker/writer’s point of view and ask for affirmation. This enables you to pay full attention and use the input to think critically.
  • In a meeting, subtle communication cues are given by the body language of fellow attendees. An imperceptible frown, a small nod, pencil tapping etc. will all give you clues to what they are really thinking, just in case their actions are not in sync with their words!
  • Active observation, where you are watching and listening intently helps you know what to make of the information that is being passed around. It gives you clues to the general opinion about the topic under discussion and opens up new possibilities.

The information you gather through such communication will be invaluable in thinking critically to arrive at a decision that is holistic and unbiased.

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3. Creativity

Critical thinking is an art, and like any art form, its lifeblood is creativity. To really learn critical thinking, you need to include elements of creativity in the process!

  • Brainstorm with your team in an all-new location or work-shadow an industry expert to step out of your comfort zone. You could be surprised by the ideas that flow at a picnic or a game of billiards!
  • Gather data and tabulate it in the form of colorful, eye-catching charts, graphs and mind maps. The simple exercise makes your mind bring data together in different ways and presents them so multiple unique conclusions can be reached, giving you the flexibility to choose the best one.
  • Play brain games such as Sudoku or chess to appreciate how different factors can be manipulated to reach a preferred outcome. These games help make connections between previously disconnected nerves, giving your brain the power to find multiple pathways to answering problems.
  • In a similar vein, you can forge new neural connections by learning a new skill, a new language or even a new recipe!

I break down creativity in my other article What is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It. If you want to be good at critical thinking, you need to adopt creativity!

4. Open-Mindedness

It’s easy to say you’re open minded but is your mind really open?

To get an idea,

  • Be brutally honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and how these will impact the matter at hand.
  • Hear an opinion that conflicts with your own without forming a response before the opinion is fully voiced.
  • Acknowledge that there may be more than one approach to solving a problem and that they may all be right in some way.
  • Consider your true feelings when you will implement any required changes.
  • Disregard your long-held beliefs and assumptions and let go of habits.
  • Imagine the decision-making factors placed on weighing scales. Are they balanced?

Open-mindedness is a powerful technique for critical thinking. New possibilities can be uncovered, helping you resolve personal and professional matters in a manner that doesn’t frustrate you or alienate the other party.

5. Problem-Solving

Critical thinking is heavily dependent on problem-solving. An effective critical thinker will be a problem solver with the foresight to anticipate roadblocks and negative outcomes, and the experience and presence of mind to resolve them quickly and move on.

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One of the most effective problem-solving methodologies is the 5 Whys Analysis. Invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motors in the 1950s, it has been used successfully by the automobile giant to get to the root cause of problems.

The idea behind this is simple: start with the end problem and keep asking why until you get to the root cause of it.

The general idea is that asking why 5 times from the effect is enough to get to the cause, hence the name. However, the methodology does not limit the questions to 5, and why can be asked as many times as need to peel away the layers until a satisfactory answer is reached.

To use the 5 Whys Analysis, start off by listing the problem and writing why in front of it. The next point in the list should be answer to the first why with another why in front of it. Continue answering the question asked above followed by a why until you’ve asked the question 5 times and answered it six times. 99% of the time, the last answer will be the root cause of the problem stated in the first point.

For example, consider the a commonly given scenario where a vehicle does not start.

  1. Vehicle will not start. Why?
  2. Battery is dead. Why?
  3. The alternator is not functioning. Why?
  4. The alternator belt has broken. Why?
  5. It was old and worn out. Why?
  6. The car is not maintained according to manufacturer’s recommendation.

By this example, it is clearly demonstrated that 5 whys were asked to reach the root cause of the problem.

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The 5 techniques discussed here are important for effective critical thinking. When employed regularly they will become a habit and will definitely improve your critical thinking skills so you can get better at predicting and resolving issues that concern you and your environment.

Over the years, the 5 Whys Analysis has been adopted by millions to reach the root cause of their personal and professional problems. Industry giant Six Sigma has also incorporated the 5x Why Analysis in the Analyze phase of their DMAIC methodology.[1]

Final Thoughts

Is critical thinking a new-fangled notion? Not at all. Its history can be traced back to Socrates who questioned commonly held beliefs. This practice was carried forward by leading scholars and thinkers from different times such as Aristotle and Plato, Colet and Moore, Descartes, Galileo and Newton.[2]

Today’s world is dependent on critical thinking to resolve all sorts of issues. It is now indispensable for issues ranging from personal relationships to professional jobs and those involving the global community.

The 5 techniques discussed here are important for effective critical thinking. When employed regularly, they will become a habit and will definitely improve your critical thinking skills so you can get better at predicting and resolving issues that concern you and your environment.

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Featured photo credit: Mariya Pampova via unsplash.com

Reference

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