How to Maintain Optimal Gut Health

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Hippocrates was quoted as saying ‘All disease begins in the gut’, and this comes as no surprise, when we consider the major role that the gut plays in aiding various functions of the body. The gut is central to your health, and when in good shape, you feel energised, happy and strong. When your gut is unhealthy, illness and disease manifests.

What exactly is the gut?

The gut, also known as the gastrointestinal tract, is an extended tube that is approximately 30 feet in length, beginning at the mouth and ending at the anus. This intricate organ is partitioned into upper and lower sections, and consists of the stomach, intestines, and all that is in between. The enteric nervous system is located within the gut, and acts like a second ‘brain’, transmitting vital information throughout your body, from your gut to your brain, by way of neurons that reside within the intestinal wall.

These neurons play an active role in digestion, and let your brain know how your gut is doing. Stress and anxiety can interfere with the workings of the enteric nervous system, affecting your gut health. A large proportion of serotonin, (the neurotransmitter that engages in mood control), is also produced in the gut. This is one of the reasons why depression sets in, when your gut it is out of whack.

Your gut is home to masses of bacteria that assist in the processing of food. Bacteria helps to fight disease, and is essential for optimal health. A healthy gut contains around 80 to 85 percent good bacteria. The remaining 15 to 20 percent is bad bacteria. Good bacteria assists with the digestive process, manufactures hormones, vitamins and nutrients, and creates antibodies, while keeping bad bacteria under control.

Good bacteria vs bad bacteria

Maintaining the correct balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria is crucial to gut health. When this ratio is disturbed, and bad bacteria take over, illness and disease quickly manifests. Bad bacteria begin to overpopulate, overriding the good, and making your body susceptible to inflammation and a host of chronic conditions, like Candida, diabetes, depression, obesity and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The food you eat, and lifestyle are integral elements that affect the health of your gut. An unhealthy diet, excess stress, and inadequate exercise can seriously impede your gastrointestinal health. Medications and environmental toxins, can also encourage a disturbance of the healthy balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria, to create a hostile environment within your gut, and weaken your immune health.

Essential for your gut health - balanced bacterial flora

How to keep your gut healthy

Consume whole, organic, plant based and nutrient-rich foods, and abstain from processed, and sugar laden foods. Exercises like yoga and tai chi, as well as breath-work and meditation, will help to keep stress levels down. Drinking plenty of water will flush your system out, keeping you well hydrated, to prevent constipation. Be sure to get enough sleep too, for cellular restoration and renewal.

Probiotics help to boost the level of good bacteria in your gut, so it’s a good idea to take supplements daily. Introduce plant-based, lacto-fermented, probiotic whole foods to your diet, like coconut kefir, miso, microalgae, and sauerkraut, as these contain substantial amounts of good bacteria. Prebiotic foods, like raw onions, garlic, bananas, and artichokes, also help sustain the growth of good bacteria.

Juicer Guide – buy juicer with confidence

Juicers are ideal for enabling you to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Juice that is freshly made in your own juicer not only tastes better but also contains more vitamins than the industrially produced juice that you find in the shops. The latter has gone through heat treatments and other processes that kill most of those lovely vitamins.

Juicing your fruits and vegetables also makes the goodness in them, the vitamins and minerals and fibre, more readily digestible. So your body can absorb that detoxing hit much more quickly than if you sat munching on fruit and veg for an hour. There are many different types of juicers available, and each of them have unique qualities that make them more suited to different recipes and lifestyles. This guide to choosing the right juicers for you will help you to make a wise decision. Then you can get ready to start making soups, smoothies, and other wonderful fresh juice based products within a few moments in the comfort of your home, whenever you fancy them.

Centrifugal juicers: cutting and slicing

Centrifugal juicers are so called because they are based around a flat cutting blade which whizzes round very quickly. These juicers also contain a strainer which removes the pulp to give you lovely clear juice to drink at the end. All that you need to do is to throw your desired fruits and veg into the juicer and the blade and the strainer will do the rest! These juicers tend to have an automatic system whereby pulp is removed into a collection bucket for you to compost or otherwise dispose of. Though they are super convenient, centrifugal juicers can be a little difficult to clean, so they are best used if you are willing to clean out the residual pulp from the strainer each time. These juicers are arguably the best for juicing hard fruits and vegetables as they are extremely robust and powerful pieces of kit. They are also among the fastest juicers around, so are perfect for when you want to whip up some delectable fruit juice for friends on a hot day at a moment's notice.

The masticating juicer: for chomping up delicate produce

If you want to make something involving smaller berries, herbs, or similar items (think wheatgrass, mint, and lemon juices, for instance!), then a centrifugal style machine just doesn't have the fine chopping power that you need. Cue the masticating juicer, which very literally 'chews' (or masticates) even the finest leaves that you put into it. These juicers are fantastic for precision juicing, and for creating exquisite combinations of dainty flavours. This type of juicing device crushes and squeezes the produce you put into it, rather than cutting and spinning it. It also pumps a minimum of air into the juice as it works. This makes it superb for when you want to have a little foam in your juice glass without the oxidation that comes from juicers like the centrifugal model. The centrifugal model pumps much more air into the juice, meaning that it can often oxidise quite quickly, causing a potentially huge loss of nutrients. Another great advantage of masticating juicers is the fact that they preserve enzymes in your juice, as well as keeping the colour of the fruits, leaves, and veg that you are juicing. These juicers are also sometimes known as 'cold juicers' because they keep the juice much colder than other models do. In all, these are the ideal juicers for when you want to create beautiful, artisan drinks with wonderful colours, flavours, and high levels of beneficial enzymes.

Savour those flavours with a slow juicer

As mentioned above, the centrifugal design gives you a great volume of juice very quickly: perfect for when you need a healthy and thirst quenching drink right now, or for when you are cooking a large meal and need to whip up some soup quickly and without fuss. But for many people, a slow juicer is best, as they want to really squeeze every ounce of flavour from the fruits, veg, and herbs that they are juicing. There are two options when it comes to slow juicers. First, there are the single gear, or 'auger', juicers. These juicers use a worm style gear to crush and blend juices, and the resulting juice will usually have the best nutritional content out of all of the models discussed here. You can get a one stage auger machine, which is slightly quicker, or a two stage model which provides you with much more delicately blended juice and hence takes a little longer. It is most convenient to choose slow juicers that are equipped with juicing screens, as these will sieve out any pulp. If you want a slower machine that will provide you with the precision of an auger but with a slightly higher juice yield, then make sure to choose the second slow juicing option: i.e. a dual gear model. One thing you need to remember with these slower juicers, however, is the fact that they do produce a different yields of juice. Though the masticating models always produce a greater yield of juice than centrifugal models, there can be an appreciable difference between single gear and dual gear masticators. An auger model will tend to produce a lower yield of juice than a dual gear. Dual gear machines are less adept at processing softer fruits and vegetables though, so those strawberry and lychee based blended drinks might best be crafted in a masticating machine!

Ready to buy a juicer? You sure are!

This short guide has provided you with the handy insider knowledge that you need to choose the best model of juicing machine for you. Have a think about the types of fruit, veg, and other products that you are most likely to put in your juicing device and choose accordingly. Get a masticator for delicate herbs, one of the slower juicers for great nutritional content, and a centrifugal device for long, quick, and satisfying drinks. Think about your lifestyle and who will be using the juicers you are contemplating buying, and this can help you with your decision, too. All of these juicers will provide you with excellent quality juice drinks, smoothies, cordials, soups, and so on. But thinking a little more about the details, and having some additional knowledge about the pros and cons of each model, will really help you to make the most out of the juices you make.