Anyone can experience sluggish digestion from time to time. Symptoms like heartburn, bloating, and acid reflux can be signs that your digestive system could use a bit of help.
One simple supplement that can help keep things running smoothly are Digestive bitters.
Long used in traditional Chinese medicine (nearly every culture has used digestive bitters to some degree throughout history), Digestive bitters are a tincture of bitter herbs that can aid and improve digestion.
Although not always favored, bitterness is a taste that signals our body to prepare for food, aiding in the digestive process. In fact, the bitter taste is special in that we have bitter taste receptors (T2Rs) all throughout our digestive tract making digestive bitters a supportive digestive nutrient start to finish. This taste of bitterness signals the body to begin secreting digestive juices, stimulates peristalsis (including bowel movements), and helps to support a well-functioning gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
WHY DO YOU NEED THEM
For bitters to be effective, they must be tasted, but for many of us our bitter taste receptors go unused. Previous generations ate bitter foods all the time, but our western diet has trained our palates to crave mostly sweetened foods (monkfruit, stevia, even creamer you put in your coffee).
For many of us our bitter taste receptors go unused. This can be problematic because receptors actually play an important role in healthy digestion, appetite, and more. We have bitter taste receptors not only on our tongue but throughout our entire digestive system including our pancreas that stimulate the release of hormones and enzymes in our digestive process.
Not only are digestive bitters beneficial for getting your digestive juices flowing but it stimulates your gallbladder to release bile with is essential for breaking down fats.
Bitters aid digestion by stimulating bile juices, and calming the nerves (which is also very important for digestion) by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system.
As soon as that bitter taste hits your tongue, your heart rate slows down and the muscles in your GI tract relax, getting ready to digest. All this slowing down is necessary for your body to nourish itself.
Because when digestion is working optimally, so is the body.
Some other known benefits of digestive bitters:
- Relieve gas and bloating
- Support liver and detox function
- Can aid gas, bloating and constipation
- Help relieve heartburn and indigestion
- Can help with sugar cravings
- Helps to regulate and support healthy blood sugar levels
- Help your body absorb Vitamins and nutrients
- Can improve skin conditions (I’ve had personal experience with this one!)
HOW TO USE THEM
The most simple way to incorporate digestive bitters is to purchase a tincture already made. Urban Moonshine is one of my all time favorites although there are others. Organic Olivia has an alcohol-free tincture if you prefer.
About 15-20 minutes before a meal, drop a few drops (about ¼ tsp just a few drops is all you need) onto your tongue and hold it in your mouth for about 10-15 seconds. Holding it on your tongue helps activate those T2R taste receptors which sends a signal to the vagus nerve in your brain that it’s time to rev up your digestive system. You will begin salivating and the magic continues throughout your digestive system.
You could also make your own Homemade Bitter Tincture.
Another way to get more bitters into your life would be to eat more vegetables! Most vegetables naturally contain more bitter substances. Eating a raw green salad before your meal that includes one or more of these veggies can also stimulate those taste receptors.
Also, consider using less sugar to mask the taste of bitters.
Lastly, my favorite way to enjoy digestive bitters is to put a dropper full of the tincture in a glass of sparkling water and sip on it. It’s my alcohol-free version of a Digestif.
Bitterness may be one of the flavors that most folks generally try to avoid, but I highly encourage you to give them a try.
Bitters are a great first step to help bloating, gas, constipation, heartburn, nausea, and relieving general digestive discomfort.
They are hands-down one of my all-time favorite supporting supplements to a happy healthy life.
This is not medical advice. All information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only. This does not replace medical advice or treatment. If you are pregnant or have gallbladder disease consult your doctor.