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Do You Know the Benefits of Digestive Bitters?

If you read our blog on the importance of bile, you know just how vital it is to have proper bile production for optimal health. Digestive bitters are one of the best ways to give your bile and digestive system the boost they need!

Common GI conditions like bloating, heartburn, and acid reflux can all be cured by adding some digestive bitters into your daily diet.

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What are digestive bitters?

If you’ve even been to a cocktail bar, you’ve definitely seen a bottle of bitters somewhere behind the bar. If you drink Old Fashions or Negronis, then you’re definitely familiar with the taste. Digestive bitters are distilled-down, concentrated blends of various bitter herbs and plants. These ingredients are any combination of herbs, bark, fruit, seeds, roots, or flowers.

Bitters grew in popularity in the 1700s as a remedy for common digestion-related ailments. Today, digestive bitters can be found in nearly every culture:

  • In China, bitter herbs are used to cleanse internal organs.

  • In India, bitter melon chutney is served with meals to ease digestion.

  • In Venezuela, the famous Angostura Cocktail Bitters are made and used widely.

  • In the U.S. bitters are used in many cocktails.

Why are digestive bitters beneficial?

Digestive bitters help to stimulate the digestive system. This is because our body has receptors for bitter compounds in the mouth, tongue, stomach, gut, liver, and pancreas. Meaning that taking digestive bitters will cause a series of effects throughout the body. Some of the benefits of daily digestive bitter use include:

  • Support healthy blood sugar levels

  • Balance appetite

  • Help curb sugar cravings

  • Calm an upset stomach

  • Decrease bloat, gas, and constipation

  • Better digestion

  • Boosted immune system

  • Regulate GI motility

Further, having a couple of drops of bitters before a meal can help the liver produce bile, trigger the production of digestive enzymes, and balance hydrochloric acid (HCI) levels in the stomach. The bile-producing aspect of digestive bitters is key to why adding a couple of drops to your daily diet can cause widespread benefits.

As we know, bile serves several essential functions throughout the body. These include:

  • Bile is what helps your body break down all the fats you eat, which are so critical for healthy cell membranes and optimal nutrition.

  • Bile carries away all the toxins and hormone metabolites from your body. It is the vehicle for removing toxins such as heavy metals, drugs, foreign chemicals, food preservatives, and contaminants so they can be flushed out of your liver.

  • Bile helps control estrogen dominance. Hormone imbalance among women is twice as common today as one hundred years ago. Sluggish bile and hormone problems go hand in hand. For, once your bile has thickened, it’s less able to break down excess estrogen.

  • In addition to contributing to body fat, estrogen dominance is notorious for causing something referred to as “false fat.” False fat is fluid trapped in body tissues that contribute to bloating, puffiness, and cellulite. Many women carry an extra 10 to 15 pounds of this extra fluid.

  • Bile is also associated with weight. Studies have shown that obese subjects secrete and release only half as much bile as their leaner counterparts.

  • Bile is critically important for the normal movement of the GI tract. Less than optimal amounts of bile can cause constipation, bloating, and reflux symptoms.

How to take digestive bitters:

Incorporating digestive bitters into your daily routine is easier than you think! All you have to do is place a couple of drops of bitters onto your tongue and hold them in your mouth for around 10-15 seconds, or until you start to salivate. While the bitters are on your tongue, the T2R taste receptors will activate, which will send a signal to the vagus nerve in your brain. The vagus nerve will then relay the bitter sensation to the salivary glands, our stomach, our pancreas, and our gallbladder and liver. After around 15 seconds, the signal will have spread throughout the body and you can simply swallow the bitters!

Timing your bitter consumption is another important aspect of taking bitters. If your goal of using bitters is to cure digestive problems, you should take them immediately before or after a meal.

Types of bitters:

Generally, digestive bitters of any kind will produce similar effects throughout the body. However, some types of bitters have been associated with benefiting different parts of the digestive process.

Follow this guideline to know what bitters to take for what benefit you’re trying to garner:

  • Digestion and gut benefits:

    • Gentian

    • Dandelion

    • Wormwood

    • Burdock

  • Inflammation and the immune system:

    • Burdock

    • Chamomile

    • Oregon grape

    • Barberry

  • Liver health benefits:

    • Chicory root

    • Dandelion root

    • Silymarin

    • Artichoke root

  • Sugar and appetite control:

    • Citrus peel

    • Artichoke leaf

    • Licorice root

    • Gentian root

Further, some common bitters have been linked to different beneficial effects:

Who should NOT take bitters:

Women who are pregnant or people with certain health conditions should avoid taking bitters. Children and people on medications like antibiotics or anticoagulants should avoid taking bitters as well.


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