Get Bitter, Feel Better
When it comes to getting proper nutrition a wonderful, underutilized tool we can look to is our own sense of taste. Each flavor is recognized by sensors on the tongue and beyond in the digestive tract to signal the brain, and then send a cascade of actions through the digestive system. But there is one important taste that rarely gets to our palates in this modern age: bitter.
It’s not delicious. It’s not really sexy the way sweet or salty can be. However, including this bitter taste in your diet can vastly change the way you digest for the better. One of its most notable effects is stimulating the gallbladder to secrete bile, allowing for better digestion of fats. It also improves the digestion of proteins by boosting stomach acid. This alone can help us avoid indigestion and bloating after a meal! This is huge! What’s more, when we are digesting fats better, we are also increasing the absorbtion of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin D.
Secondly, the bitter taste assists in starting the cascade of feel-full hormones. Overeating is another big reason we experience indigestion. Dr. Claudia Welch, one of my Ayurveda teachers, always used the metaphor of a camp fire to understand the simple principles of digestion. Of this principle she would say, “Think of your stomach as a camp fire. If you put too much wood on it, it won’t burn well. It gets smothered.”
Lastly, the bitter taste helps with gut motility. It increases the GI tract’s smooth muscle tissue’s peristalsis and improves your food’s transit, leaving you, again, with less bloating, gas, and constipation. But lest you go off thinking that bitters are just for people who feel gross after eating, think again! Bitters are for everyone*.
Digestion is the seat of your health. If the foundation is compromised (note: after years and years of digesting food, pretty much everyone’s digestion could use a boost), it effects your immune system, the quality of your skin, your energy levels, your mood and so much more. Simply put, I LOVE bitters because when I take them daily, I look and feel better. I want you to love them too! So I am calling for you all to join me on a 30 day Bitters Challenge. How do you play? Before every meal, take one dropperful (30-40 drops or 1 mL) of bitters in an ounce of water for 30 days. Send us your #bitterface and #ibitter photos, and let us follow along your journey to better digestion, better skin, and better health. We will repost our faves in Insta-Stories @wild_taproot. Get bitter, feel better.
*As a responsible herbalist, I should mention that there is one contraindication for bitters. The classic indication you shouldn’t take bitters is if one has a “dry, withered tongue”. This draws on a method of traditional diagnostics using the tongue to reveal the body’s state internally. Go ahead. Check out your tongue. But it should suffice to say that for those who tend to run super dry, perhaps its best you seek out a different digestive formula relying more on moistening herbs and gentle aromatics. Still confused? Seek out an herbalist in your area to help you navigate the health waters.