The Benefits of Bitters

Don’t be bitter; your digestion can be optimized!

When you think of bitter foods, you may think of lemon, arugula, and other greens and herbs. It turns out that while the bitter taste of these foods may be offsetting, they offer numerous digestive health benefits. In this post, we are diving into all things bitters concerning bitters foods to put on your plate, digestive bitters, benefits of bitter foods, and of course, how we suggest incorporating them into your diet. 

Bitter foods we love (and why)

Despite their distinctive taste, bitters can actually do wonders for digestion. Upon consuming bitter foods, the digestive system becomes stimulated, which is thought to trigger the release of stomach acid, bile, and digestive enzymes, all of which are essential players in digestion. 

Utilizing bitters is not a new trend; rather, their digestive benefits have been recognized by Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda practices, and many other cultures. However, with the rise in digestive complaints such as bloating, reflux, gas, the feeling of food sitting, and more – a new spotlight has been cast on bitters, and we are totally here for it! In fact, we recommend our clients incorporate bitter foods and digestive bitters (we’ll get into this later) quite often to help improve digestion. 

Bitters foods we love to incorporate into our diet: 

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (diluted in water with straw please, or incorporated into dressings!)
  • Coffee (yes, your beloved coffee is one of them!) 
  • Arugula 
  • Dandelion greens and Endives
  • Jerusalem Artichokes 
  • Kale 
  • Brussels sprouts 
  • Saffron
  • Dill
  • Turmeric 
  • Ginger
  • Citrus
  • Peppermint 
  • Cacao

While consuming these foods will do your digestion some good and provide your body with tons of nutrients, it is important to consider how you are preparing these foods. We recommend avoiding sweetening these foods up with honey, maple syrup, or other sweeteners you may use. This is because it will mask the bitter taste, affecting the activation of the bitter taste receptors on the tongue. 

What are digestive bitters?

Digestive bitters are a concentrated blend of various bitter herbs and plants that help to optimize digestion and often come in a tincture or spray form. Digestive bitters can be a great tool for those suffering from inadequate digestion. We find digestive bitters can be a powerful yet gentle way to stimulate digestion and get things moving in those who need a bit more help than just incorporating some bitter foods here and there. 

However, shopping for bitters can be a bit overwhelming when looking at the various formulations if you are not sure what to look for. This is why we have compiled a list of our favorite digestive bitters to help you out!

Our favorite digestive bitters: 

  • Overall some good companies are: Urban Moonshine, Nature’s Answer, and Organic Olivia
  • Histamine Friendly: Urban Moonshine Liver Bitters and Nature’s Answer 
  • Alcohol-Free: Nature’s Answer

We recommend consuming (or spraying – whichever you prefer!) digestive bitters around 10 minutes before a meal for optimal benefits; however, they can be taken during or shortly after, too, in the case you forgot or overate and need some extra support! When taking bitters, you should let them sit on your tongue for ten to twenty seconds to help stimulate the bitter receptors, then swallow. Please keep in mind although digestive bitters may seem harmless, they are not for everyone (especially if pregnant), and we highly recommend consulting your health practitioner before using them. 

The Benefits of Bitters

While we have briefly discussed the digestive benefits of bitters, there are quite a bit more! 

Potential Benefits of Bitters: 

  • Improved digestion – due to increased stomach acid, release of digestive enzymes, and bile
  • Improved nutrient absorption – due to increased stomach acid, food breakdown, and bile
  • Improved GI motility 
  • Reduced Nausea and stomach cramping/pain
  • Relief in bloating and gas
  • Improvement in low stomach acid 
  • Supports blood sugar balance
  • Supports liver detoxification
  • May help curb sugar cravings

The Bottom Line

Besides the bitter taste, what’s the downside? Bitter foods often encompass citrus fruits, leafy greens, and some herbs/spices. Incorporating bitter foods into the diet benefits digestion and may support the liver and blood sugar balance; and, at the very least, increases the variety of foods and nutrients you consume. Who knows, you may even come to like the taste too (or at least get used to it)! 

Want to learn more about bitters and optimize your digestion? Click here to work with us! 

Written by Alison Richman MS, RDN