Digestive Benefits of Bitters, According To A Gut Health Dietitian

Share This Post

Share this post

As a dietitian specializing in gut health, I often work with individuals who struggle with issues like gas and bloating. It never ceases to amaze me how impactful bitters can be in addressing these concerns. So, what exactly are bitters and how can we harness their potential to soothe our gut?

Grab a cup of dandelion tea, and let’s explore the potent power of bitters for bolstering digestion and easing bloating.

What Are Bitters?

Bitters are a class of herbs and plants known for their distinct flavor profile that many of us find sharp or pungent. Yet, it is this very bitterness that supports better digestion. Bitters stimulate the release of digestive juices, such as bile, saliva, hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), and pancreatic enzymes.

The Benefits of Bitter Foods for Gut Health

Have you ever noticed that when you taste the bitterness of a lemon, it immediately triggers salivation? These same bitter receptors are actually present throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract, which in turn stimulates the release of important digestive juices.

For example, hydrochloric acid or stomach acid is crucial for the breakdown of proteins. Enhancing stomach acid production through bitters is just one way they aid digestion, leading to less gas, bloating and better gut health.

Additionally, the consumption of bitter substances can assist in increasing bile flow. This is not only crucial for the digestion of fats, but also for the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients and essential fatty acids. Bile also plays a vital role in facilitating healthy detoxification by eliminating toxins from the body. Sluggish bile flow can contribute to various digestive issues, such as poor nutrient absorption, bloating, and indigestion and even elevated cholesterol and hormone imbalances. 

Bitters can also enhance the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter, providing relief for symptoms of reflux or heartburn. In addition, bitters also support the release of pancreatic enzymes such as lipase, amylase, and protease. These enzymes play a crucial role in the breakdown and absorption of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

My Favorite Bitter Foods:

  • Bitter greens:arugula, dandelion greens, endive, watercress, frisee, beet greens, mustard greens
  • Bitter melon
  • Citrus: grapefruit, lemon, lime + rind 
  • Fennel and fennel seeds 
  • Cranberries 
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Coffee
  • Cacao
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Incorporating Bitter Foods In Your Routine:

  • Add frozen cranberries to your morning smoothie.
  • Enhance your sparkling water or recipes with fresh citrus zest.
  • Squeeze lemon or lime into your water or dishes.
  • Chew on fennel seeds before meals 
  • Dilute apple cider vinegar (ACV) in water or use in recipes 
  • Mix up your greens by incorporating arugula, dandelion greens, or watercress to salads.
  • Enjoy dandelion root, ginger, or turmeric tea – make sure to cover and steep for full potency.
  • Embrace the natural bitterness of coffee – skip the sugar and milk to ensure you get the benefit.

What About Digestive Bitters?

When you’re looking for more concentrated benefits, digestive bitters are where it’s at! These blends usually consist of herbs such as dandelion, fennel, ginger, orange peel crafted into tinctures that are both convenient to consume and potent.

The benefits of digestive bitters are a time-honored remedy for conditions like bloating, heartburn, indigestion, aiding the digestion of proteins, carbs and fats, and combating low stomach acid.

Take your bitters 10-15 minutes before a meal to prime digestion or after a meal if you’re experiencing digestive symptoms. Holding them on your tongue for 10-15 seconds is optimal to activate bitter receptors.

Please consult with your healthcare provider before trying digestive bitters, as they may not be suitable for individuals with certain health conditions (stomach ulcers, severe GERD, gallbladder conditions) or during pregnancy.

Ready To Optimize Your Gut Health With Bitters?

Bitters Brands I Love:

JUJ bitters – use code EJNW10 for 10% off 

Urban Moonshine

Final Thoughts:

Incorporating bitters into your regimen is an effective and natural approach to improving gut health that I use myself and recommend to my clients. Whether through bitter foods or digestive bitters (or both!), bitters are a powerful addition to your gut health routine. Embrace the bitter to feel better!

P.S. Are we email friends yet? Join my mailing list to get my most effective health hacks, product recommendations and the newest gut health research broken down in an easily digestible way (ahem, no pun intended). 

Lipski, Elizabeth. Digestive Wellness: Strengthen the Immune System and Prevent Disease through Healthy Digestion. McGraw-Hill, 2020.

Gittleman, A. L., & Burke, V. (2020). Radical metabolism: A powerful new plan to blast fat and reignite your energy in just 21 days. Hachette Go.

Share this post

More To Explore