Bitter foods we have historically enjoyed in our diet include: dandelion, radish, artichoke, wormwood, gentian, coffee, kale, dark chocolate, arugula, endive, escarole, mustard greens, and bitter melon.
The bitter flavor stimulates the vagus nerve, sending a message to our nervous system to relax and digest. Bitters can regulate stomach acid, promote bile and peristalsis (the muscle activity of the intestines), and tighten the sphincter at the top of the stomach. There’s more! Bitter herbs can help the liver detoxify, increase our sensitivity to insulin and lower blood sugar as well as decrease sweet cravings.
We tend to produce less bile and stomach acid as we age which can lead to less efficient absorption of nutrients and gastrointestinal discomfort. According to both Traditional Chinese Medicine and modern understanding of the gut microbiome, our digestion is at the root of many health issues.
If you aren’t getting enough in your diet or want to try supplementing, you can drink a tincture of bitters with meals or take them in pill form. We have hundreds of bitter receptors not only in our mouths, but throughout our digestive tract, which means we don’t have to take bitters in liquid form.
There are lots of products out there that are filled with things that aren’t actually bitters. Some good products, in my opinion, are: DiGest Forte by MediHerb, Bitters Compound by Herbalist & Alchemist, Digestive Grape Bitters by Planetary Herbals.
You can also try out Dandy Blend, an instant beverage that contains dandelion, chicory, and beet.