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The beauty of bitters: 6 natural digestive aids

Can eating something that tastes bitter really be THAT good for you? In short, yes!

Bitters offer a host of health benefits like aiding digestive health, boosting the immune system, helping to curb cravings, and reducing stress.1https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/how-to-use-bitters

You have several receptors for bitter compounds throughout your body – in your mouth, on your tongue, and in your gut, stomach, pancreas, and liver too! When these receptors are stimulated, there is an increase in digestive secretions which aids healthy digestion, improves nutrient absorption, promotes detoxification of the liver, and even has a positive impact on stress (thanks to our gut-brain connection).2https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/how-to-use-bitters

To naturally aid digestion, bitters can provide support by facilitating stomach acid. They can be of great benefit to anyone trying to ease indigestion, heartburn, bloating, gas, nausea, or cramping. Many people use digestive bitters as a natural alternative to PPIs for acid reflux!

Digestive aids or bitters can be taken about 10-15 minutes before a meal, and include:

  • Dandelion
  • Burdock
  • Wormwood
  • Gentian
  • Artichoke
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation. It is a prebiotic herb3https://www.naturopathy-uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/In-Cheshire-Sept-17-Herbs-for-Digestion-AM.pdf (rich in inulin)4https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dandelion-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2 that can be consumed before a meal to aid digestion. As it is a mild laxative, you may find it beneficial if you ever suffer from constipation.5https://www.naturopathy-uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/In-Cheshire-Sept-17-Herbs-for-Digestion-AM.pdf Dandelion root may also provide relief for hayfever so if this is something you suffer with, then it makes sense to make this your digestive bitter of choice for the added benefit! Dandelion root can be eaten as a whole like any other root vegetable, or dried and made into a tea. It is worth noting that dandelion root may interfere with the absorption of antibiotics so it is best avoided during this time.

You can find dandelion root in our Gut Cleanse Tea!

Burdock Root

Burdock root is another antioxidant powerhouse that reduces inflammation. Aside from its use as a digestive aid, it is also beneficial as a diuretic, an aphrodisiac, in osteoarthritis, and in removing toxins from the blood. This is another prebiotic herb6https://www.naturopathy-uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/In-Cheshire-Sept-17-Herbs-for-Digestion-AM.pdf that can also serve as a herbal antibiotic. Due to the root’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is often used to help with skin conditions like eczema and acne. Similar to dandelion root, burdock root can also provide relief for hay fever! Burdock root is available fresh, in tea, as an extract, and as a dried powder.7https://www.healthline.com/health/burdock-root#Forms-and-doses Please note, it may have a moderate effect on anticoagulants and diabetes medications so always check with a GP first if you are on any medications.

You can find burdock root in our Gut Cleanse Tea!

Wormwood

Wormwood aids in overall digestion. It can help increase appetite too so is great for anyone trying to eat more and has been used in the treatment of anorexia. It can help with flatulence, stomach aches, and indigestion.8https://draxe.com/nutrition/wormwood/ Due to wormwood’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is another herb used to relieve osteoarthritis.9https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-wormwood#benefits Wormwood has also been used since ancient times to fight tapeworms and other parasites!10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2860618911https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4077147/ Wormwood may even help relieve Crohn’s Disease, an uncomfortable condition that’s characterised by inflammation of the gut lining.12https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-wormwood#benefits13https://draxe.com/nutrition/wormwood/ Wormwood is usually taken as a tea or an extract. It shouldn’t be used by those with kidney disorders or a history of seizures.

Gentian Root

Gentian root is another herb that has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, like fighting inflammation and wound infections. It is known for its bitter taste and is often served before meals as a digestive tonic to stimulate stomach, liver, and gallbladder function.14https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gentian-root Similar to wormwood, gentian root may increase appetite and has been used in people working with anorexia.15https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Appetizing-Effect-of-Gentiana-olivieri-Extract-in-Nayebi-Azadbakht/f3172f0a30f22cdf64acbce79669ca31d370ce27 Gentian root is regularly used to relieve indigestion, loss of appetite, and heartburn. It also contains cancer-fighting compounds! Although this health-promoting herb has lots to offer, more research is needed, so it shouldn’t be used by those with low blood pressure.

Artichoke Leaf

Artichoke leaf is a fibre-rich plant that has medicinal properties, particularly for liver health and function. It has the ability to both protect the liver and help generate liver cells.16https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/bitters-recipe-liver-detox Artichokes contain the flavonoid silymarin, which acts as a powerful liver protectant. They are rich in antioxidants and nutrients and may improve both digestion and heart health.

Artichokes also contain the prebiotic fibre, inulin, which promotes beneficial bacteria and can alleviate constipation and diarrhoea. It may also help with symptoms of indigestion like bloating, heartburn, and nausea. The good news for anyone working with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is that artichoke leaf extract can be used as part of treatment. It may help with IBS symptoms by reducing muscle spasms and improving the levels of good bacteria in the gut.17https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/artichoke-benefits Artichokes may also help to regulate blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. Artichoke can be cooked and eaten or taken in the form of an extract. As artichoke leaf can increase bile flow, it may have a negative effect on those with gallstones.

Apple Cider Vinegar

You may already be familiar with this one. People have been using apple cider vinegar (ACV) to aid with digestive issues for years. While further studies are needed, it does appear that ACV may be an effective natural treatment option for digestive complaints. When choosing a brand of ACV to purchase, ensure you pick one that says “the mother”. The mother is a layer composed of yeast and acetic acid bacteria that naturally forms during the fermentation process.18https://www.healthline.com/health/apple-cider-vinegar-bloating#how-to-use To aid digestion, you can take 1 tsp of organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother mixed into a small amount of water, before your meal.

It’s always best to check with your healthcare provider before starting a new diet or supplement regime.

For more tips and natural solutions for indigestion, check out this post – 12 natural solutions for heartburn & Acid Reflux.

Questions? Contact one of our Nutritional Therapists via live chat from 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays for bespoke advice on gut wellness.

References

Questions? Talk to a Nutritional Therapist on live chat!

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