Digestive Bitters: A Simple Way to Improve Digestion
Bitters are a traditional and easy way to boost digestion and reduce upset stomach.
Bitters are easy to make on your own and are affordable to buy as well. You can mix them with a little flat or sparkling water to help digest your dinner. Alternatively, you can use them directly on your tongue.
Read on to learn what bitters are exactly, how they help your digestive system, how to make your own, and a fun recipe to make with bitters.
What Are Bitters?
What is a bitter drink? Many people are familiar with using bitters in their alcoholic beverages, but these infusions could be beneficial for so much more. At their most basic level, bitters are tinctures that are created from natural ingredients combined with grain alcohol.
Bitters are usually comprised of botanical ingredients like roots, bark, flowers, or different varieties of herbs. Some people choose to combine them with spices to make these bitter-tasting ingredients a bit more palatable.
You should really consider using bitters on a daily basis if you need help with common digestive issues such as:
There are many different types of bitters ingredients that you can use to remedy some of these ailments. Almost all of the popular options will help with these digestive issues, but some of them offer even more benefits. A little bit of research will uncover a plethora of options for your unique bitters tincture.
How Do Bitters Work?
Bitters are well-known for their ability to work magic with your digestive system, but how? The answer and the digestive bitters benefits may not be quite what you expect.
These natural ingredients actually stimulate the bitter taste receptors in your body. Many people believe that their taste receptors are limited to the tongue, but this is not entirely true. They have also been found throughout the stomach, intestine, and pancreas. (1) It is believed that we needed so many bitter taste receptors to alert our body to the potential for dangerous or poisonous foods, most of which fall into the bitter category.
Are Bitters Good for Your Stomach?
The answer is resoundingly yes. Activating these bitters receptors can stimulate more enzyme production that helps to break down your food.
According to scientists, the exact mechanism that allows bitters to help with digestion is unknown. However, it is believed that the stimulation of these bitter taste receptors stimulates the gustatory nerves, dilates the gastric vessels, and increases salivary and gastric secretions. (2) When these secretions are increased, food can be digested faster and with fewer upsets.
During this whole process, the gallbladder is also stimulated. This aids in bile production and movement. More bile movement means that your intestines may be able to better absorb nutrients and break down certain waste products. This produces a detoxifying effect for the body that can reduce overall inflammation. If you are looking to detox, here are some other things you might want to know.
More Benefits of Bitters
Bitters are also known for helping you curb potential sugar cravings. In one study, researchers demonstrated that a bitter taste can overcome the desire for a sweeter flavor, effectively curbing your cravings for sweets. (3) If you are attempting to lose weight or just stay away from the cookie jar, consuming a small amount of bitters could be an easy and healthy solution.
Depending on which bitters you use, they could also act as an appetite suppressant that can help you gain control over overeating. In general, consuming bitters suppresses the appetite.
In a study of twenty volunteers, those who received a bitter-tasting substance had a lower calorie intake than those who received a placebo. (4) There are certainly exceptions to that rule, but it is definitely something to keep in mind if you are attempting a new diet that requires a lower caloric intake.
Common Types of Bitters
There are many different types of bitters that you can choose from. You may prefer the taste of one over the other or you may opt for a combination of several types. Here are some of the good bitters for digestion and other ailments:
Orange Peel Bitters
Orange peel bitters are known for the major role they play in your digestion, but they could be a key ingredient to help you lose weight as well. In one study over the past few years, researchers at Georgetown University concluded that orange peel bitters boost your resting metabolism rate. While the results may not have been dramatic, they did offer a safe alternative to weight loss drugs commonly found on the market. (5)
Gentian bitters are another key ingredient that you may want to consider for your bitters tincture. It is popular as a digestive aid, but it can do so much more. A 2014 study found that gentian bitters could offer cancer-fighting properties as well. (6)
Ginger is one of the most well-known supplements that can aid in digestion, so it makes sense that most bitters tinctures include ginger. Not only does it aid in digestion in the same way as the rest of the bitters family, it is also a great anti-nausea supplement. (7) Those who are suffering from cancer, morning sickness, and other forms of chronic nausea will want to add ginger bitters to their tincture.
Some people struggle with their digestion as well as a lack of appetite. If this describes you, then wormwood is one bitter that you may want to test out. This is one of the primary herbs associated with triggering the bitter taste receptors in the mouth and increasing gastric juices. It is also a common herb used for combat parasitic infections.
It aids in the promotion of appetite, which could be excellent for some individuals who suffer from decreased appetite as a result of other medical conditions. (8)
Those little yellow flowers in your front yard contain a lot of health benefits when harvested the right way! Dandelion root is another popular bitter that can help aid in your digestion among other things. Scientists believe that consuming dandelion root could be a promising way to reduce inflammation in the body. It is also a great antioxidant. (9)
How to Make Bitters for Stomach Problems
Making stomach bitters is a relatively simple process, but it does take a great deal of wait time. If you want to start using bitters, you will need to start the process now because it takes approximately thirty days to create a batch of bitters.
Gather your ingredients. It is best to use whole herbs instead of the ground versions. You might want to chop them up some, but make sure the pieces are not too small. The smaller the pieces are, the more difficult it will be to strain them out of your finished solution.
Place your herbs in a container that has a lid. Ideally you’ll want to fill your container roughly ⅓ of the way full of herbs. (It doesn’t have to be exact!)
Add the alcohol. Cover the herbs with grain alcohol or vodka that is at least 100 proof. Fill the rest of your glass container with alcohol.
Leave this mixture out for thirty days. You will need to shake the concoction daily to help the bitters mix with the alcohol.
When you are ready to use your bitters, strain the solid pieces out with cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark location at room temperature until you are ready to consume them.
How to Use Bitters
Once you have made your bitters, using them is super simple. If you don’t mind the taste, you can simply add a few drops of the bitters directly onto your tongue.
However, many people prefer to drink their bitters. You can add a ¼ teaspoon of the bitters with a little flat or sparkling water to consume before a major meal. Hot tea is also a great vessel for taking your bitters. This bitters and water for upset stomach recipe allows them to activate digestion, enzyme production, bile production and help relieve any potential upset.
Bitters can also be incorporated into other recipes that aid in your digestion. For powerful digestion assistance, be sure to whip up a glass of this fun recipe to make with bitters: Ginger-Aid!
Add all of the below ingredients to a tall glass, stir together, and enjoy!
10 ounces of sparkling water
3 drops of doTERRA ginger essential oil
12 drops of liquid stevia
¼ teaspoon of bitters
Incorporating Bitters into Your Healthcare
Bitters are a time-tested way to help improve your digestion and reduce the discomfort of an upset stomach. Incorporating them into your healthcare can be a simple way to take better care of yourself.
If making bitters is not for you, you can still enjoy all of the benefits that this ingredient has to offer. We sell organic bitters/enzymes in our shop that take the fuss out of making your own. You can choose from capsules or liquid based on your personal preferences. Just because you don’t want to make your own doesn’t mean you should miss out on their benefits!
Have you made or used bitters? Did your grandmother use them? Please share your experience!
Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, is trained in functional health coaching and has worked with thousands of women over her career since 2004. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Collaborative, LLC and HormoneDetoxShop.com.