In Functional Medicine there’s a common saying that everything starts in the gut! Strong digestion is absolutely essential to good health and vitality. If you are not digesting your food well you may experience issues with malabsorption, gas, bloating, leaky-gut, autoimmune conditions, depression and so much more.

As I’ve previously written about in Ayurveda there’s an emphasis on incorporating all 6 tastes into each meal. With the industrialization of our food supply there has been a shift away from wild plants which contain natural bitterness, and a movement towards sweet and salty. Consider sweet corn, through hybridization it continues become sweeter and sweeter, the same is true for carrots and many other vegetables (a great book on this “Eating On the Wild Side”).

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Amazingly there are bitter taste receptors found all over the body, not just on the tongue. The taste of bitter helps to stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, and contraction of the gallbladder which releases bile.

When I think of bitter foods I think of bitter greens like dandelion greens (I make a great dandelion pesto!!), cocoa, and coffee. There are many more bitter foods out there too! Having a salad with bitter greens before your meal or maybe sipping on a decaf black coffee after are easy ways to incorporate the bitter taste.

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Another great option for adding bitter to your meals is using herbal bitters. Herbal bitters stimulate digestion, curb sugar cravings, relieve heartburn, gas and bloating. If you’re trying to relieve indigestion or heartburn it’s ok to take the bitters after the meal, otherwise take before the meal to ignite the digestive fire (agni).

Try placing about 1/4 tsp of bitters into 4-8oz of sparkling water and sip prior to dinner. You can even jazz it up with a fresh lemon or lime and garnish with fresh herbs.

Enjoy and toast to your health and fabulous digestion!

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Note: If you would like to try digestive bitters I highly recommend these (I have no financial relationship to them, it’s just what I personally have used).