Adding Digestive Bitters & Foods to Your Diet


Holistic Medicine

Adding Digestive Bitters & Foods to Your Diet

Holistic healers often prescribe the intake of bitter substances for overall metabolic stimulation

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss


One rarely thinks about the health benefits associated with flavors. Regular consumption of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices is an excellent start. And this can lead us to believe we are getting the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals. But consider adding bitter foods and digestive bitters to your day-to-day health and wellness routine.

Natural bitter foods and agents, such as greens, roots and herbs, were brewed into tonics or simply served as foods. They are among the most essential medicinal substances found in the plant world. Bitters were often consumed after a meal to help stimulate digestion and provide relief.

Holistic healers often prescribe the intake of bitter substances for overall metabolic stimulation. Remedies and elixirs based on bitter spices and herbs can be traced back to the Middle Ages. In Latin they were called "Amara."

Bitters are made from the alcohol-based extracts of botanicals, like aromatic herbs, bark, roots, leaves, fruit, or flowers of bitter-tasting plants. They are still used in Chinese medicine today. At one time in history, bitters were essential in our human diets. Our ancestors consumed these plants regularly, but today’s modern diet discounts their value.

Due to the rise of industrial agriculture, our culture has ignored bitter foods in favor of processed foods. These sweet and salty food alternatives have an appeal that borders on the addictive.


How do bitters help stimulate digestion?

More people now know that weak digestion is the root cause of many ailments. Over the last few decades, and backed up by science, bitters have regained popularity for aiding digestive health. Interest continues to grow, and they are used for curbing sugar cravings, easing stress, and even boosting the immune system. Bitters help to relieve heartburn, nausea, indigestion, gas and even bloating. Studies also confirm that bitter foods can sharpen the appetite, aid in the prevention of leaky gut syndrome, and optimize nutrient absorption.

Bitter foods activate the bitter taste receptors and are associated with many health benefits. Organs like the stomach, gut, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver have similar taste receptors like your tongue. These organs know when you consume something bitter. Stomach acid, bile, and enzymes break down food and help us gain the greatest absorption of nutrients from what we're eating. Stimulation of the bitter receptors promotes this.

Dandelion root, cinchona bark, burdock, milk thistle seed, angelica root, artichoke leaf, cinnamon bark, and citrus peel are only a few of the many bitters you can use. Barberries, also known as Berberis, is a sour autumnal fruit that contains many valuable bitter substances. Ginger, referred to as 'universal medicine,' is warming and carminative (excellent at relieving bloating and gas).



Popular Bitter Foods

Here is a selection of bitter foods to consider. They will delight your taste buds and turn any meal into the best possible sustenance for your body.



Broccoli Rabe and Rapini

Brussels Sprouts


Citrus Peel

Dandelion Greens









Radish Greens





White Asparagus


Food scientists label bitterness as one of the seven basic tastes. Many spices and herbs contain naturally bitter substances that can be found in many naturopathic remedies.

Digestive bitters and foods are effective for those with poor digestion of proteins and fats. Many cultures have a tradition of taking bitters before a meal to juice up digestion and provide relief.



“What is bitter to the mouth is healthy to the stomach.”
(“Was bitter dem Mund, ist dem Magen gesund.”)
– An Old German Saying


Bitter Bubble is a blend of bitter botanicals and sparkling bubbles

Born in Vermont





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