Ah, digestion. One of the functions that happens after we enjoy a meal. Digestion is the process by which your body breaks down your food into it’s constituents (fatty acids, glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals etc) From here follows assimilation (the absorption of these constituents) and excretion, which speaks for itself. But what happens if digestion is not working optimally? Well, you might feel bloated, gassy, have acid re-flux or experience constipation. Who wants to feel this way after eating or worse, all the time?
NO ONE! So, it’s time to get bitter about your digestion. What I mean by this is, help improve your digestion by consuming bitter foods. When something is bitter, it stimulates our taste buds which send a signal to the brain to tell our liver to increase the production of bile. Bile is something our liver makes to help us break down our food. Bile is made up of bile salts, and cholesterol as well as a few other components. Our liver makes it and our gallbladder stores it until we’re ready to eat.
When bile production is increased, we can better breakdown our food. The bitter taste not only stimulates an increase in bile production but it also stimulates our stomach to produce gastric juices and our pancreas to produce digestive enzymes.
So, what foods are bitter?
Well, there’s a few different foods/supplements you can take to improve your digestion.
Dandelion can be consumed in the form of a tea or a herbal tincture. The tea is dried dandelion root which you would steep. The taste is very similar to coffee (think bitter!) and is naturally caffeine free. Dandelion can help reduce bloating and will work as a diuretic to rid the body of excess water. It is supportive for digestion as well as elimination through the kidneys.
Coffee (think about the immediate bathroom break you have to make)
Lemon while not bitter, lemon is sour and can generate the same response. You can enjoy lemon in some warm water. Warm lemon water is a great way to start to get your digestion moving and you might even notice it will help alleviate constipation.
Gentian is a bitter herb that taken be taken in supplement form as a tincture. Gentian can be found in some herbal digestive support tonics as well as on it’s own.
It’s important to keep in mind, that while all the above can assist with your digestion, you will still want to get to the root cause of your troubles. Chat with your Naturopath or preferred Nutritionist about your digestive health as they can walk you through testing for food sensitivities and discuss adding probiotics and supportive anti-inflammatory foods to your diet.
Balch et all. 2010. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 5th Ed.