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Are you experiencing uncomfortable symptoms like indigestion, heartburn, nausea, cramping, bloating, or gas? It could be because your gut chemistry is out of balance. In this episode, Jen talks about digestive bitters and the foods, fruits and herbs you can have to ease your symptoms and improve digestion.

Did you enjoy the podcast today? Please let me know by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Every month I draw one lucky reviewer to have a free one-hour consultation with me. Also, remember to subscribe wherever you’re tuning in from so that you always catch the next episode.

SHOWNOTES

You know, when you go to cook a piece of meat, and you put it on the grill or barbecue, and it isn’t hot enough yet. You see all of the juices seep out of it. That’s because it’s stewing or broiling instead of digesting. The same thing happens to us when our gut chemistry is out of balance.

So, I thought I’d do a podcast just on digestive bitters. Digestive bitters are the foods and herbs we use to bring your gut chemistry back into balance. 

How do I know if I’ve got high or low stomach acids?

There is an easy way to tell. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good indicator. If you do a lot of burping soon after eating, that can be a sign you have too much stomach acid. This differs from small burps you can get from swallowing too much air while drinking water. If you find yourself burping after 3-5 minutes, this is generally an indicator that you have low stomach acid.

What I care about as a naturopath is the digestive enzyme process and the right balance of acids and enzymes to help food digest. So, what is the remedy if you are burping or getting bloated after a meal and food is just not sitting?

How to bring your gut chemistry back into balance

Digestive bitters are a class of herbs that help digestion because of the bitter taste. I have spent a lot of time in Asia, and they’re big on eating bitter foods, but even just thinking about it, I can feel the saliva excreting because that’s what it does. 

Digestive bitters tell our body to get ready for digestion to start. It creates more saliva and triggers the action to help your body or your gut chemistry get to where it’s prepared to digest the food you’re going to eat. 

Digestive bitters have two key actions. One is that they stimulate stomach acids. So, this is an alternative to what we call betaine hydrochloride, which is that enzyme that we’re looking for in foods. The other thing they do is help support bile production, which helps your body with the fat digestion process and lowers cholesterol levels. 

So, they are critical. Bitter foods are nutritious. They’ve got all the plant-based constituents and way more health benefits than just balancing your gut chemistry, but they’re really important to gut health, and the gut is integral to everything in all body systems. Getting that chemistry right and having good digestive bitters in your diet helps with things like cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and gut, eye and liver health. 

As a professional speaker, I’ve done so much work in Asia for the last 20 years. There, after every meal, you’d get served things like bitter melon. I remember the first time I had bitter melon; it cracked my translators up; I was like, “what is this?!” So, imagine it’s like this luscious looking stir fry, but it’s made from all bitter vegetables and particularly things like bitter melon. 

I love that Asian countries eat for purpose, with the seasons and from the point of prevention. That fits everything in me as a naturopath. So, it’s something that I’ve taken on myself over the years. In Western countries, we eat for pleasure.

Food rich in digestive bitters

  • Bitter Melon
  • Dandelion Greens*
  • Cranberries
  • Broccoli
  • Rocket 
  • Kale
  • Endive

*Dandelions is that little yellow flower. It’s an amazing herb that we use for liver support and everything in clinic. We see it as a weed in Australia, but if you go and pick those greens and either steam them or have them in salads, they’re so good for you.

Fruits rich in digestive enzymes

  • Pawpaw
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Fresh pineapple 
  • Figs

Keep in mind that those enzymes are only live for about 15-20 minutes. So, if you cut the fruit, make a big fruit salad, and chuck it in your fridge, you’re going to lose the enzyme action. You’ll still get lots of goodness from the food, but you won’t get the enzymes. That’s why I’m a big Kiwi fruit eater because they’re a perfect size. I can eat one in a sitting and pull up those enzymes naturally. 

Do I need digestive bitters as a supplement? 

If you’re not having much in the way of bitter foods, you might need it as a supplement. How do you take the digestive business? You take them generally about 10 minutes before you start eating. That’s the ideal way, or at least include those kinds of foods in your meal.

If you have heavier foods, and you feel bloated and gassy, even something simple like some kiwifruit or some fresh pineapple before your meal, your body will have a better chance at rebalancing the acidity in the study, and your lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) would have kept closed.

When your LES closes properly, the stomach acids and food can’t travel back up. One thing you can do to help your LES is apple cider vinegar. Many practitioners will prescribe a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a little bit of water or some lemon juice before eating because that can stimulate the acid production ready for digestion before your meal. Or you can consider taking a betaine hydrochloride kind of supplement that’s possible too. 

Now I’m not giving any medical advice here; please know that. But if you are suffering from things like indigestion, heartburn, nausea, cramping, bloating, or gas, then give it a go. It might be as simple as some apple cider vinegar before your meal and bringing some bitter herbs into your meals. More often, it can be that simple. 

In clinic, we would usually prescribe digestive bitters in an alcoholic suspension like a tonic. Most herbal suspensions are done on alcohol. It’s the solvent used to carry the herbs into your body. The amount of alcohol you would get if you have a 3-5ml dose would be nothing, but if you did want an alcohol-free version, we’d get you to add a bit of warm water to it and allow the alcohol to evaporate off before you take the supplement.

If you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi, you might be thinking I like lemon, lime, and bitters. It’s a popular and refreshing non-alcoholic drink. It’s literally lemon, lime, and digestive bitters. The bitters used are the Angostura bitters, an old herbal remedy made with things like Gentian and other herbs and spices in that category.

What are some bitter herbs? 

  • Horseradish 
  • Parsley
  • Coriander
  • Camomile 
  • Gentian

Is it possible to have too many bitters? Yes, your body doesn’t like extremes, and if you do have too much, you will experience the same symptoms (bloating, gas, and diarrhoea) that you would if you aren’t having enough.

Healthy Life Hacks

The Healthy Life Hacks I want to share with you today are:

  1. Bring some of these bitter foods, fruits, and herbs into your life.
  2. Live from a place of prevention. Don’t wait for the symptoms to come; prevent them from coming by looking after your digestive chemistry. 

Did you enjoy the podcast today? Please let me know by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Every month I draw one lucky reviewer to have a free one-hour consultation with me. Also, remember to subscribe wherever you’re tuning in from so that you always catch the next episode.

Are you looking for more great resources? Get a free copy of my Feed Your Body ebook here and be sure to explore my blog while you are there.

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