The Best Foods for Digestive Health

By Ashlee Jane, NMD

Digestive bitters are herbs that support digestion by stimulating secretion of digestive juices to improve the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients. They bind to receptors on the tongue, stomach, pancreas, and gallbladder, increasing your secretion of saliva, stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile acid. Due to this multi-action effect, bitters are a true digestive powerhouse, and offer numerous benefits to digestion:

Improved protein digestion
Improved fat breakdown & absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
Improved mineral absorption
Curb sugar cravings and help balance blood sugar
Reduced gas, bloating, nausea, and heartburn
Promote regular bowel movements
Reduced food sensitivities
Feed healthy intestinal microbes
Breakdown microbes to prevent yeast & bacterial overgrowth

What Are They?
There are many bitter-tasting vegetables, spices, and herbs, but a few are especially beneficial to the digestive tract, and are collectively called digestive bitters. Within this group, there are further distinctions for how and when to use them to their best effect. For example, citrus bitters work particularly well for gas and bloating, fennel helps to reduce gas, while chamomile and ginger are great for nausea. Gentian might be a better choice if you need several of the benefits listed above. Frequently a blend is prescribed for personalized maximal benefit. Eating bitter foods like radicchio, arugula, and Brussels sprouts regularly can also provide some of these benefits.

Energetically, bitter tastes help us to lose weight, move stagnant fluids, and detoxify our bodies because they correlate with winter when we're eating root vegetables from the cellar stores that stimulate the body to mobilize stored nutrients and detoxify. Contrast this with the modern "eternal summer" diet that never lacks for ripe fruit, sugar, and simple carbs - readily accessible fast-acting energy sources that are easily converted into storage forms (glycogen and fat) in preparation for winter. Humans didn't evolve to live in a continual season of harvest, so transitioning our dietary routine to incorporate more bitter foods, and eating with the seasons can be transformational for digestion, detox, and overall health.

The Taste
Bitters are so named because they taste bitter, and while this isn’t everyone’s preference, the benefits are worth it. While you can find digestive bitters in a capsule, a liquid extraction works faster, even as soon as it hits your tongue! Taking bitters with each meal can significantly improve digestive health.

I work with patients to personalize their digestive health plan, incorporating bitters into a comprehensive treatment plan with diet recommendations, supportive nutrients, and supplements when needed to optimize digestive health. If you need help with your digestive health call MediKha at 208-391-5003 to schedule your personal digestive assessment.


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