Gas, bloating, malabsorption of nutrients, acid reflux, heartburn... all of these are digestive issues. Did you know that many of the health issues we have stem from deeper problems, one of which is not that hard to remedy- digestion. We could reach for digestive enzymes, and for some you may still need to, but for me I prefer to add in as many enzyme releasing and promoting foods as possible. This means eating my bitters!
Certain herbs help produce digestive enzymes, and in turn help improve both liver and gallbladder function. Did I mention they are also great for helping the body detox?
When our tongue (a smart little device) recognizes something bitter it sets off a reaction called the "bitter reflex". This process starts in the neuroendocrine system, is then mediated by the hormone in our stomach called gastrin which stimulates the much needed flow of HCL (hydrochloric acid). Most people suffering from acid refuels think they have to much of this and reach for an ant-acid, but the reality is that many us actually have to little of this. From there the reflex goes down and helps both the liver and the gallbladder secretions of bile and pancreatic enzyme secretions.
Bitters aren't just good for the liver and gallbladder, they are also great for aiding in the detox and cleansing of the blood, digestive system as a whole system, kidneys and our urinary tracts.
So how do you get more bitters into your diet? In the summer I add them to juices, I almost always juice with a little parsley. You can eat them in salads or add them to your favourite dish.
Are all bitters created equal? No. There are two major categories of bitters.
CHOLAGOGUES: Which increase the flow of bile. This includes dandelion root, parsley, burdock root, artichoke, ginger, and goldenseal.
HEPATOPROTECANTS: Repair and protect (the name gives this one away) the lover from overexposure to toxins. This is especially important in todays pesticide riddled world. This includes turmeric and milk thistle.
Dandelion: Rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, these greens are a must have in any salad. They have highly absorbable methylating agents such as B2, B6, and folate and are rich in much needed minerals like iron, zinc and potassium. A great addition to green juices too. Feeling like water retention is an issue? Good news, these powerhouse greens release excess fluid out of the body and detox the liver and kidneys while they are at it. They support digestion, reduce swelling and inflammation, treat jaundice, edema, gout, eczema and even acne. Be warned, they are very bitter so you may want to mix them with your favourite greens and not have them alone as a salad, unless you like the bitter taste them go nuts.
Parsley: I absolutely love this stuff, I eat it as a garnish on almost all my dishes, I add it to juice and throw it into my soup. It's packed with chlorophyll and just so happens to contain almost three times the amount of vitamin C as an orange. Yes you read that right. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin which are carotenoid antioxidants that enhance eye function and help the body neutralize damage done by UV radiation.
Coriander/Cilantro: This is one powerful heavy metal detoxifier, for those who can't stand the taste you may opt out and switch it for watercress. But for the bitter purpose you want to use coriander (cilantro). It has a strong presence of phytonutrients and chlorophyll (thats the heavy metal detox). It is fantastic for the blood, liver and kidney purification, I throw it into my juice and hide it with lots of fresh lemon. It's great for pulling out the heavy metals like aluminum, mercury and nickel.
Ginger: I am never out of this stuff. I throw it in my juices, I make ginger tea almost daily and I dehydrate my own to add to my favourite dishes. I cannot get enough of this stuff and it's a good thing too because it just so happens to be classified as a carminative - that means it reduces intestinal gas (bye, bye bloat)
It is also known as an intestinal spasmolytic - that's fancy for soothes the intestinal tract, while inducing gut motility. Very important functions. It also has properties that aid in reducing or eliminating fever related nausea, motion sickness and for those of you who are pregnant it is great for morning sickness.
It also helps in the production of bile which means when we are eating a meal rich in fat it will help us digest it much more efficiently.
Turmeric: This is one of those spices which really is golden royalty in my home. In the fall and winter months I make turmeric or golden milk almost daily, I alternate between this and ginger tea. According to Ayurvedic medicine it should not be used cold so I don't tend to add it to juices or shakes.
Curcumin is the active anti-inflammatory compound found in turmeric, it detoxifies the liver, boosts glutathione levels and is a chronic inflammation suppressor. This doesn't just mean if you have sore joints, this means if you are suffering sever autoimmune conditions it will have a much deeper affect. It has been shown in many studies to suppress much of the autoimmune diseases in society that have run rampant over the last half decade.
Milk thistle: Used in modern day practices for many health related issues, most common are hormonal. It is also used for liver function improvement, same with kidney and improved function of the gastrointestinal system. Got menstrual issues? add this to your daily regime and you will likely see some improvement. Circulation issues? it's been said to improve that too.
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