Tastebuds are bundles of nerve endings located all over the tongue. Bitter taste buds are found at the back of the tongue, sour to either side, sweet at the tip and umami in between.
Some cultures around the world believe it is important to consume all 5 flavours within the diet and that each flavour has a specific effect on the body. Bitter flavours stimulate the vagus nerve which sets off a chain reaction of events including the production of gastric acid, digestive enzymes, and the release of bile. Stimulation of the vagus nerve encourages peristalsis, wave-like muscular contractions that move food through the digestive tract, alleviating constipation. Bitter flavours also help stimulate the liver to produce more bile which aids in the removal of toxins from the liver aiding detoxification.
Symptoms of a digestive system crying out for bitters in particular low stomach acid production include bloating, burping, heart burn, flatulence, nausea and constipation. Other signs include acne, undigested food in stool, increased susceptibility to parasitic and fungal infections.
How to increase the digestive bitters in your diet
For bitters to be effective they must be tasted. It is the bitter stimulation of the tongue that triggers the effect on your digestive system.
- Add lemon juice over some salad greens
- Take a bitter tincture 15-20 minutes before a meal.
- Drink 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water 15-20 minutes before a meal.
List of some bitter foods and herbs
There is a wide variety of bitter foods and herbs, some are best taken as a tea to help your body register the bitter taste to get the digestive juices flowing. Bitters include:
- Globe artichoke
- Dandelion leaves
- St Mary’s thistle
- Bitter melon
- Organic sencha green tea
- Rocket leaves
For more information on “digestive bitters” or to book a naturopathic consultation contact B inspired healthy lifestyle.
Mills & Bone 2000, Principles And Practice Of Phytotherapy, Churchill Livingston
Nickerson 2015, Herbal Homestead Journal
Thomsen & Gennat, Phytotherapy desk reference, 4th editon, Global natural medicine