The Hype about "Bitters" and Why They are Important

1. Medicinal bitters improve nutrient absorption

Research shows that when our bitter taste receptors detect bitterness, they signal the brain to increase gastric secretion and decrease gastric motility during digestion. Research above also indicates that bitter flavors can increase blood circulation to your digestive tract in as little as five minutes after you ingest bitter foods. So you can still get the benefits of healthy bitters whether you take them before, during, or after your meals.

Bitters are also significant as it relates to blood sugar levels. Proper blood sugar is not only critical in maintaining good health, but reducing blood sugar volatility also helps maintain proper appetite control and prevents more serious conditions like insulin sensitivity and diabetes.

2. After-meal glycemia reduction

Research shows that bitter substances can help to slow down the digestive movement of carbohydrates into the small intestine, which in turn can help reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes, or glycemia.

Carbohydrates (sugar) that are derived from your food enters your bloodstream in your small intestine. Slowing down this progression seems to also spread out the duration of sugar entering the bloodstream.

One of the problems of a high-sugar diet is the resulting “spike” in post-meal blood sugar. Diabetics and pre-diabetic people with insulin sensitivity are particularly prone to these spikes. Over time, repeated blood sugar spikes are associated with developing metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

3. Feel full (and for longer)

Another thing that healthy bitters can provide is the same reduction in gastric motility that helps with nutrient absorption and in the reduction of blood sugar volatility also helps you feel full – and for longer after meals.

This is fascinating not just because it can subdue the feeling of hunger and make us feel full, but also because the unique nature of the receptor cells means that the reaction does not have to operate through the central nervous system. This means that bitters may act directly as localized hormone triggers to control appetite and other metabolic functions in digestion.

These hormonal triggers in the GI can reduce appetite and increase satiety, which leads to a reduced caloric intake and thus potential weight loss.

4. Medicinal Herbal Bitters help promote a healthy gut biome

The beneficial bacteria found in our digestive tract is responsible for a number of essential functions that affect nutrient absorption, immune system health, mood, sleep, and more. Maintaining a healthy gut is foundational to overall health and wellness.

Research indicates that certain herbal bitters, loosely known as “nutritive bitters”, contain meaningful amounts of prebiotic starches that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and can have beneficial effects on regulatory bowel function.(12) Examples of nutritive bitters include dandelion, chicory, angelica, cerasee, and burdock.

5. Bitters to combat sugar-fed “bad” bacteria

When we stop eating bitters, we tend to compensate with more sweet. This seems to be the story of our Western diet, which has all but abandoned bitters in favor of sweet. Bitters help balance our cravings, particularly for sugar.

In addition, sugar and bitterness seem to be at odds when it comes to our immune response. Sweetness tends to suppress the immune response. And we already know that bacteria love sugar.

6. Natural bitters help regulate appetite

The regulation of appetite involves a lot of different mechanisms. But research does indicate that bitter flavors activate receptors cells in several different locations within the digestive system that have an impact on hunger, satiety, how carbohydrates and fats are metabolized or stored, as well as a number of responses relating to blood sugar and insulin.

Research continues to explore how these multiple avenues of bitter receptor responses control appetite, improve digestive efficiency, and support healthy metabolism of carbohydrates and sugars resulting in reduced levels of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

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