Thanksgiving. 

Pilgrims and Native Americans. 

Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday to unite the country in the middle of the civil war. 

🦃Turkey. Served at the first feast. 

A time of genocide and colonialism. Sorry if that offends you but it’s the truth. 

Black Friday and the start of the consumerism frenzy.

Such a loaded beginning to the ‘holiday season’.

A time to come together and have gratitude. 

🙏Gratitude

Noun

The state of being grateful; thankfulness.

This I can get behind. This I can continue to cultivate. Daily. 

Life happens for me. 

Learning to speak of everything that has gone right not just complain about the stuff that hasn’t, although that too has its place. 

I hold gratitude deeply. 

I am grateful to you for reading this. 💚

But dude, Thanksgiving is also a lot about food!

I am not a fan of traditional Thanksgiving meals. I loathe stuffing and what’s with the green bean casserole and turkey not so much. So pretty much the traditional meal is out for me except the desserts, but I don’t like pumpkin pie. 🤣

Okay, so I no longer cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I cook what I like because I can and who says it has to be certain food anyway. 

It’s about coming together and sharing a meal and having gratitude.

But, sometimes it’s easy to get heartburn and indigestion, overeat and feel bloated and gassy and you have to unbutton your pants so your belly can hang out. Although these days stretchy pants are the way to go.

Enter herbs. Of course. You didn’t think I was going to suggest you take tums, did you?

Start your meal with Bitters.

How will Bitters help?

Bitters stimulate all digestive secretions: saliva, enzymes, hormones, bile…and each of these helps to break down food for absorption.

Super important because you aren’t what you eat, you are what you absorb. 

 👅 Bitters must be tasted to trigger the digestive system. Did you know there are more than 25 different bitter taste receptors in the mouth and throughout the body including the digestive tract and the lungs!? Ah, that means you are meant to eat bitter food. 

The problem is that nobody likes bitter. We prefer sweetness, ease, and comfort over bitter. But, sweet cravings are your body’s way of asking for bitters. Seriously, it’s all about balance.

And, bitter plays an important role in life as well as digestion. (but that’s a whole other post)

In addition to helping the body absorb nutrients, bitters can help with blood sugar spikes which are associated with syndrome X (insulin resistance) and diabetes. 

Bitters help you feel full and for longer after meals. So, if you feel full you will eat less, and voila, appetite control. But, don’t worry you will still have room for dessert. 🥧

Bitters help break down food more efficiently which helps reduce indigestion, gas, and acid reflux.

Research shows that certain herbal bitters contain prebiotics which promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. And we know those bacteria affect nutrient absorption, immune health, mood, sleep, bowel function, and lots of other stuff. 

Bitters tend to be grounding and help you connect with your gut energy, your instinct. How often have you said, “I wish I had listened to my gut”? Bitters can help. 

A little taste of bitters can sometimes ground you in the present moment and help you release stuck energy, like anger and frustration. These emotional energies are connected to the liver and bitters stimulate the liver helping with bile flow, hormone imbalances, and detoxification both physically and emotionally. 

Energetically bitters are cooling and drying. Perfect if you are warm and damp. (hum maybe that’s not the best way to say that 😁) But, bitters can be helpful for any constitution if you combine them with other warming moistening herbs that balance the cooling properties of the bitters. 

So what’s the best way to take bitters?

You can start by eating more bitter foods. Arugula, watercress, endive, artichoke, radicchio, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale are all considered to be digestive bitters. Eating a small bitter salad before meals preps your digestive system to get ready for food.

Even lemons and grapefruit are bitter. Many people start the day with fresh lemon squeezed into water. It’ll definitely get those juices flowing and stimulate digestion. 

You may not love the taste of bitters but the flavor is fundamental to great digestion. 

Bitter herbal tinctures are an easy way to add bitters to your diet. I’m a fan of dropping the bitters directly on my tongue but you could dilute them in a little bit of water. 

Dandelion is a classic bitter tonic and can be paired with Burdock, Orange Peel, Fennel Seed, Ginger, Gentian, Yellow Dock, Yarrow, Oregon Grape Root, Elecampane, Angelica, Coffee, Licorice Root, Hops, Horehound, Wormwood….

Most bitters are formulas but you can certainly use a single herb if that is what you have on hand. 

One of my favorite Bitters recipes Orange Elecampane Bitters comes from herbalist Rosalee de la Foret. 

If you don’t want to make your own there are plenty of resources for you to purchase ready-made bitters. Here are two companies I know of that have quality products.

Urban Moonshine

Mountain Rose Herbs

Dosage is variable. Remember the best way for bitters to work is if you taste them. 

Try 15-30 drops or bump it up to ½ or 1 tsp. Take before meals. Although sometimes I forget and take them during or after. 

You can also make a nice cup of Chamomile tea. Chamomile is actually really bitter so be careful how long you steep it or you may not want to drink it. It definitely makes a nice after-dinner tea. 

Bitter drinks can be taken before (aperitif) or after (digestif) meals and have a long history of use. Think of the famous Chartreuse and the infamous Absinthe. 

Another easy way to consume bitter drinks is to add the bitters to some sparkling water. 

Whatever way you decide to use bitters I know you will find them helpful for your digestion, especially during the holidays when you might eat a little more than you intend to. 😀

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