Cultivate a Taste for Bitters for Stomach Health

Cilantro, a bitter herb


In Low Stomach Acid – A Hidden Culprit in Indigestion we discovered that indigestion or heartburn symptoms may be caused by low levels of stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) instead of high levels, especially when the heartburn occurs after meals. Ingesting bitter foods/herbs about 30 minutes before meals stimulates the natural release of stomach acid and regeneration of the complete digestive tract.


Bitters Include Many Familiar Foods

You may be surprised to find out that “bitters” include many foods that you are familiar with already:


Bitter melon and gourd


Dark chocolate

Japanese eggplant

Jicama (this one surprised me – it tastes sweet to me)


Leafy greens





Bitter herbs:




Bitter melon and gourd





Fenugreek seeds





Milk thistle











Many other foods and herbs can be added to this list too.


Looks like a nice salad with some of the above “bitter” foods before meals would be an easy way to stimulate our GI tract to release the “bitter reflex”. But remember it’s the taste of bitterness on the tongue that stimulates the bitter reflex. So most likely adding a sweet salad dressing would defeat our purpose in stimulating the strengthening of the structure and functioning of the digestive system.


For another option drink a tea made from one of the herbs in the list above about ½ hour before meals. Or buy a mix of bitter herbs in liquid form to add to a little water and swish around in over your tongue before meals. You will find a variety of combinations for sale online or in health food stores.


But be cognizant of the fact that “Swedish bitters”, that age old herbal combination, may make you dependent on it for regular bowel movements if you tend toward constipation. So look for safer bitter herbal combinations that have a gentler effect on your GI tract.


Other herbs soothe and heal the digestive tract too and fall into 3 categories:

Bitters – stimulate digestion

Carminatives – relieve gas

Demulcents –  soothe the gut


Carminative Herbs

If you have indigestion or heart burn you may also experience gas buildup. These carminative herbs help relieve gas distress:

Caraway (Carum carvi)

Chamomile (German chamomile or Matricaria recutita)

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Lemon balm

Linden (Tilia spp.)

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Sage (Salvia officinalis) (not recommended for breastfeeding women

Tumeric (Curcuma longa)


You can make tea from these common kitchen spices:







European angelica root






Demulcent Herbs

Then add a Demulcent Herb to your regimen to soothe the GI tract:

Licorice promotes the production of mucin that protects the lining of the digestive tract from stomach acid and irritants. However it’s best taken in thee glycyrrhizinated form since  glycyrrhizin, has cortisone-like effects and can cause and increase in blood pressure and  water retention or other side effects in some folks.


Slippery Elm does not produce mucin but contains mucilage which protects the esophagus from adverse effects of stomach acid. As an antioxidant it helps protect the digestive system from free radical damage.


Bladderwrack and marshmallow herbs act in the same manner as Slippery Elm.


Enjoy more details of the bitters story:


Wow that’s a lot of herbs and information! So let’s summarize.


Here’s my regimen and it’s been really helping my grouchy gut to become healthier:


  1. 30 minutes before meals 15 drops of a bitter herb liquid combo in a tiny bit of water


  1. Just before meals one capsule of DGLicorice (I open the capsule and dump it on my tongue, then swish it around with a small sip of water as mixing it with saliva produces a better effect.) You can also buy DGL as chewable wafers – but avoid the ones with sugar or artificial sweeteners.


  1. With breakfast and dinner 1 capsule slippery elm


  1. With any meal that’s mainly cooked food I drink 2 teaspoons of gelatin in hot bone broth or tea with the meal. Remember to soak the gelatin in a little room temperature water before adding the hot liquid so the gelatin disperses well in the hot liquid. The gelation forms a colloid solution with the food in the stomach which keeps the enzymes in contact with the food longer for better digestion. In my observations I think that the gelatin also forms a barrier to large food particles escaping through a leaky gut.


Often I add the gelatin to a tea made from one of the carminative herbs such as lemon balm which I grow and dry myself.


Taking all of these substance may take a little getting used to, but it’s well worth the effort to heal your gut. Low stomach acid and a leaky gut lie at the basis of many disease processes.


Enjoy your healing journey,

Dr. Jo


About Dr. Jo

Dr. JoDr. Jo delights in sharing the message of health. She believes disease is optional if you know how to take care of yourself. And she’s a great coach to help you reverse or prevent disease.

So she writes this blog to keep you up to date with information that may undermine your health if you are not aware of it. She also provides tips on healthy living, how to reverse degenerative diseases, delicious recipes, and ways to enjoyably change your habits to healthy ones.

Similar Posts

Post a Comment