Overindulged? Take Some Bitters!

‘Tis the season of button-popping overindulgence. It’s so hard to stop eating when there are delicious food temptations everywhere! No matter how much willpower we have, we’ll usually feel overfull at some point this month. Fortunately, there is an unsung hero that can be your best friend when your pants start digging in:

Digestive bitters!

Oh, that bitter flavor. It’s something we frequently shy away from, but it can play an important role in our digestion. It’s so important that, traditionally, all of our larger meals would begin with it. Salad greens like endive or digestifs like Jägermeister were always served at the beginning of a meal. This bitter flavor primed our digestive system, especially the gallbladder, so that we could indulge in a heavy meal of protein, fat, starch, and veggies. Even mother earth agrees; most plants found in the wild have a bitterness to them. Even wild berries have a natural slight bitterness. But in North America, we don’t really like that flavor.
We prefer our salads greens to be sweet so our poor gallbladders can suffer.
While our gallbladders only complain when they’re really struggling, they typically suffer when we overindulge. If you have gallbladder issues, you know the feeling. Mid-abdomen pain (usually on the right side), gas, and digestive upset. A full gallbladder attack—accompanied by severe pain and a fever—needs immediate medical attention. Let’s be kind to our digestive systems this holiday season and stock up on digestive bitters. They’re easy to take, and soon you’ll love that bitter flavor. It does happen, and surprisingly quickly!

How to feel better before, during, and after a heavy meal:

  1. Don’t overfill your plate
It may be super tempting to load up on all of that delicious food, or you may just want to try everything available. Remember, you can always go back for seconds; the host will be flattered that you want more, and your stomach will be able to let you know if there’s room for extra. Additionally, we tend to finish what’s on our plate, so that small pause before servings can really cut down on our portion.
  1. Put your fork down between bites and chew, chew, chew
This beautiful food was prepared with love, and you can show your appreciation by really enjoying and savouring every bite. An easy way to slow down is to put your fork down between bites. While your fork is down, simply chew. You’ll feel much less sleepy and uncomfortable after a well-chewed meal.
  1. Excite your digestive system with a bitter tonic
A bitter flavor is a signal to your body that a complex meal is coming. That’s a nice heads-up to give to your digestive system before that great big meal. It can even help after you’ve over-indulged. When you have that heavy, bloated feeling after a meal, take 1 tsp of bitters in water or herbal tea and you’ll feel better in no time! Flora offers a variety of bitters. I use Maria's Swedish Bitters (US/CA), and WOW! Does it ever work! It gives me such relief during or after a heavy meal. Other available products include:
  • Maria's Swedish Bitter - Alcohol-Free (US/CA)
  • Gallexier Herbal Bitters (US/CA)
  • Original Sweden Elixer (CA)
  • Swedenbitters Dry Herbal Blend (CA)
With these simple dietary hacks, you can enjoy your holiday meals, too—without that heavy, bloated, sleepy feeling or having to undo the top button of your pants.
About the author: Lisa Kilgour
Lisa Kilgour is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), founder of LisaKilgour.com, and a faculty member at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.