What Are Digestive Bitters & Are They Healthy?

Before you buy a bottle, find out if they’re right for you.

If you're looking for a solution to help with indigestion and pesky symptoms like bloating, heartburn, nausea and cramping, you may have come across digestive bitters.

Digestive bitters are becoming more popular, specifically for assisting in healthy digestion. But before you order a bottle for yourself, there are a few things you should know about this trending product.

Read on to learn more about digestive bitters and if they're a healthy—or safe—solution for indigestion.

What Are Digestive Bitters?

Generally, bitters are designed to assist in signaling your taste buds to create more saliva to support your digestive system, since saliva plays a crucial role in breaking down food. You may have heard of bitters being added to cocktails, like an Aperol spritz or a Negroni. This is because these drinks—aka apéritifs—are meant to be enjoyed before a meal to help stimulate digestion.

Digestive bitters have very similar elements. Typically sold in a bottle, digestive bitters have a base of alcohol or vinegar and commonly include a blend of herbs and roots like burdock root, dandelion, bitter melon and wormwood.

While the amount per serving depends on the particular product, you take digestive bitters by dropping or spraying the liquid onto your tongue. The taste of digestive bitters is exactly how it sounds: very, very bitter. In its pure form, bitters will have a stronger taste than when mixed into a drink.

a photo of an open tincture with droplets coming out
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Are Digestive Bitters Healthy?

The reason why people take digestive bitters is to aid their digestion and help mitigate symptoms of indigestion. A 2021 review of studies in Nutrients found that bitters can help with regulating hormones related to gut health and can increase gut motility (i.e., how foods move through our digestive system). Bitters may also help reduce stomach acid in the esophagus, which in turn can ease symptoms of indigestion like bloating and heartburn. Some evidence suggests that taking digestive bitters may help support weight loss, but more research is needed to support this claim.

However, consuming bitters when you don't have digestive issues may actually lead to digestive problems. This includes acid reflux, nausea and an upset stomach. So digestive bitters shouldn't be casually added to your daily routine if you don't need any relief from digestive distress.

Plus, if you have any existing conditions like diabetes or illnesses that affect your gallbladder, kidneys or liver, it is not recommended that you take digestive bitters. Bitters contain alcohol, so also avoid it if you are pregnant or nursing.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking to support your gut health, there are various foods you can eat that help support digestion without the need to take digestive bitters. Digestive bitters should be treated just like any other over-the-counter remedy or supplement, and they can be beneficial in more severe cases of indigestion. Talk to your health care provider before trying them out, especially if you are taking other medications.

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