In Ayurveda, taste is divided into 6 rasas or distinct flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. When these six rasas are eaten in balance, your doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha) stay in balance. In some cases, more of one flavor or less of one flavor can balance or create an imbalance for a specific dosha.
In our society, especially when the Holidays are here, we have a lot of sweet in our diet and not a lot of bitter. Naturally, bitters show up in coffee, greens, and cranberries (to name a few.) Bitter flavor tends to be the counterpart of sweet flavors, so when you eat a lot of sweet and don’t take in anything to balance it out, an imbalance occurs. This can result in digestive issues such as bloating and acid reflux.
Interestingly, by consuming bitters, you create a more sensitive palate to sweets making them taste much more rich and most likely, decreases the desire to take in a lot of sweet, because you become satisfied with a small amount.
Fun fact: Not only can consuming bitters train you to take in less sweets, but they also help to detox and cleanse the liver.
Science: When you ingest a bitter flavor, this taste activates the vagus nerve in the spinal column (wow!) which signals the digestive systems to start pumping the digestive juices from each organ.
When the flavor rests upon your taste buds, saliva is increased and pepsin and hydrochloric acid produces in the stomach. The gallbladder, pancreas, and liver are signals to expel their juices. This causes the peristalsis to activate which pushes everything down the colon to make room for food.
If you search around the internet, you can find teas, sprays, and digestive tonics. Some with and some without sugar. Below are the ingredients and a link to the recipe to make your own Ginger Bitters at home. I’m going to try to make some in December and will leave some in the studio for you to try!
FRESH GINGER CHEWS WITH BITTERS
(makes about 20 small chews)
Ingredients and materials:
2 c. water
1/4 c. shredded fresh ginger root – packed down
3/4 c. organic cane sugar
1/4 c. honey
1 oz digestive bitters
Powdered sugar for rolling
Small, rectangle glass dish
Ice water, for the water test
For full recipe, see: https://www.urbanmoonshine.com/blogs/blog/soothing-digestive-recipes-for-the-holidays
Digestive bitter tea: https://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/product/Digestive-Bitters/281
Bitter melon: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/bitter-melon-powder/