Better Health through Digestion with an Ayurvedic Diet
Bitters and DigestionAyurveda suggests that a healthy gut will eliminate food six hours after eating it. The holy grail of six hour elimination exists today in indigenous societies with higher consumption of bitters but not for our society of refined flours and sugars.
The body may perceive some bitters as a poison, stimulating various organs for protection. In case of edible bitters, this has a beneficial, stimulating effect on digestion. Bitters stimulate peristalsis, the release of bile in the liver and gall bladder, clearing the blood of heat and Pitta.
Bitter taste stimulates breath and metabolism (prana). Recently, scientists have discovered the presence of bitter taste buds in the lungs. Calcium has a bitter, slightly sour taste. There is recent speculation that humans may have evolved specific taste buds for calcium.
Bitters, Cravings, and Fat MetabolismBitters are the missing taste in the modern diet but they are the most common taste in nature. Our ancestors subsisted on diets high in bitters for millennia. Naturally, in a bitter environment, sweet taste was rare and highly desirable. Our taste buds have not yet evolved for modern, convenient availability of sweet taste.
Bitters are drying to the body, cause an increase in metabolism, and scrape fat. Bitter purifies the body and dries up all secretions. Bitter resets the taste buds and destroys food cravings. By reducing fat and forcing the ego to confront displeasure, bitter taste increases ether element.
Qualities of BitterBitters are light, cooling, clearing and drying. They alleviate Pitta and Kapha and cleanse the body of toxicity. Bitters create a descending action that alleviates dizziness and fainting from heat conditions including fevers. Bitters are used to treat fever because they also clear the blood plasma of impurities (ama) and sweet taste (kledaka Kapha). Bitter taste clears wounds and purifies the skin and muscle tissue.
Excess bitter aggravates Vata causing tissue wasting and hardening, loss of strength and libido, and dryness of mouth.
Examples of BittersMost leafy greens, coffee, orange peel, and Chocolate undergoes significant processing to remove bitter taste. Gymnema sylvestre (gurmar) is used for diabetes, food cravings, and weight loss.
In herbalism, simple bitters are differentiated from alkaloidal bitters, and unpleasant tasting foods. dandelions and Neem are simple bitters whose action is primarily due to taste. Coffee and chocolate are alkaloidal bitters. Each alkaloid has a unique effect on the body beyond the action of a simple bitter.
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