Herbal Bitters: Invaluable Aid to Fat Digestion

by Sarah Healthy Living, Natural RemediesComments: 70

herbal bitters

Need help transitioning off a lowfat diet until your body adjusts to digesting healthy fats again? Herbal bitters can help!

People transitioning from a lowfat to a Traditional Diet rich in whole, natural fats like cream, butter, and coconut oil are sometimes shocked to discover that their bodies no longer seem able to digest fats very well at all.

Eating fats might even make them feel sick to their stomach!

The cause is a liver and gallbladder that are not accustomed to producing and storing the amount of bile necessary to digest the level of fats present in a Traditional Diet.

The solution is not to go back to a lowfat diet even for those who have had their gallbladders removed.

In many cases, a slow and steady increase in the amount of fats consumed will over time allow the liver and gallbladder to adjust with no further problems noted.

This approach works particularly well for those who are consuming coconut oil as a supplement prior to meals to suppress appetite and help them lose weight.

Another tip is to employ a most ancient remedy that modern science has all but forgotten:  Herbal Bitters.

Herbal Bitters Stimulate Bile Production

Herbal bitters are extracts of medicinal plants that are rich in minerals.  In fact, herbal bitters are an ancient tonic for stimulating the production of bile in the liver which correspondingly improves the digestion and absorption of fats.

It is critical that sufficient bile be produced to digest the fats present in the diet as bile also permits assimilation of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K which are critical to health as noted by researcher Dr. Weston A. Price.   These activators also supercharge mineral absorption.

Even those who have had their gallbladders removed find herbal bitters a welcome aid to a meal rich in fats and many are delighted to find that fats can once again be consumed with ease.

Traditional Asian cultures have long valued herbal bitters not only for their digestive benefit but also for cleansing properties as well which promote increased strength and healing.

Most healthfood stores have herbal bitters available for purchase at very reasonable prices.  

* Please note that most herbal bitters are not appropriate for pregnancy. However, this particular herbal bitters formulation made with chamomile is safe to use for occasional nausea, bloating and heartburn issues that may occur during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If Herbal Bitters Don’t Work, Gallbladder Cleanse May Be Needed

If despite your best efforts using herbal bitters, you still have a problem digesting fats, you may wish to consider a liver and gallbladder cleanse as there may be gall or liver stones inhibiting the bile flow process in your body.

Click here for the protocol on how to flush stones and potentially avoid gallbladder surgery with a simple, at home gallbladder cleanse.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Tips for Easy Fat Digestion after Gallbladder Surgery

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Bitters:  Revival of a Forgotten Flavor

Picture Credit

Comments (70)

  • Niki

    Sarah, thank you for the article. I just received my bitter in a box and found out that its not recommended for nursing mothers. Do you know why exactly? I was so excited to start it. Is it because it changes the flavor of the breast milk or is it a herb that is dangerous. Please let me know if you know.

    December 16th, 2014 2:30 am Reply
  • Jon S

    Surely anything bitter taken some time before a meal does the job …bitter herbs, a drop of lemon juice, a sip of bitter wine …even a bitter beer.


    June 1st, 2014 7:10 pm Reply
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  • Zainab Sorathia via Facebook

    I have liver issues during the last trimester of my pregnancies… my bile acid levels rise… and my body itches like crazy till baby is born. It’s called ICP. would this work to prevent it during pregnancy?

    February 6th, 2014 10:22 am Reply
  • Fran Boston via Facebook

    really works!!! I use

    February 5th, 2014 9:30 pm Reply
  • Mélissa Charron via Facebook

    So crazy that you just posted this I took coconut oil before dinner with some tea and I was suddenly nauseous and burping..wondering what was going on.. Now I know! What a coincidence..

    February 5th, 2014 8:50 pm Reply
  • Jennifer Holdridge Black via Facebook

    Nikki Poole Johnson – if the kraut wasnt working….

    February 5th, 2014 8:41 pm Reply
  • Sarah Byrd via Facebook

    What about if you’ve had your gallbladder out?

    February 5th, 2014 8:36 pm Reply
  • Cyndi Martinek Phillips via Facebook

    Don’t do it if you have gallstones!

    February 5th, 2014 8:35 pm Reply
  • Mary

    What about Angostura Bitters, are they the same sort of thing?

    January 5th, 2014 11:27 am Reply
    • Jo

      Be careful – you may need to check with the company whether or not small amounts of arsenic are present (could be an urban myth, but I understand that bar staff are advised not to serve pregnant women drinks with Angostura bitters in them (eg lemon, lime & bitters drink)

      November 4th, 2014 12:50 am Reply
  • Chris

    Woops the link didn’t work. Maybe this post will.

    Good article :), bitters have been an invaluable for supporting digestion and improving bile flow. I had poor bile flow for years, which as you can guess caused problems with fat digestion, persistalis and other issues.

    I wrote an article on the benefts of bitter herbs – http://thenaturalhealthblogger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/bitter-herbs-health-benefits.html

    August 19th, 2013 1:35 pm Reply
  • Chris

    Good article :), bitters have been an invaluable for supporting digestion and improving bile flow. I had poor bile flow for years, which as you can guess caused problems with fat digestion, persistalis and other issues.

    I wrote an article on the benefts of bitter herbs – [url=http://thenaturalhealthblogger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/bitter-herbs-health-benefits.html]Bitter Herbs Health Benefits[/ur;]

    August 19th, 2013 1:34 pm Reply
  • Pavil, the Uber Noob

    To promote the consumption of bitters before and after meals, cocktails were invented.
    To which I say, ‘Bottoms up!”
    Ciao, Pavil.

    May 15th, 2013 12:30 pm Reply
  • Crystal

    My husband was scheduled to have his gallbladder removed. He was in a bad bad place with the gallbladder attacks he was having. Not wanting to have it removed he thought he would give the cleanse from the liver and gallbladder miracle cleanse a try. It was a miracle. He is night an day better and 4 years latter still had his gallbladder

    May 15th, 2013 11:42 am Reply
  • Noahla

    Hi, when do i take them and how do i know how much to take? Thanks!! :)

    May 15th, 2013 10:55 am Reply
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  • Mercedes

    Love this article! Take caution where you buy your bitters. Not everyone has the original recipe of swedish bitter. Here’s a company who has a lot of information on the product and where it came from, it seems they also have the original recipe of 19 different herbs. https://www.opassoap.com/elixirs-tinctures/schwedenbitter-swedish-bitter

    After taking swedish bitter for quite sometime, you should allow your body a break to let your system work solely on its own. Then if you are not confident with your digestion or nutrition uptake, go back on the bitters.

    I take Opas bitters all the time, even for detoxing.

    September 30th, 2012 6:07 pm Reply
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  • Cindy

    I have no gallbladder (also Chron’s) and have been on the GAPS for 3 weeks had to go back to stage 1 due to diarrhea. How long to I give the bitters before I try something else.

    September 25th, 2012 6:04 pm Reply
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  • Lisa

    Thanks for the advice I got my andrographis from http://regenerativenutrition.com/natural-health-supplements.asp, hope it will begin to aid my digestion.

    August 31st, 2012 4:43 am Reply
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  • Massage Fort Wayne (@massageftwayne)

    Bitters: Invaluable Aid to Fat Digestion – The Healthy Home Economist http://t.co/ho6JDWQ1

    January 5th, 2012 9:21 pm Reply
  • Lisa D King, LMT,RYT (@bluemoonnl)

    We need healthy fats in our diet. Low fat and No Fat diets are why so many people have lost their gall bladders… http://t.co/e2DakOl9

    January 5th, 2012 5:10 pm Reply
  • Raine Saunders (@AgriSociety) (@AgriSociety)

    I recommended this to one of my friends who has no gallbladder recently (I hope she’s using it!). So many people… http://t.co/QT6LRaIh

    January 5th, 2012 5:02 pm Reply
  • Peggy

    I haven’t had any problems digesting fat since my gall bladder was removed, but hubby has. He took ox bile for a time, but over the course of a couple years, his body adjusted and doesn’t need it anymore. My grandma used to swear by a teaspoon of (real, homemade) apple cider vinegar in a little water before a fatty meal. Do you know if ACV works in the same way as bitters?

    November 12th, 2011 3:53 pm Reply
  • Karen Elpant

    Sarah, I have an important question that I hope you can answer! I am intrigued by this posting about bitters as I have had digestion problems for a while now that I can’t seem to resolve. Your posting of Agricultural Society’s gallbladder and liver cleanse link really make sense to me and I think I just may have to follow suit! But my concern is in relation to the GAPS diet for which I have not started yet but will fairly soon, maybe in this next year… My question is do you think it’s better and more beneficial to do the gallbladder/liver cleanse first then start GAPS *OR* do GAPS first then do the gallbladder/liver cleanse? I can’t seem to sort it out in my head which one would logically come first!

    Thanks in advance : )

    Karen E.

    November 12th, 2011 6:17 am Reply
  • Raine Irving Saunders via Facebook

    Hi Sarah – great post! Thanks for including my post about the liver gallbladder cleanse in yours. I’ve had a lot of people ask about this cleanse, and when followed properly, it truly is one of the best ones I know of to improve gallbladder and overall digestive function. I also know dozens of people here in Boise who have done it and have had great results. Someday I need to try Swedish Bitters, as that is something I have never used. I’ve heard great things about it also.

    By the way, I hope you have a great time at the conference this year! I won’t be attending, but hopefully next year! I’ll miss seeing you and everyone else! :)

    November 8th, 2011 11:47 pm Reply
  • Annika Rockwell FoodforKidshealth via Facebook

    Sarah – sounds like a great topic for a future post! I think that information would be very valuable. The great thing is, there are plenty of smaller topics like this that work very well for short posts that people can really benefit from.

    November 8th, 2011 11:43 pm Reply
  • Cindy (Clee)

    I’m returning with a question…We were really good about fermented foods for awhile, but then started using more of the probiotic beverages like kombucha, tibicos, dairy kefir, etc…I know these help the liver, but do they also help with fat digestion? And if so, if we take a little with each meal, (1/2 C.), would bitters still be needed? Thanks.

    November 8th, 2011 11:09 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      You really need bile to digest fats thoroughly. Certainly probiotic foods/drinks will help overall digestion due to the enzymes present too, but bile is the key for fats to be assimilated without discomfort.

      November 8th, 2011 11:26 pm Reply
      • Cindy (Clee)

        I can’t believe I’m reading this article (and sharing on FB) for the second time and just now seeing your response to my first question! GeeZ!!
        Anyway, thank you. :)

        August 20th, 2014 1:45 pm Reply
  • Nickole@savvyteasandherbs.com

    We like to use herbs to aid digestion. We take the turmeric as mentioned as well as cayenne and ginger. Also, we make a digestive tea that includes Peppermint, Chamomile, Fennel Seed, Catnip, Lemon Balm, Ginger, Aloe, and Hibiscus. It is delic too! We love drinking it around here.


    November 8th, 2011 8:54 am Reply
  • olivia

    Juicing also helps stimulate bile production I think. Also supplementing with ox bile.

    Here is some advice from Dr Natasha Campbell McBride some may find useful:

    “What is your advice for those of us who suffer from nausea after eating moderate amounts of fat with meals? What causes this and what are the immediate and long-term remedies?

    Please, read the sections on gallstones and liver. When you are unable to release bile for fat digestion, you may feel nauseous and find it difficult to digest fats. Take ox bile with your meals for a while and introduce fats gradually. Eating fermented vegetables with your meals, particularly at the beginning of your meals will also help.

    What liver support would you recommend for GAPS patients? Many patients report struggling with congested / toxic livers adding to digestive problems such as constipation and fat digestion.

    Please look at the question on gallstones. GAPS people usually have lots of gallstones blocking the bile ducts. Without good flow of the bile we cannot digest fats. Three measures over time will remove the stones and restore normal bile flow. Juicing is one, particularly apple, celery and green juices. Adding some herbs to your juices will support the liver: fresh dandelion leaves, roots and flowers, burdock leaves and a little ginger root. Coffee enemas are the number two: this procedure makes the liver cleanse itself and flush the toxins out through the bile, removing the stones at the same time. Third – good amounts of fat in every meal: the fat stimulates the bile flow and removes the bile stones on a daily basis. If initially you are unable to digest fat, start from a small amount with every meal and gradually increase: use both animal fats and cold pressed oils. In the initial stages supplementing Ox Bile with every meal will help you to digest fats (you should be able to find supplements of ox bile with some additional digestive enzymes from most multi-supplement companies). There are herbal supplements for liver support on the market containing milk thistle, dandelion, phyllanthus, liquorice, burdock and other herbs. It is important to complete the Introduction Diet first before trying these supplements; it is also very important to find a supplier of good quality organic herbs to make sure that the herbs have not been grown in areas contaminated with lead or other industrial pollution.” from http://gapsdiet.com/FAQs.html

    November 8th, 2011 7:52 am Reply
  • Janelle

    Since eating a high-fat diet, I have either been pregnant or nusing and not able to take bitters. What would everyone recommend? Simply to take the dandelion root tincture, as recommended on another commet?

    November 7th, 2011 6:02 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      A tsp of turmeric works wonders for stimulating bile production!

      November 7th, 2011 6:26 pm Reply
      • Janelle

        Thanks! I already take turmeric in the mornings with my kefir smoothie.

        November 7th, 2011 8:23 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Thanks for chiming in Annika. I too see folks give up on Traditional Diet sometimes when fat digestion problems present themselves. It is easy to overcome this but the value of bitters has been all but forgotten and we need to remember this wisdom for stimulating our livers to produce bile. Also, bile helps to alkalize the intestines so the benefits of using bitters go far and beyond simple fat digestion which I didn’t even address in the post.

    November 7th, 2011 5:17 pm Reply
  • Cindy (Clee)

    THANK you for this post…I plan to get bitters TODAY. I knew something was out of whack and I think this just might be at least part of the answer. I’m sharing on my Fbook page.

    November 7th, 2011 2:24 pm Reply
  • Annika Rockwell FoodforKidshealth via Facebook

    I have clients who have trouble digesting meat and fats since they have been on a low-fat diet for so many years, and these are great recommendations to get people back to eating healthy proteins and fats and be able to absorb them properly. I wish more people understood this and could transition rather than just continue to stay on the low-fat diets they believe are health sustaining and the only choice they have. Thanks for this post!

    November 7th, 2011 12:42 pm Reply
  • Marta Navaret via Facebook

    I was about to ask you that question, because I am having trouble digesting fats. Great post!

    November 7th, 2011 11:51 am Reply
  • Maretta Stiles via Facebook

    Perfect timing, thank you!

    November 7th, 2011 11:46 am Reply
  • Rene

    You used to be able to find bitters in the grocery store section where you find alcoholic drink mixes such as for pina coladas. I don’t know why or if it is the same product.

    November 7th, 2011 11:24 am Reply
  • Kathy Deutsch

    I had my gall bladder removed (big mistake by the way) and I found eating small amounts of healthy fat all day long helps. I mean, 1/2 a teaspoon of coconut oil or a dime size piece of butter at a time.

    November 7th, 2011 11:19 am Reply
  • Christine

    Dandelion root tincture, a few drops taken in water before meals, can be easily tolerated by most people as an introduction to bitters. It is safe for pregnant and nursing women.

    November 7th, 2011 10:11 am Reply
    • Sarah Smith

      Thanks Christine!

      November 7th, 2011 10:13 am Reply
  • Pavil, the Uber Noob

    I use cacao nibs. They’re pretty bitter, yet tasty. Great with coconut smoothies.

    Ciao, Pavil

    November 7th, 2011 9:32 am Reply
    • Anna

      Do the cacao nibs work the same way as the swedish bitters?

      November 7th, 2011 2:32 pm Reply
  • Jill

    I just checked and Mountain Rose Herbs has bitters. Just type in bitters in the search box.

    November 7th, 2011 4:54 am Reply
  • Kathy

    iHerb.com sells bitters. Here’s the search link http://www.iherb.com/Bitters-Herbal-Swedish
    You can use this code to get $5 off of your 1st purchase at iHerb. code: JON053

    Also here is a pdf on bitters too… http://www.themessenger444.com/uploads/Swedish_Bitters.pdf

    I just bought some recently but haven’t started to use them yet.

    November 6th, 2011 11:41 pm Reply
  • Homebirth Mama

    Thank you for this article Sarah. My father-in-law has been having trouble digesting fats. I will pass this information along to him.

    November 6th, 2011 11:28 pm Reply
  • Sarah Smith

    Do you know of any good bitters to try for nursing mothers? Every bitters formula I’ve looked at contains angelica, which is not supposed to be used if you are pregnant or nursing. I definitely have a hard time with fat digestion (it gives me heartburn and digestive upset), and really want to find a way to make this better. I’ll likely be nursing for at least another year, so it seems hard to wait so long to try anything out. Any suggestions?

    November 6th, 2011 7:40 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Is there a local herbalist of doctor of Chinese medicine you could consult with?

      November 7th, 2011 10:35 am Reply
  • Bethany

    This is so timely for me! I have been working on healing my gut for a couple years, yet something still seems off. Lately I’ve been researching liver congestion/issues and is what I am tackling next in the puzzle of my health. Thank you so much for posting!

    November 6th, 2011 3:48 pm Reply
  • Sally

    Thanks, Sarah. We just got some bitters since we eating so much more fat now. Good stuff! Well, not tasty good, lol.

    November 6th, 2011 12:36 pm Reply
  • Debbie

    I was just wondering if Oregon Grape Root tea would be considered one of these “bitter teas” or if you need a specific blend of things? I have heard a lot about the Oregon Grape Root tea. It seems to address a lot of problems that GAPS gutts have and it’s definately a bitter tea that’s for sure!

    November 6th, 2011 1:31 pm Reply
  • Lori

    What exactly are bitters?

    November 6th, 2011 1:16 pm Reply
  • Cassandra

    Very timely post for this. I recall Cheeseslave recommending swedish bitters for severe nausea related to taking FCLO. Now I wonder how effective that might be because I don’t have any problem digesting fats, at all. Still worth a try I suppose. I know if I got pregnant again I’d totally try it to help out with morning sickness at least, help digest things before my tummy wants to expel everything haha.

    November 6th, 2011 1:04 pm Reply
  • HealthyHomeEconomist (@HealthyHomeEcon) (@HealthyHomeEcon) (@HealthyHomeEcon) (@HealthyHomeEcon) (@HealthyHomeEcon)

    Bitters: Invaluable Aid to Fat Digestion – The Healthy Home Economist http://t.co/9EjYhp7V

    November 6th, 2011 1:01 pm Reply
  • Celia Browne

    Not knowing anything about bitters before, I was intrigued by today’s blog. But I find myself with more questions than answers. Is there any way you can elaborate more? Like the posters above, I want to know how it is consumed (is it add to food or do you drink it?), when is it consumed (before, during or after a meal), and where on earth do you buy it? More importantly, which brands do you recommend? I found *some* bitters for sale on Amazon, but mostly they were on overseas sites and not available in the US. The brand that you showed in the picture was nowhere to be found as far as I could see. Thanks in advance for any further information you can provide!

    November 6th, 2011 12:26 pm Reply
    • D.

      Here’s another site I found. Don’t know if it’s in USA or overseas, but what difference does that make? I order lots of stuff from London and never have a problem. The shipping is almost as fast as some of the American companies and they’ve regulated their S&H costs to be comparable to US shipping.


      This site shows all kinds of products like bitters, teas, creams, etc., from her company. Instead of ordering her MUD stuff, I made my own out of the leftover tea herbs and mixed them with quality kaolin and french green clay (from Mt. Rose Herbs) and made my own masks.

      November 6th, 2011 12:36 pm Reply
    • Beth

      Hello Celia. Reading the source article that’s linked above will provide many answers to your questions. See the link at the end of Sarah’s post.

      Thanks for writing about this, Sarah. Interesting stuff! Revival of time-tested practices is so exciting!

      November 6th, 2011 1:22 pm Reply
  • D.

    The Swedish Bitters from Maria Treban are the best to use. I could hardly tolerate the liquid so I bought the herbs to make tea, which was also gross but better than the liquid. Check at Amazon.com There is a whole list of different types of capsules, liquids and loose tea herbs to purchase. Just type “swedish bitters” into the search box once you get to their site.

    If you don’t think you want to try the bitters, you can order Lipase (the enzyme responsible for helping with fat digestion). I used some from Progressive Labs and I think I also got them from Amazon.

    November 6th, 2011 12:20 pm Reply
  • Jackie

    Should you consume the bitters before, during, or after meal?

    November 6th, 2011 11:10 am Reply
  • syreeta jayne

    yes, where do you purchase bitters? I have had this problem and was wondering why i was having this reaction. thanks so much for the info.

    November 6th, 2011 10:46 am Reply
    • Michelle M

      I love love love my citrus bitters that is made by a company called Urban Moonshine. You can buy it from amazon or from their website. They even have a small spray that can fit in your purse :)

      December 4th, 2011 1:07 am Reply
  • Melissa

    Where do you purchase Herbaforce bitters? I googled it and only found foreign websites.

    November 6th, 2011 10:27 am Reply
    • Adam Badger

      Exactly. I am also facing the same problem. Would love to hear from @Michelle about it.

      January 24th, 2015 6:35 pm Reply

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