– Bitters can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used to promote digestion, they can be used as a very gentle way to support liver detoxification. So many times people will do these really extreme detox protocols. My favorite way to do a detox is actually to just take bitters. More than at my meals, I would take bitters maybe five to six times throughout the day and get this nice stimulation for the liver to start revving up its detoxification pathways, enhance that detoxification, then come in with maybe some bentonite clay to absorb the toxins that get dumped down into the colon and help run those out of the system. That’s one of my favorite ways to do a detox ’cause it’s gentle, it supports your natural detoxification processes, and it’s plant based, so we’re really working with something that our physiology is very, very familiar with. It has a long-standing historic interaction with. So, digestive improvement, detoxification enhancement, immune health, lung health, so if there’s any kind of asthma or shortness or breath or shallow breathing, you can use the bitters to help kind of relax the airways, as well. Stimulate the appetite or even reduce appetite. Really fascinating how they can work in both ways.
– When we’re looking at bitter foods to incorporate into our diet, dandelion greens are fantastic. You can get them at a good co-op or a natural foods stores will usually have really high quality dandelion greens. Or your local farmer’s market or if you’re a wild crafter you can go out and just eat some dandelion leaves out of a field somewhere that are clean preferably. Doesn’t take much, just a leaf or two. Just to get that taste of bitter in there. Endive, escarole, those are really good to add in to your diet. Those have nice bitter compounds to them. Also your dark leafy greens. So things like mustard greens, collard greens, kale, those all have a slightly bitter aspect to them. Also chicory root, dandelion root, burdock root, you can get burdock root at the grocery store as well. That’s a traditional bitter. Ginger is a traditional bitter as well with a little bit of heat to it. So it improves digestion, reduces inflammation. And has that little you’ll find that in bitter formulas many times. Now I love to incorporate bitter foods in to my every day diet. There is a teacher in North Carolina where I’m from. Frank Cook, he said eat something wild every day. And I thought that’s a fantastic recommendation because wild foods are a great source of nutrition. They have much more life force in them than something that’s been cultivated and cared for and pampered. So you can go out, eat a dandelion leaf, eat a dandelion flower, those are really good. And you’ll just get some wild food in you. Some highly nutritious food and you’ll get a little bitter stimulation as well. And then you can do digestive bitters as well. In a tincture form. We make those here. We have our own little apothecary where we can blend up different bitter formulas depending on what your needs are. So in the classification of bitters, there are warm bitters, there are cooling bitters, there are aromatic bitters. So there’s variety of ways that you can go with bitters to elicit specific physiological responses. So as an example if somebody tends to run really hot, they’re flushed all the time. You know they’re always red, they’re always sweating. That’s a person you would want to give some cooling bitters to. So things like you wouldn’t want to give them ginger as an example. You would probably want to give them something a little more cooling. Wormwood, maybe some Oregon grape root. Just some more cooling, dandelion root, things like that. Burdock root, the roots that are underground and a little more cooling. If somebody tends to run cold, then you might want to give them some spicy bitters. Get that fire going in the belly again. So there’s a variety of ways to work with these.
– Bitters can be used to stimulate a weak appetite. And I use this a lot with elderly people who start to lose their appetite. I give them digestive bitters because one of the flip sides to this is that when you take in digestive bitters, and give yourself some time, all your digestive forces are revved up and that means your appetite’s gonna come on line. And so if you’re suffering from a poor appetite or you’ve been sick and you just haven’t been able to eat much but you really feel you need to, digestive bitters can be one way to stimulate your appetite. And another benefit of digestive bitters is they actually can reduce inflammation in the gut wall. And that’s big because gastric inflammation is a major issue right now. Think of things like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. Also just people consuming foods that they may be allergic to or they’ve having an immunological reaction to them and there’s this inflammation going on in the gut. And that inflammation in the gut can translate back up the vagus nerve to the brain and cause neuroinflammation. When you start to have neuroinflammation, that can accelerate neurodegeneration. And as you have accelerated neurodegeneration, that’s gonna feed back down to the gut and it’s going to impact the gut in a negative way. It will actually slow gut motility meaning that food will stay in the gut for a longer period of time which leads to the possible fermentation of carbohydrates to putrifying proteins and the rancidification of fats. All of which sets up this really wonderful environment for dysbiotic bacteria to come in and create this unhealthy ecosystem in the gut. So the bitters can come in. They can reduce inflammation in the gut. They can improve digestive function and get things moving. Many bitters tend to actually be anti-microbial as well. So some classic bitters would be things like wormwood, which is also a anti-parasitic, anti-microbial. Oregon grape root, another one that’s anti-microbial. So you’ll have these wonderful anti-microbial compounds in these bitter plants that can be used medicinally.
– In the world of nutrition, I look at nutrition as a resistance process. And the more resistance that food gives in the digestive process, that means there’s more nutrition in it. So when you’re eating whole foods and you’re eating whole plant foods that need a lot of digestive forces to be broken down, your body knows that and will produce the digestive secretions that are necessary, the pancreatic juice, the hydrochloric acid, the bile, if it has the capacity, and bitters can help with that. And so the more resistance, the more nutritious. The flip side of that is, when you consume refined processed foods, the nutrients are stripped out of it, the brans may be taken away, the fibers taken out, you just have this white starchy flour in front of you. It’s not a lot of resistance there. It breaks down really quickly, really easily, and that’s why you get this spike in blood sugar also because there’s this, there’s no resistance there. It goes through the digestive system rapidly, and you get this rapid rise of blood sugar, which isn’t good for the physiology. One of the things that bitters do is they actually help stabilize blood sugar levels, which is one of the most important things in my opinion that we can do when we eat is eat in a way that maintains stable blood sugar levels. When we spike and crash our blood sugar levels, and when we’re on that blood sugar roller coaster, what that does is it can impact all of our key neurotransmitters, our serotonin, our dopamine, acetylcholine or GABA, and so it can disrupt all of our neurotransmitters which then disrupts our thinking and our feeling life and can lead to poor choices, poor actions, confused thoughts, emotional imbalances. And so we really wanna make sure that we eat to stabilize blood sugar levels. When we put some bitter foods into our diet, what that will do is one, the taste of the bitter sends a signal to the liver that whoa wait a minute, there might be something that’s potentially toxic here, and you may not wanna eat too much of that. So what that does is it one, suppresses the appetite, so you don’t eat as much of that food. And it also will help to stabilize blood sugar levels. So these are some innate mechanisms within us that our body knows what to do when we get the taste of bitter.
– There are a variety of bitter taste receptors. So sweet, salty, sour, spicy. They have about one type of receptor for each one of those. With bitter there’s over 20 different types of receptors for bitter. And with sweet, sour, salty, spicy, those taste receptors are found on the tongue. With bitter, there are bitter receptor sites not just on the tongue. But there are bitter receptor sites in the cardiovascular system. There are bitter receptor sites all throughout the small intestine, in the throat. In the lungs actually and that when the bitter receptors sites in the lungs are stimulated it actually triggers the lungs to relax. So you can even think about using bitters as a possible adjunct remedy for something like asthma even. Or some sort of constricted lung issues. There’s also bitter receptor sites in the pancreatic duct as well as in the brain. So brain cells even have bitter receptor sites. Reason being is because bitters actually will stimulate vagus nerve activity and that can actually cause enhanced digestion. The vagus nerve is a nerve that runs from the brain stem, innervates a variety of organs eventually into the gut. And it’s the main communication pathway between the gut and the brain. That’s the gut brain access right there. And so bitters can actually stimulate brain cells, increase vagus nerve tone, improve digestion, improve neuronal functioning. So bitters can do a variety of things there. But one of the best things that bitters do is they stimulate digestive forces. So when we consume bitters and that taste of bitter, and that’s really the important thing is actually getting the taste of bitter on the tongue. That taste of the bitter on the tongue will immediately send a message to the stomach to start producing hydrochloric acid. It’ll send a message to the pancreas to start secreting pancreatic juices. It’ll send a message to the gallbladder to start releasing bile. The gallbladder is a bulbous shaped organ. Like a baby aspirator and when it’s stimulated it contracts and it releases bile through the bile duct down into the small intestine. And that helps with fat emulsification. So what you have happen when you get the taste of bitter in your mouth, is you get this threefold stimulation of all your digestive forces. So for improving digestion it’s really one of my favorite things to do. A lot of people will take digestive enzymes. Or they’ll take hydrochloric acid and sometimes there’s a need for that. But really by starting with bitters, what you’re doing is you’re stimulating your own inherent digestive forces. And that’s really important. We want to produce and secrete our own digestive forces. We don’t, there is a time and place for this. Digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. If somebody is hypochlorhydric, meaning they have weak stomach acid, then hydrochloric acid supplements are really important. But as a first line of improving digestion, we really want to work with the bitters. That way we’re stimulating our own inherent forces and we’re not relying on something from the outside to come in and digest for us. And with hydrochloric acid there’s a build up to it and it can actually build up your stomach acid and then you can titrate back down. So that’s really unique in its own capacity there. But with digestive enzymes they just kind of come in and they do the work. So I’m a big fan of stimulating our own forces.
– There are nutritious plants that are rich in carbohydrates that tend to be more sweet. There are salty plants that have a higher mineral status. And that’s where the saltiness would come from. Then we have pungent plants. That pungent spiciness comes from volatile aromatic compounds and we can usually smell those before we taste them. And sense of smell is directly related to sense of taste right. We can smell more things than we can taste. And if you’ve ever had a stuffy nose, and you try to eat you realize that when you have a stuffy nose you can’t really taste your food very well. So smell is directly tied in to taste. Bitter is a taste that is found in all plants. Sweet isn’t, sour isn’t, salty isn’t, nor is spicy. But bitter is found in all plants to some degree. In some plants more than others. Over time where we have been consuming plants, that we developed this repertoire. Our liver developed this repertoire of chemicals that it became knowledgeable of. That it came to know and it knew how to handle it, knew how to detoxify it, break it down into metabolites that weren’t so toxic and get it out of the system. And the way that was done is the production of bile and bile is secreted into the gallbladder and then eventually down in to the pancreatic duct into the small intestines. Eventually eliminated via feces right so this is how this is a natural detoxification of pathway or elimination route is what I should say. And so what’s fascinating about this is that the liver actually needs a little bit of a challenge to do its job. So if the liver isn’t getting stimulated by something like bitters. It tends to become sluggish. So what we’ve done in the modern era is we have replaced bitter with sweet. Now our ancestors didn’t really have this luxury. Our paleolithic ancestors as well as our agrarian ancestors up until the Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago. About 200 years ago when we started to refine and process foods is when we really started to replace bitter foods with sweet foods. Now our ancestors ate a lot of plant material. Our ancestors consumed upwards of 95 to 300 plus different plants for food and medicine. So there was a real strong relationship with the plant world and that was a lot of phytochemical information streaming into the physiology. All of which could stimulate the liver and get it doing its detoxification more efficiently. So without that little bit of challenge, the liver becomes sluggish and slow to detoxify. And where we are today a lot of my friends who are herbalists talk about having a bitter deficiency syndrome. Which I would agree with. This is a really important taste for us. And it’s one that we’ve eradicated. And so what’s happened is that the liver becomes a little bit sluggish. The food is being replaced with sweet foods. And we’re just not getting the challenge that we need.
– We have this thing called the xenobiome, and the xenobiome is basically the comprehensive chemical environment in which the liver evolves. So our liver, over millennium has evolved by becoming familiar with various chemicals in the environment; specifically, plant compounds, plant chemicals. So not everything in plants is good for us or safe. Every plant manufactures it’s own version of pesticides, and these compounds that are in the plants are potentially toxic to insects specifically and also to us. And what has happened is over time, we have co-evolved, some like to use the term, we have coherently coupled, with plants over hundreds of thousands of years. We have a long standing historic interaction with the plant world. And one of the things with plants is that we would try a little bit of them and see how it tasted, and if there was some bitter in there, that was a signal that there’s possibly something potentially toxic in this plant and I shouldn’t eat too much of it. But every time we consumed a little bit of a plant, we were introducing chemicals, phytochemicals, into our physiology that our liver had to figure out what to do with. So over time the liver has developed specific detoxification enzymes, detoxification pathways that were designed to metabolize these plant compounds, these xenoestrogens and eliminate them to reduce the toxic burden in our physiology. So as we developed this relationship with plants we also developed this bitter taste sensation, this bitter taste receptor that was designed to give us really good information about whether plants are safe or not.
– You wanna get a good source of bones and that is grass fed beef bones. And grass fed because the grass fed beef contains a lot of omega-3s. So we’re looking for omega-3s in our diet which is anti inflammatory fats versus the omega-6s. Omega-6s are very important in our diet but there’s sort of a preponderance of omega-6s and so we’re getting too many omega-6s. And that leads us down an inflammatory pathway. So that means more joint pain, more inflammation in the body, and that’s something we want to balance out and avoid the sort of imbalance of omega-6s to omega-3s. So find grass fed beef and get grass fed beef bones. Now grass fed beef has a little bit different flavor than corn fed or soy fed or zorgon fed beef. It’s a little bit more I would say gamey.
– It’s a little more lean.
– It tastes a little bit more like cow. And it’s not so inflammatory for you so try and stick with grass fed. We have a couple of companies here in the valley that have grass fed beef and you can find those. Natural Grocers I think has a good selection. The Medford Food Co-op, the Ashland Food Co-op, and sometimes you’ll find some at Shop’n Kart in Ashland.
– And find your local farmers too.
– Absolutely support the local guys.
– I mean shake the hand that feeds you is what I like to say.
– Please. So find the local farmers. And here’s an important thing. Is that if you make your own bone broth which I would highly recommend because it’s really the most cost effective and best way to do it. What ever recipe you use you wanna add a little bit of apple cider vinegar to it. Because what you have an opportunity with when you’re making bone broth is to get a lot of minerals out of those bones. But the way that you’re gonna do that is through apple cider vinegar. It’s the vinegar that can actually pull the minerals out of the bones into the bone broth and that’s gonna be a way that you can actually maximize the nutritional value of the bone broth that you’re making. So my favorite recipe and it’s super simple is I take about a pound and a half of grass fed beef bones. I like beef bone broth.
– That’s my personal favorite. I like chicken too. But I’m more of a beef bone broth person. So I take a pound and a half of grass fed beef bones with the marrow. And I add a gallon of water to that. And then I put two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with two teaspoons of real salt in there. And then I take an entire bulb of garlic and I crush it because I wanna activate the allicin in the garlic by crushing it and then I add that. And it’s all in a crock pot and I let that cook for 24 hours. Add a little more water then I might let it go another 24 hours. I like to really cook mine. 24 hours is adequate 48 just takes it to the next level.
– You know adding water to the bone broth it’s important to have a clean water source. So if your municipal water source is high in chlorine you can actually cook that down and concentrate the chlorine. So you know use a clean water source. If you can get you know Mount Shasta water or a filtered water that has no chlorine in it it’s gonna be the best. And it’s actually gonna taste better for you.
– It’s gonna be better for you it’s gonna taste better. So use a clean water source. And you know my bone broth recipe is sort of similar to yours. And I like to put in lots of garlic. And if you’re coming off a fast or you’re looking to heal your gut and you’re sensitive to some things. You know you can just be as simple as bones, salt, and water. Right? And a little bit of apple cider vinegar. You can avoid putting in the garlic and the onions and the celery and things like that. But my favorite way to break a fast is actually with bone broth. It’s super good, it’s super healing for the gut.
– If you don’t wanna make your own, and I guess that is most cost-effective, to make your own, it costs me like about eight bucks to make a gallon, or you can buy some, you know, like 9 bucks for 24 ounces.
– That’s your call.
– But it’s important that you get a good brand. Now, I’ve talked with people and they say, hey, you know there’s this brand and it’s on the self. It’s in a box. And it’s self stable, what about that? And I say, no, do not use the bone broth’s that are in shelf stable containers that aren’t refrigerated. That’s not the kind of bone broth you wanna get. If you’re gonna buy bone broth, you either wanna buy it where it’s frozen or in the refrigerated section. And I have three brands that I tend to recommend to people. There the ones that I have found to be the cleanest. They’re organic, and that would be Kettle & Fire, is a great one. EPIC is another one. And then the last one is Boneafide. Those are the three. So, Boneadfide you’ll find in bags in the freezer section. The EPIC, and the Kettle & Fire… The EPIC is in glass jars. You’ll usually find that in the refrigerated section. And then, Kettle & Fire does come in a jar as well. Now, there is a another thing that people could do as it comes to mind, is there’s another brand called Ancient Nutrition. And what they’ve done is they’ve created a bone broth protein powder, where they’ve actually taken the broth and they’ve dehydrated it. And turned it into a powder. And so you can add that to smoothies, or you can add hot water to that and just drink it. So, that’s adequate also. And that might be like, something to take on the go. If you’re travelling, you can have the powder with you. I’ll stick it in like, a backpacking trip.
– Backpacking trip, would be a great example of that. Camping, backpacking, you know, traveling across the country. A lot of people that are following specific diets or want to eat healthily, they complain that traveling through airports or going through the middle section of the country, it’s really hard to find good, clean food. So, this is a great way to actually take something with you. And you know, air travel you have to take something in powder. You can’t bring liquids through, so, what a great solution.
– Absolutely. You know, there’s one last thing I wanna mention when it comes to bone broth. And that’s if the idea of drinking a cup of bone broth is not appetizing to you, then bone broth is a fantastic base for soups. And here we are, we’re in the winter. And it’s cold. And what better time to make soup, than right now? So, make some bone broth. And have that as the base of your soup, and you will have an incredibly nourishing soup.
– Awesome. That sounds delicious.
-It does. Doesn’t it?
– Makes me want to go, to make some.
– Bone broth, not only is it rich in different animo acids but it’s also really rich in something called glycosaminoglycans. We call them GAGs, and these are things like chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine.
– Which glucosamine is more in shellfish it’s not really in bone broth but these are nutrients that go in and actually can help build up the cushioning agents of the joints like the synovial fluid. Also in that category would be things like hyaluronic acid and that’s really essential for the skin as well as the joints, particularly the synovial fluid that cushioning agent in the joints. So when you’re drinking bone broth you’re getting these glycosaminoglycans that are going to nourish the joints and help with any kind of maybe stiffness or popping and cracking that you might have in the joints.
– Reducing inflammation and supplying the base components for building new materials. So if your joints are deteriorating because there’s a loss of cartilage or you have a torn ligament or a tendon or some chronic inflammation in that tissue, it’s good to have something like bone broth first to heal the gut, but also to supply those base building materials that your body uses to make new tissues with. It’s important to have those. You know, it’s also good to have bone broth because it contains a lot of minerals but it contains fats and it has the GAGs and that’s really helpful for adrenal glands. So adrenal glands have a lot to do with controlling inflammation in the body and if you have joint issues you might want to take a look at adrenal fatigue and you want to look at bowel permeability or leaky gut. Bone broth is a quick way to address a lot of things at one time. And you said skin which is great. Joints, skin, immune system. What else we have on that list?
– Well, joints skin, liver function, liver detoxification, kidney health, I mean, the list kind of goes on.
– It’s sort of amazing.
– It is think about if you’re making bone broth, one of the things that you’re going to get is the bone marrow, and bone marrow is incredibly nutritious. When I was back in college, my college days, I took the most fascinating class I ever took was nutritional anthropology where we got to trace the evolution of the human diet which was my first real eye opener.
– That’s cool.
– Yeah, that made me go Paleo before there was Paleo and so you know our ancestors, before we were really able to hunt we were scavengers, and there’s a lot of evidence that we would crack open old bones to get the marrow out because the marrow is so nutritious.