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Digestion – a reflection of your health

# Natural healing | 17. January 2017

Did you know that yellow gentian contains the most bitter known substance from the plant kingdom? It is also known as bitterwort and 1g of it can still make 58,000 liters of water bitter. But why is it that bitters should make us healthy? In the past, bitter substances came naturally in our food, in vegetables, lettuce, roots and teas. But with increasing prosperity, the emergence of supermarkets and the industrialization of our food, no more bitter substances fitted into our diet, everything should be tasty. One tried to breed the bitter “taste disorder” out of our food.

Today, through continuing research, we have realised the importance of bitter substances for our health. They have a very special effect on our digestion. It begins in the mouth: taste buds on our tongue sense the bitter taste and exert a reflexive stimulus. The saliva, the first important “juice” in our digestive system with its carbohydrate-cleaving enzymes, begins to flow. The stomach also has a stimulus to release hydrochloric acid, numerous enzymes are active in it, which mainly break down proteins. In addition, hydrochloric acid ensures that pathogenic germs are killed as they pass through our bodies with food.

But that is not all: like a domino effect, the gall bladder is also stimulated to pour out gall, so that we can digest fat and, last but not least, the pancreas is still in momentum with its enzymes. If these steps are taken, the colon does not have a big task in digestion, but can concentrate on the essential: the immune system and the colonization of positive intestinal bacteria.

One could say in a simplified way: bitter substances promote the forward movement in our stomach. Standstill and backward movements on the other hand, make us ill:

  • Fullness – the food is like a heavy stone in the stomach.
  • Nausea and vomiting – the food wants to get out again.
  • Diarrhoea – the food is undigested and wants to get out again through the other door.
  • Flatulence – the large intestine slogs with its bacteria and tries to break down the food by fermentation.

A good digestion has the great advantage that the food we eat is optimally broken down, and important nutrients become available to our body. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats in their biochemical simple form, but also minerals, vitamins and trace elements are ready, for example, to be used again for the production of body-specific enzymes and hormones or for energy production. This contributes to the general functioning of our body and strengthens us.

Especially when we are emaciated and weak after a long illness, have no appetite, or have no strength, we should think of bitter substances like yellow gentian. But also, when we have been having irregular meals, too sweet, too greasy or have been under stress for a long time. Bitters regulate and puts us back in rhythm again. Gentian can also be used as a prophylaxis for allergies, because it keeps the intestine healthy where the immune system sits. And anyone who has to deal with nasal sinusitis can also use gentian, it is in Sinupret®. It can also help with pregnancy and nausea. It is a real universal plant. It grows in the mountains and cannot be harvested without authorisation because it is under nature conservation. However, you can buy it in the pharmacy and then use it – the root as tea, best combined with other plants, since it really tastes extremely bitter, dissolved in alcohol, for example as tincture or as a medicinal product, for eg. Wala Gentiana Globuli®, Wala Bitterelexier® or Wala Magentonikum®. Just try it out, because as the saying goes “What is bitter in the mouth, is healthy for the stomach”.

All the best for your health.

 Steffi Full (Naturopath)

Photo: flickr.com/Andrea Schieber

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