It is not uncommon for our digestive systems to need a little extra support. Sometimes it’s an aching belly that signals to us that our digestive systems could use a little help. Sometimes gas, bloating, loose stools or constipation alert us. And sometimes, allergies and hypersensitivities are what tell us that our digestion may be lagging. Many people turn to digestive enzyme supplements to support their digestive function, while others reach for a bottle of bitters. So what is the difference between these two options? Quite a lot, in fact!
Digestive enzymes are naturally produced and excreted by our body throughout our digestive tracts. They help us break down our food so that we may absorb all of its nutrients. Efficient food breakdown also prevents uncomfortable gas formation and large food particles from entering our blood stream and wreaking havoc. Enzymes do many other things, in addition, like protect us from pathogens in our food.
Given the important role they play, it seems reasonable to consider supporting healthy enzyme levels. Bitters support your body’s ability to do its own job by prompting it to release digestive enzymes. Digestive enzyme supplementation, however, side-steps that function entirely. It skips our body’s healthy, natural process and instead arrives at the end of the chain with a temporary fix from the outside world.
These supplements usually contain just one or a few enzymes (isolated from plant, fungal or animal sources), which means it’s quite possible that they are not even the right fix for the job. Studies also show that often times we digest the enzyme supplements before they reach a place in our digestion where they could help us.
Bitters, on the other hand, are made from whole plant extracts. From the moment they hit the tongue, they stimulate not only enzyme release throughout the entire digestive tract, but also other integral digestive secretions such as stomach acid (HCl) and bile. Digestion is complex and dynamic with lots of interdependent aspects. This being the case, a comprehensive approach is generally helpful when supporting digestive health. Bitters are often the balanced and gentle, yet effective, solution.
When choosing between digestive enzymes and bitters, I use this analogy: If you needed to make salad on a daily basis, would you rather someone give you a single carrot (digestive enzyme supplement) each day or a garden with seeds for 10 different vegetables (bitters)? Bitters give your digestive system much more to work with and support self-reliance.