Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Swedish bitters for digestive problems

I am starting to suspect my liver is not as healthy as it could be, and it is the reason for my recent problems with water retention, bloating, and cramps.


The recipe for the Swedish bitter elixir was subsequently abandoned until the 20th century, when the Austrian botanist Maria Treben reintroduced it. She used traditional German/Eastern European remedies handed down by previous generations to treat a broad range of conditions from constipation to psoriasis to diabetes and insomnia. She concocted her own recipes as well as traditional healing remedies like Swedish Bitters that she considered a healing panacea.

The Swedish elixir is a mixture of 11 herbs with Angelica root being the most important component. Others include Aloe (can be substituted with Wormwood), myrrh, saffron, senna leaves, camphor, rhubarb roots, manna, theriac venezian, carline thistle roots and zedoary roots. It also contains essential oils.

Benefits of the Swedish Bitters elixir:

  • Promotes biliary, pancreatic and gastric secretion
  • Disinfects intestinal tract
  • Soothes digestive tract
  • Relieves bloating, flatulence, gas, cramps and nausea
  • Encourages toxin elimination
  • Tonifies and regenerates
  • Gentle laxative
  • Restores natural acid balance in the stomach
  • Purifies, disinfects and stimulates circulation
  • When used externally, it alleviates inflammations of all kinds if applied to spots, wounds, bruises, scars and contusions
  • Stimulates liver function
  • Good liver function is crucial for overall health and wellbeing. Our life depends on our liver functioning optimally. A poorly functioning liver causes sluggish digestion manifesting in flatulence and bloating.

    In Eastern Europe, bitters are taken in a shot glass before or after meals to stimulate digestion, settle the stomach before eating and neutralise the damages of alcohol. After a heavy meal, Swedish Bitters elixir can be quite helpful against indigestion, as well as to relieve bloating and gas.
    The primary function of Swedish bitters is to help with digestive complaints like bloating, flatulence, sluggish digestion and constipation. Bitters are an important class of botanicals that help support efficient digestive, assimilative, and eliminative functions. They stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, which in turn stimulates intestinal peristalsis and promotes nutrient absorption. By enhancing digestion, Swedish bitters are a great help in cases of bloating, flatulence and gas.


    Today I am starting on acidaphillis (in case my problems are a result of intestinal bacteria overgrowth) and tomorrow I am hoping to start on Swedish bitters.

    Also physical manipulation (poses and massage) might help with the process in the meantime


    1. Apanasana
    Apanasana, knees hugged to belly, is known as the “wind-relieving pose.” Hugging the right knee into the belly massages the ascending colon, while hugging the left knee in massages the descending colon. Try this simple pose for improved digestion:
    Come to lie on the back. Settle into your yoga mat or wherever you are. Place your feet to the floor, directly beneath the knees. On an inhale, take your hands to your knees. On an exhale, hug the knees comfortably to the belly. Only hug in a comfortable amount. Stay here for 5-10 full breaths.
    (Optional: follow with hugging one knee in at a time, first the right and then the left).
    2. Twists
    We’ve all heard yoga teachers say, “Twisting aids digestion.” It used to go in one ear and out the other, until my own yoga teacher training. Compressing the colon in specific ways (right to left) can really aid in digestion.Detoxifying twists can stimulate the movement of those toxins that accumulate in the body and help usher them out.
    Move from apanasana into a simple spinal twist. Hug the knees in gently and take an inhale. On the exhale, drop the knees to the left, compressing the right side of the body. Turn the head to the right for a nice neck stretch. Stay for at 5-10 full breaths. On an inhale return the knees to center and repeat on the other side.
    3. Balasana
    Balasana, Child’s Pose, compresses the abdomen and massages the internal organs. Similar to apanasana, this pose stimulates the digestive system.
    From lying on your back, hug the knees in once more. Roll to your right side, using the right arm as a pillow for the head. Take an inhale and, on the exhale, use the top arm to push up to seated. Come to kneel on the knees and sit back onto the heels. Bringing the knees comfortably wide, fold over the legs and rest your forehead on the floor. Either place the hands back by the feet or stack them under the forehead as a little pillow. Deeply inflate the lower belly against the upper thighs with each breath in Balasana, and remain here for 5-10 full breaths. On the last inhale take your hands to the floor beneath your shoulders and, on your exhale, press up.


    Agnisar Kriya
    This cleansing technique draws its name from the words 'Agni' (Fire), Sar (Essence) and Kriya (Action). Fire is the essential element of digestion and this cleansing action stimulates this fire for the digestive system to work at its optimum level.
    How to do?
    In this, while standing bend slightly forward from the waist while keeping the back straight. Take support by resting your hands on your knees or just above so that the back is not strained. Please make sure the arms are straight.
    Now, breathe in deeply. After this, exhale fully contracting the abdomen and lugs so that all the air is expelled. While holding breath in this position, contract or 'flap' your abdominal muscles in and out. Note that this should be done rapidly while holding the exhaled position WITHOUT inhaling. Do this as many times possible and then take a slow, deep breath inside. This is one round of the practice.
    Beginners may find that they lose control of the abdominal muscles and are unable to coordinate the flapping movement. These muscles must be slowly developed over time. Therefore, in the beginning three such rounds, each of 10 flapping cycles are more than enough. This should gradually be built up to 100 inward-outward flapping cycles in each round.
    Time:This practice should ideally be done in the morning on an empty stomach but after evacuating the bowels.


    • Don’t eat fruits after a meal. It will be gas forming and produce bloating
    • Try chewing on a slice of ginger with lime juice or lemon 20 minutes before a meal.
    • Use digestion stimulating spices when making your food. Try black pepper, ginger, and cumin.
    • Try adding enzymes, especially to heavy meals.
    • Regularly take probiotics, especially if you were on antibiotics recently.
    • Pay attention how your body reacts to dairy and wheat/flour products. If you feel bloated after them, you might have to reduce your intake or remove them completely.
    • Don’t drink anything cold while eating.
    • Avoid drinking anything 30 min after the meal. It will dilute digestive juices and will make it harder to digest food.
    • Reduce SALT.
    • Try aromatherapy. Bloating is more likely to appear if you are anxious, stressed, or worried. It is all due toVata imbalance. Any Vata balancing essential oil will help. Try peppermint, orange, rose, cinnamon, and basil. You can also just get a stress-relieving or balancing essential oil mix at most health food stores.
    • Learn Agnisar Kriya. Do it every morning before a meal after having a glass of warm water with lemon. I have been doing it for years, and besides strong abs and a flat stomach it is great for all digestion related issues.

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