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The Hidden Root of Your GI Issues

When you think about what’s causing your constipation, acid reflux, or IBS-like symptoms, most people don’t think about their bile. But bile is actually extremely important, not just for digestion and the absorption of foods, but for many health processes throughout the body.

In this blog, we’ll explain why bile is so important and what you can do to promote bile production in your body.

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Bile 101:

Bile, also known as gall, is a yellow-green, thick and sticky fluid digestive fluid. Bile is actually rather complex, made up of many different components. These components include:

  • Bile acids

  • Water

  • Cholesterol

  • Pigments, like bilirubin

  • Electrolytes, including potassium and sodium

  • Metals, like copper

  • Phospholipids, which are complex fats that contain phosphorous

Bile’s main role is in the digestion of fats. Specifically, bile breaks down fats into fatty acids so that the body can absorb them in the digestive tract. In breaking down fats, bile also helps your body absorb vitamins. But beyond the breakdown of fat, bile is also responsible for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Bile is also important in removing toxins and waste from normal metabolic processes and the detoxification process.

Bile is produced in the liver. Specifically, a healthy liver produces around 800-1,000 milligrams of bile every day. After being produced in the liver, bile is moved to the gallbladder for storage. During meals, the gallbladder transports bile through a tube called the common bile duct. This duct connects your liver and gallbladder to the first part of your small intestine, also called the duodenum. It is in the duodenum that bile meets food, stomach acids, and digestive fluids and the main digestive functions take place. As this mixture flows through the intestines, most bile acids are absorbed in the lower intestine and circulated through the bloodstream for recycling in the liver.

Why is bile so important?

Bile is not talked about much but has several essential functions, especially with constipation.

  • It’s what helps your body break down all the fats you eat, which are so critical for healthy cell membranes and optimal nutrition.

  • Bile carries away all the toxins and hormone metabolites from your body. It is the vehicle for removing toxins such as heavy metals, drugs, foreign chemicals, food preservatives, and contaminants so they can be flushed out of your liver.

  • Bile helps control estrogen dominance. Hormone imbalance among women is twice as common today as one hundred years ago. Sluggish bile and hormone problems go hand in hand. For, once your bile has thickened, it’s less able to break down excess estrogen.

  • In addition to contributing to body fat, estrogen dominance is notorious for causing something referred to as “false fat.” False fat is fluid trapped in body tissues that contribute to bloating, puffiness, and cellulite. Many women carry an extra 10 to 15 pounds of this extra fluid.

  • Bile is also associated with weight. Studies have shown that obese subjects secrete and release only half as much bile as their leaner counterparts.

  • Bile is critically important for the normal movement of the GI tract. Less than optimal amounts of bile can cause constipation, bloating, and reflux symptoms.

When bile problems arise…

If your bile is thick and congested, then its function can be hindered. Free-flowing bile is best at properly absorbing fats and removing toxins. Thick, congested bile will also cause a decrease in nutrient absorption.

When your body isn’t making enough bile, you can experience several uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms, such as:

● Fatigue

● Mood swings

● Constipation

● Acid reflux

● Acne

● Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease

● Gallbladder disease (stones and inflammation)

● Migraines

● Vitamin Deficiencies

● Jaundice

● Poor gut microflora

● Impaired liver function

● High cholesterol

Causes of bile problems:

Unfortunately, people without a gallbladder may run into some problems. Without the gallbladder to store the bile, problems occur in the synchronization of eating foods and the release of necessary bile to digest them. Bile is still produced, but the coordination is lost and digestion can be compromised. This undigested food can lead to GI inflammation and symptoms of a leaky gut. Moreover, research has demonstrated that the risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver all rise substantially after gallbladder surgery.

Even if you still have your gallbladder, if your bile is not flowing properly, or if you have a decreased amount of bile acids, you may experience many of the same problems as people who have had their gallbladder removed. This is largely due to decreased bile production in the liver. Bile is made from two different amino acids- Taurine and Glycine. If you have low levels of these amino acids, which can result from diet or genetic components, you won’t be able to produce sufficient bile. Today, many people in Western countries have low levels of Glycine due to the rampant use of glyphosate on crops. Glyphosate is very similar in structure to glycine and will replace this very important amino acid in the body.

Further, if you’re taking a proton pump inhibitor to decrease stomach acid, bile flow may be negatively affected. When food is consumed, the stomach increases HCL levels, which is the major acid. This acidic food travels from the stomach and into the first part of the small intestines, or the duodenum. This high acidity is a signal for the gallbladder to secrete bile for digestion of fats and also a signal for the pancreas to secrete the pancreatic enzymes.

How to promote bile production and regulation:

Bitters help to support the regulation of bile when you eat. They also help with the consistency of the bile. You can either take a bitters tonic before each meal to stimulate your bile production and flow or eat bitters with each meal. Following is a list of bitter foods and herbs.

Bitter foods: Vegetables and fruits:

  • Asparagus

  • Bitter melon

  • Buffaloberries

  • Collards

  • Dandelion greens

  • Grapefruit

  • Jerusalem artichokes

  • Lemon and lemon rind

  • Red leaf lettuce

  • Tatsoi Watercress or cress

  • Arugula (rocket)

  • Beet greens

  • Broccoli and broccoli rabe

  • Cabbage

  • Cucumbers

  • Endive (escarole)

  • Jicama

  • Lime and lime rind

  • Mustard greens

  • Orange peel

  • Radish

  • Rhubarb root

  • Spinach

  • Indian Lettuce

  • Radicchio

Bitter foods: herbs and spices:

  • Angelica

  • Barberry bark

  • Burdock root

  • Chamomile

  • Cinnamon

  • Fennel

  • Gentian root

  • Hops flowers

  • Milk thistle

  • Rue

  • Sorrel

  • Wormwood leaf

  • Angostura bark

  • Basil

  • Caraway

  • Chicory root

  • Coriander

  • Fenugreek seeds

  • Ginger

  • Horehound

  • Mint

  • Saffron

  • Thyme

  • Yarrow flower

  • Anise

  • Bergamot

  • Cardamom

  • Cilantro

  • Dill

  • Garlic

  • Goldenseal root

  • Horseradish

  • Parsley

  • Scutellaria

  • Turmeric

  • Yellow dock

How to know if bile is the cause of your GI issues:

At The Johnson Center, we routinely test for healthy bile production and flow. A GI Map, which tests your stool, will show if you have elevated levels of fats in your stool. Amino acid testing will look at the levels of your amino acids including taurine and glycine. These tests will highlight if and why bile is causing your GI issues and also offer an easy plan for treatment.

To learn more, click here to contact us. If you have any more questions about your path to optimal health, email our office at or call 276-235-3205.

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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