Diseases, Microbiome and gut health
Why bile matters? The magic of BILE: fat digestion and detox

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

Fatigue, constipation/diarrhea, incomplete digestion/absorption of fats, headaches, light colored or/and fatty stools, gas and bloating, hormonal imbalances/thyroid disease, detox problems, sleep problems, ear ringing (tinnitus), nausea, bitter taste in the mouth, sciatica like pains, low serum albumin levels, decreased absorption of nutrients, growth failure in children, weight loss, gallbladder issues or your gallbladder was removed.

If yes, then read on.

Why do we need bile?

Bile is a soap-like substance vital for optimal (fat) digestion. It is a complex and unique aqueous product of the liver hepatocytes which is further modified by the activities of the bile duct epithelium. Then bile is collected, concentrated and stored in a gallbladder to be delivered to a small intestine when needed. Bile helps digesting fats and supports removal, flow and metabolism of various substances. Bile is composed in about 95% of water, the remaining constituents are bile salts, cholesterol, amino acids, bilirubin phospholipid, steroids, enzymes, vitamin, porphyrins, as well as heavy metals, environmental toxins, and drugs.

Without quality bile we are at risk of developing health issues as bile is critical for metabolic conversions and flow of vital nutrients as well as elimination of toxic substances:

  • Bile is a major route to excrete harmful substances, toxins
  • Bile salts function to emulsify dietary fats and facilitate their digestion and absorption
  • Bile helps eliminating cholesterol
  • Bile stimulates intestinal innate immune system and supports immunity by excreting immunoglobulin A (IgA), inflammatory cytokines
  • Bile is vital for chole- and entero-hepatic circulation
  • Bile is essential carrier for some hormones and some hormonal conversions, estrogens, vitamin D3 metabolite, prolactin or insulin are excreted with bile
  • Bile excretes vitamins (folate, B6, cyanocobalamin) and contains glutathione, glutamic acid, pheromones and other vital components
  • Bile helps make calcium and iron more absorbable

Common gallbladder and bile related complaints

Fat digestion may be impaired as a result of impaired digestive enzymes production and/or impaired bile production. Common symptoms include burping, bloating, nausea after high-fat meals. Impaired fat digestion contributes to malabsorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K). In addition, gallstones can form and typically they are a result of saturation and precipitation of bile component(s) such as cholesterol, pure pigment of calcium bilirubinate, or minerals. Gallstones may be asymptomatic or cause biliary colic with regular pain free intervals of days or months. Real-time ultrasonography is used to diagnose gallstones.

How to support bile production?

Number one is to eat anti-inflammatory real foods, mostly plants and avoid pro-inflammatory processed foods, access sugar and fried foods.

You need nutrients from real foods in order to produce bile, a package of chips will not provide them.

DIET: Include diversity of dietary fiber rich foods such as (raw) vegetables and fruits in your diet as a source of valuable nutrients for you and prebiotic fiber for your gut microbiota. Your liver and bile will benefit from eating cholagogic foods like artichoke, dandelion greens (leafy greens), radish, chicory, from bitter tasting foods, as well as potassium rich foods such as avocado, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, banana and from eating sprouted seeds and nuts. Some of the important components supporting bile production include choline (eggs, meat, shrimps, fish, chicken, shitake), taurine (fish, meat), betaine (beet root, spinach, quinoa, amaranth), vitamin C (fruits and vegetables), vitamin E (dark leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocado, olive oil). Worth to mention is that our gut microbiota is involved in bile acids metabolism and formation, therefore taking care of these little gut creatures by feeding them prebiotic rich foods is of importance.

Some people experience a significant improvement after elimination of eggs, pork, onions, or milk from their diet because of the possible allergic component.

SUPPLEMENTS: You may consider supplemental and herbal support to improve liver health, decrease inflammation and promote bile production by including following: turmeric, milk thistle, dandelion root, artichoke, activated charcoal, lipase enzyme, bile salts or ox bile. Consult with your physician or nutritionist before start taking the supplements.

Last but not least, engage in regular physical activity and don’t forget that consumption of enough (six to eight glasses) water daily is necessary to maintain the water content of bile.


  1. “Bile Formation and Secretion” James L. Boyer. Compr Physiol, July 2013, 3 (3); 1035-1078.
  2. “Gallstones” M. T. Murray. G Natural Medicine text book, fourth edition. J. Pizzorno & M Murray. Elsevier 2013.
  3. “Metabolism of Cholesterol and Bile Acids by the Gut Microbiota” Philippe Gérard. Pathogens 2014, 3, 14-24.
Category: Diseases, Microbiome and gut health icon April 5 2017
Dr Joanna Krzeslak-Hoogland
Author: Dr Joanna Krzeslak-Hoogland

Being inspired by the effect of nutrition, lifestyle and mind on our health, I am dedicated to help people on their journey to wellbeing.

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