By far the biggest health issue I encounter with my clients is digestive distress.
Treating your gut pain and indigestion can also be the simplest and most rewarding of all.
This is because when you get to the root of the digestive problem, you stand to gain more health in every part of your body.
A little known digestive supplement that can help many people is called ox bile. Ox bile isn’t for everyone, but for those who need it, it can be a godsend.
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What is ox bile?
Bile is critical for digesting and absorbing the fat in our foods and also for digesting and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Our liver performs the role of producing the bile for our bodies. After bile is made in the liver, it is stored in the gallbladder to be released when we eat food.
This liquid yellow substance also helps to eliminate waste from our body too, like bilirubin, drugs, toxins, and heavy metals.
Your bile makes the pH alkaline in your intestines so that your food is digested in the best way.
Did you know that people make up to 50 different types of bile acids? Our livers are complex. This is why I usually recommend taking ox bile over isolated bile salt supplements.
Cholesterol plays an important role here: our bodies turn cholesterol from the liver into bile salts, which are also known as bile acid. Sometimes cholesterol gets a bad rap, but it is essential for your body in some ways.
Bile is also an important way to eliminate excess cholesterol from the body.
When your body makes bile, it also contains critical nutrients to help support gut function.
Ox bile simply is a bile extract that can be supplemented in the diet when needed.
Who needs extra bile?
As you can imagine, there are many scenarios where our ability to make and store bile goes awry.
The following situations can cause low bile levels:
- Fatty liver
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy)
- Digestive disorders
- Menopause (due to low estrogen)
- Certain medications, like bile acid sequestrants
- People who have long-term poor diets
- Diets low in taurine
- Genetic conditions of bile acid deficiency (rare)
By the way, it is also possible to have too much bile too. If this happens, your cholesterol can get too high.
Normally, our bodies recycle bile, so around 95% of bile that your liver makes gets reabsorbed in the small intestine.
Why does diarrhea cause low bile?
Our bodies are very effective at conserving its resources and bile is a precious resource in the body.
So only under distressing conditions do we run low in it.
Diarrhea makes it so that our body fluids rush out of our body and into the toilet. Bile is one of these precious substances that we lose when we have diarrhea. We also lose a lot of other important nutrients, fluids, and electrolytes too.
In a nutshell, diarrhea makes it impossible for the body to keep up with the bile losses. This, in turn, makes it so you can’t digest your food well, which further makes your diarrhea worse.
Like your belly is spiraling out of control. This is called bile acid malabsorption diarrhea.
Tip: if you have diarrhea frequently, you may benefit from an ox bile supplement.
Ox bile weight loss connection
After bariatric surgery, patients have a surge in bile production. This is thought to be one of the reasons that people are so successful at weight loss with this procedure.
Bile acids help balance our gut microbiome and may help increase weight loss through this mechanism according to early research.
Use of bile supplements during weight loss may also reduce the chance of gallstone formation as well.
Another ox bile weight loss connection is that bile may help increase fat-burning through an increase in fat burning type of fat called brown fat and beige fat. Bile helps to increase beige fat, which converts white fat into brown fat.
All told, bile allows our body to move fat from store mode into burn mode.
Another reason people may lose weight when taking ox bile is because bile helps their body make adequate amounts of hormones and balances hormones in the body.
Bile helps to digest vitamins like A, D, E, and K. As you can imagine, with a lack of bile, your body suffers due to lack of nutrition too.
This lack of nutrition can cause an imbalance in hormones due to a lack of vitamins and cholesterol in your body.
Symptoms of low bile
If you aren’t making enough bile, your body may give you some subtle symptoms or not-so-subtle symptoms. The obvious symptoms are light colored stools, foul smelling gas, or fatty stools.
Some things may be less obvious like acid reflux (GERD), fatigue, or migraines, which often get blamed on other causes.
People also can get mood swings due to vitamin deficiencies and poor absorption of fat, a critical nutrient for brain function.
It all goes back to a lack of nutrients which is caused by lack of absorption or low absorption of nutrients.
Imbalances in your microbiome can also occur because your food is not absorbing well.
Tip: People who take supplemental bile may see an improvement in their microbiome content.
How do you know if you need ox bile?
There are no lab tests that can tell you if you are low in bile, but your body can give you some telltale signs, such as:
Imagine this: when you eat a meal, you end up rushing to the bathroom. The stool is liquid, light-colored, or floating at the top of the bowl. If this is you, a lack of bile may actually be making the condition worse.
No one talks about the color of their poop, but this is something you should pay attention to.
There are 6 causes of pale stool, according to Medical News Today. However, if yours is related to ongoing diarrhea, all signs point to bile acid deficiency.
I have had so many clients that tell me I’m the first person to ever ask them about the color of their stools.
This is even after seeing many doctors. Observing is a really important way to tell what your body needs, so look in that bowl.
Still, if you are suffering with an increase in abdominal pain, make sure to get help from your doctor right away as this can be a sign of a more serious condition that needs immediate attention.
Does Gallbladder surgery cause low bile?
Yes, gallbladder surgery can cause low bile, especially if it is also combined with diarrhea.
Think about the role of the gallbladder: it is to store bile for when you eat a meal so that you can get a surge of bile to digest your foods.
Gallbladder removal, also known as cholecystectomy, is a common type of surgery in the United States. Unfortunately, many people continue to have digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain after gallbladder surgery.
When you have your gallbladder removed, you still make bile in the liver, but it trickles into the small intestine. If you eat a big meal, you certainly need more than a trickle of bile to digest your food well.
As a result, you can get diarrhea from the lack of bile and this creates a vicious cycle of making your bile low.
Ox bile supplement after gallbladder removal
When you have your gallbladder removed, it can be a big relief, especially if you had gallstones. The gallstones prevented the bile from flowing adequately. However, removal of your gallbladder can create some issues too.
For example, after gallbladder surgery your bile release isn’t going to be enough to digest your food well and you will likely get constipation or diarrhea as a result.
This is where bile supplements can be helpful, especially during the initial phases of healing from gallbladder surgery.
Ox bile should be one such supplement to take after gallbladder removal.
After all, you probably had your gallbladder removed to feel better, not to digest your foods poorly.
Use of bile acids known as TUDCA after surgery helped reduce diarrhea symptoms and improved dyspepsia as well in a clinical study.
Short gut syndrome
Short gut syndrome is rare, but can occur after removal of a large portion of the small intestine due to surgery.
It results in malnutrition, dehydration, and lots of health complications. In one small study, people who received bile salts had reduced diarrhea symptoms and increased fat absorption.
The bile salts used in this study are called cholyl sarcosine and they worked better than ox bile in this instance.
Fix your diet first
You may not necessarily need to jump into taking ox bile supplements for all digestive issues. The core issue could be an imbalance in your diet.
However, a short-term trial of adding in ox bile into your diet certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Is your diet making your bile low?
Many people are eating foods that are silently causing their bile flow to be disrupted. The Standard American Diet is the perfect setup for bile problems.
For example, inflammation from sugar and processed foods can cause a fatty liver. In fact, one of the biggest cause of liver failure today is diet-related, known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
This inflammation extends into the bile ducts and gallbladder, which is called the biliary tree.
By simply cutting back on junk foods and sugar, you can help your body’s biliary tree and liver.
What to eat?
Instead of processed foods and sugary drinks, try to eat whole foods as much as possible, with a balance of anti-inflammatory vegetables, seeds, nuts, healthy proteins, and unprocessed fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocados.
A bile acid malabsorption diet, on the other hand, should focus on ways to increase bile and adding bile supplements to help support normal food absorption.
Some foods that are thought to help increase bile production and increase bile flow are lemons, limes, garlic, beets, radishes,broccoli, kale, endive, arugula, celery, celery seeds, and radish to your diet.
If you are vegan, you also may want to include a taurine supplement. This is because vegan diets fall low in taurine. This amino acid helps to convert cholesterol into bile in the body and may help increase your natural bile supply.
Avoid very low fat diets. They can increase your risk of gallstones, while a diet with plenty of healthy fats seems to reduce gallstone risk.
How do you take ox bile?
Bile helps you to digest fats and absorb vitamins, so it is important that you take it with meals.
It also helps to take ox bile with digestive enzymes. This is because if you get to the point where you aren’t making bile, the odds are, your production of digestive enzymes is also impaired.
One of ox bile benefits is that it closely resembles your natural bile that your body makes. There are many bile salt supplements on the market, but I prefer to use a like-treats-like approach for best health.
Logically, you should take your bile supplements with food, especially if there is fat in it.
Ox bile dosage is typically 125 mg to 500 mg per meal.
Best ox bile supplement brands
The tried and true brand of ox bile that is very helpful is called NOW Super Enzymes with ox bile, bromelain, pancreatin and papain. Supplements after gallbladder removal should include this product or a similar product to help alleviate digestive issues.
Highly rated- this particular supplement has been really beneficial to many of my clients and even myself.
Ancestral Supplements Gallbladder w/Ox Bile & Liver -Many people are seeking grass-fed beef products and for good reason.
Cows eat grass naturally and are healthier if they avoid grains.
So, it makes sense that grass-fed ox bile is healthiest for people too.
There is only one grass-fed ox bile on the market that I can find and it is Ancestral Supplements Grassfed Gallbladder.
Nutricology Ox Bile 500 mg-this is a stronger, higher dose ox bile for people who have lazy gallbladder or who have had their gallbladders removed. This is a very highly rated brand of bile.
Be aware that this dose is sometimes too much for some people, so you can always start with this one that is 125 mg, and work your way up in dose if you desire.
Standard Process Cholacol -is a pharmaceutical grade brand of gallbladder supplement.
This product contains purified ox bile salts and collinsonia root.
Collinsonia health benefits are many. Global Healing Center has a great review of these benefits here.
Seeking Health Ox Bile – 125 mg digestive enzyme supplements with ox bile have the best ox bile reviews I could find.
Seeking Health contains standardized cholic acid at 40%.
Tudca (Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid) is one of the bile acid supplements that is popular among people who have diabetes and people who have liver issues who don’t like the idea of taking ox bile.
This product is used in Europe as a treatment for liver and gallbladder treatments, tudca like this one get high ratings.
Herbs to increase bile production
Herbs that may help increase bile flow from the liver are called cholagogues. These herbs have been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine and also have some research supporting their roles in bile health.
According to Dr. Minnich, a specialist in functional medicine, supplements to increase bile production may include barberry, aloe vera, artichoke leaf, turmeric, ginger, milk thistle, fenugreek, rhubarb, gardenia, and peppermint.
An herbal product that contains many of these herbs is called Vimerson Health Liver Health and you can find it here.
Livatrex is another herbal supplement I love that supports healthy bile flow and you can find it here.
Fat soluble vitamins to consider
If your body has been running low bile levels for a long time, you may want to consider adding some fat-soluble vitamins into your health regimen as well. You definitely should consider these vitamins to take after gallbladder removal too.
Vitamin A and vitamin D play critical roles in immune function, skin health, and heart health.
Is your skin dry? People with dry skin may not have enough bile. While only anecdotal, some people with eczema notice dramatic improvements in their skin after adding ox bile.
So, if you have bile deficiency, supplements of these nutrients will be helpful for the healing process.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin that helps our bodies prevent oxidative damage, so a natural form of vitamin E could be helpful as well.
Vitamin K, especially vitamin K2, is one nutrient that is deficient in almost everyone, so if you have a gallbladder issue, you are extra vulnerable to vitamin K2 deficiency.
Looking for a good vitamin D3 supplement? You can find Suntrex vitamin D here.
A good overall fat soluble vitamin supplement is called Davinci Laboratories here.
According to WebMD, side effects of bile supplements are uncommon. Rarely, people experience a rash, which could be due to allergy, or abnormal color of the urine.
Rashes only seem to occur if applied topically to the skin-don’t do that.
Ox bile side effects are almost non-existent, but can occur if you take more than your body needs. Typically, diarrhea can occur if you take too much.
Side effects of bile are almost always when used as bile salts by themselves, such as chenodoxycholic acid.
Yet another reason to use ox bile instead of bile salts.
On occasion, some digestive symptoms occur as well, and this could be a sign that you may want to reduce the dose or stop taking bile supplements.
This post is not meant as medical advice and is for informational purposes only and not meant to treat diseases. As with anything, make sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement. All rights reserved.