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What does taking ox bile do, what are the benefits and who might need to take it? We explore these subjects below.
Our picks for the best ox bile supplements include:
Bile Function and Production
Bile is a fluid in our bodies that we use to digest fat and absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Taking a bile supplement, including ox bile, might help with liver and gut diseases, help your body detox, and eliminate gallstones.
Bile is a fluid your liver produces, and it helps your small intestine digest fats.
Bile is made up of mostly water, and it dissolves a wide variety of compounds, including steroid hormones, bile acids and salts, cholesterol, amino acids, antioxidants, antibodies, and heavy metals.
Your liver secretes around 600 mL of bile a day. That’s nearly three cups.
Bile is one of your body’s most important ways to eliminate fat-soluble substances. These substances include heavy metals, drugs, and toxins, and bile is also how your body gets rid of too much cholesterol.
Bile can dissolve the fat from your diet so that lipases can break them down. Bile acids help you digest those essential fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D, E, and K. Bile also protects your gut from infections by stimulating its immune system.
The liver is always making bile that’s then transported to your gallbladder through your bile ducts. Your gallbladder is a small organ below your liver, which stores and concentrates your bile. When you eat, your gallbladder delivers bile into your small intestine. At that point, it can go to work helping digest fats.
Certain signals in your body tell your gallbladder to contract and release bile, including cholecystokinin, secretin, and the vagus nerve.
Your bile salts are resistant to your powerful gut digestive enzymes. They’re mostly reabsorbed after they do their work, so your body can recycle bile salts, and then they can be stored and usable again.
Bile Acids and Bile Salts
Your bile acids are made from cholesterol in your liver. Cholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid are the two primary bile acids in your liver.
Gut bacteria turn these into two slightly different bile acids, but your liver makes most of them.
The process of transforming cholesterol into bile acids involves multiple liver enzymes.
Bile acids can impact their production in your body. If they go up too much, they’ll stop their own production, and if enough is not produced, your body is signaled to make more bile.
Your hormones and drug levels in your body control the activity of the enzymes controlling bile acid production. Drugs, hormones, and toxins can affect receptors that affect gene expression.
When a bile acid is then taken back to your liver, it’s bound to the amino acids glycine or taurine. At that point, the bile acids become bile salts.
There’s an enzyme that’s needed for this step, which is called conjugation.
If the enzyme doesn’t work the way it should, then free bile acids are released rather than bile salts, and bile acids can’t digest fat. Only bile salts can dissolve and digest fats in your gut.
Dysfunctional Bile Flow
If you have dysfunctional bile flow, it will reduce your absorption of vitamins, your digestion of fats, and your body’s ability to detox. This can cause blocked bile flow, which is known as cholestasis. Dysfunctional bile flow can cause problems like:
- Fat buildup in the gut, rather than being broken down, causes loss of appetite, indigestion, stomach pain, and gray or greasy stools.
- Deficiencies of vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Buildup of toxic substances like bilirubin can cause jaundice.
- Oxidative stress can damage the liver and may raise the risk of cancer.
- Bile cholesterol buildup leads to the formation of gallstones.
- Gallstones can inflame not only the gallbladder but also the liver and pancreas. This could lead to the removal of your gallbladder.
What Are Bile Supplements?
When you have a condition caused by diseases of your hormones, liver, or pancreas, bile salts aren’t properly absorbed, resulting in the accumulation of fats in your gut. Many bile supplements can help with a bile salt deficiency, including ox bile, other types of animal bile, UDCA, and TUDCA.
Specific types of bile supplements are:
- Ox bile
- Ox bile combined with digestive enzymes
- Ox bile combined with herbs like artichoke
- Ox bile with probiotics
- Ox bile with taurine
- Purified bile salts like TUDCA
There is also Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) supplements. Ox bile was the most important of these, and these supplements were an integral part of TCM over time.
Who Should Take Ox Bile?
In certain conditions, ox bile might be helpful because each can lead to a lack of bile production. These conditions include:
- Gastrointestinal disorders like IBS or chronic diarrhea
- Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal)
- Autoimmune diseases (especially psoriasis)
- Fatty liver
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low estrogen
- Chronically poor diet
- A deficiency of bile acids due to genetics
- Taking certain medications like Welchol
What Does Taking Ox Bile Do?
Not everyone necessarily needs to take an ox bile supplement, but if you don’t have a gallbladder or have the other conditions named above, it could be beneficial for you. So, back to our original question—what does taking ox bile do?
The following are some of the things that ox bile can do.
Eliminate Toxic Substances and Cholesterol
Bile salts play a role in getting rid of toxins and waste and regulating cholesterol. If you have an issue that causes bile production problems, you might benefit from taking ox bile.
Toxins enter your body in different ways, and they can also build up in your body. The liver usually breaks down toxins, and they’re then combined with bile salts. At that point, they’re secreted into your gut as bile and removed through stools.
If you don’t have adequate bile salt production, the toxins can accumulate in your liver, leading to chronic illnesses.
Get Rid of Gallstones
Perhaps one of the most common reasons people take ox bile, and one of the most important things is that taking an ox bile supplement can help eliminate gallstones.
If you take a bile supplement before your gallbladder needs to be removed, you might be able to eliminate your need for surgical removal.
For example, in one trial of people taking a bile supplement daily, they reduced the cholesterol in their gallstones after a month. Many people who regularly take bile supplements and dissolve their stones remain gallstone-free for the long term.
Eliminate SIBO and Gut Infections
When you have an impairment in gallstone production, it creates conditions that can lead to an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria. Endotoxins are bacterial toxins that can damage your gut. If your gut damage becomes severe enough and your immunity is low, you might develop a leaky gut barrier.
When a person has a leaky gut barrier, bacteria can enter the bloodstream, creating systemic infections.
A lack of bile salts can also cause small intestinal overgrowth.
Bile supplements can have an antimicrobial activity that protects the body against harmful bacteria.
If you have liver cirrhosis, you might be especially susceptible to bacterial infections and SIBO.
It’s possible that bacterial endotoxins can lead to or play a role in the development of psoriasis. People with psoriasis tend to have endotoxin levels detectible in their blood, likely responsible for worsening inflammation.
Bile deficiency could be an underlying cause, and it’s common for people with psoriasis to have gallbladder and gut problems.
When you have a buildup of inflammatory, toxic substances, it can cause those itchy, scaly red patches of psoriasis.
Bile supplements such as ox bile might help balance your gut microbiome, protect you from endotoxins, and reduce inflammation.
In one clinical trial of hundreds of patients with psoriasis, taking a bile acid supplement resolved 79% of cases after anywhere from one to eight weeks. It seemed to be the most effective with acute psoriasis, clearing around 95% of the cases.
Help For People Without a Gallbladder
If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, you may have a bile acid deficiency. When you don’t have a gallbladder, your body can’t control bile secretion to your intestines. The result can be digestive problems like bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
Bile supplements like ox bile can help you digest fat and absorb fat-soluble vitamins, making up for your lack of bile.
Help for Liver Disease
Bile supplements can help with chronic liver diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and primary biliary cirrhosis.
In a clinical study taking a bile acid supplement helped liver function in people with cystic fibrosis who took taurine and pancreatic enzymes.
Reducing Diarrhea and Fatty Stool
When your bile flow is disrupted, it can cause fat buildup in your gut and stool. That leads to diarrhea and abdominal pain, which is known as steatorrhea. Many diseases are linked to steatorrhea, including Crohn’s, celiac, kidney, pancreas, liver diseases, and cystic fibrosis.
A diet high in grains, fibers, and fats that are hard to digest and excessive alcohol intake can also trigger it.
Bile supplements can help compensate for the lack of bile salts and reduce symptoms of steatorrhea.
When you take an ox bile supplement, it can help improve fat burning. In animal studies, bile acids have been shown to help with weight loss and improvements in insulin sensitivity.
Bile acids work in fat cells to increase fat breakdown and energy use.
In a mice study, bile acids helped reduce obesity by lowering food intake.
Who Should Consider Ox Bile?
There are a lot of conditions where an ox bile supplement might be helpful, including:
- Gallbladder surgery
- Fatty liver
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Digestive disorders
- Poor diet
- Nausea after eating
- Skin rashes
- Tender gallbladder
- Fatty stools
- Fatty stools
- Light-colored stools
Final Thoughts—What Does Taking Ox Bile Do?
What does ox bile do? For people who need it, quite a bit, including helping with skin and digestive problems, improving immune health, helping with vitamin absorption, and even helping with weight loss. Taking ox bile can also support detoxication and reduce inflammation.
Remember, this isn’t medical advice, so speak to your doctor about any questions.