Bile is an emulsifier—a type of soap for fats. It breaks down the fats into small particles so that your intestines can absorb them. Produced by the liver to the tune of about one quart per day, bile is made from lecithin, cholesterol and bilirubin. It is stored near the liver in the gallbladder. From there, it is transported to the intestines during digestion.
Here's a NEWSFLASH for you: Bile is not ONLY the real key to the body's ability to digest and assimilate fats, but it is also a vehicle for removing toxins from your body so they can be flushed out through the colon.
Bile is one of the liver's premier detox mechanisms so the consequences of inadequate bile go far beyond the inability to lose weight. If the liver can't clear fats, then it most likely can't break down hormones or other metabolic waste products either, and you can end up with hot flashes, night sweats, cysts, migraines and depression.
To put it another way, bile is one of the most underrated and ignored methods our bodies utilize to move out toxins. The quantity of bile your body makes is directly proportional to the quantity of toxins you can eliminate.
If you lack enough fiber to escort these toxins out of your body, they can remain (along with bile) in your intestines for too long and are then reabsorbed. This is when toxic overload occurs with poisonous wastes ending up stagnant in your lymphatics and getting stuck in the bloodstream, joints and other tissues. There is already a 75 percent bile deficiency by the time allergies, arthritis, and inflammation in joints and muscles develop. By the time cancer or chronic illness is diagnosed, a whopping 90 percent deficit has already occurred.
If your gallbladder hasn't been doing its job due to a lack of the right Smart Fats or too much hydrogenated fat or even if your gallbladder is gone, your body loses its ability to adequately regulate proper bile flow. Without your gallbladder, for instance, there is still a steady release of bile from the liver, but it is "mismatched" with the amount of oil or fat you are consuming— whether in quantity or timing. This has a cascading detrimental effect on your digestion as well as absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K) and the essential fatty acids.
Moreover, bile can be hampered from doing its job because of a lack of bile nutrients, congestion or even clogged bile ducts, which interfere with bile flow and result in less bile production. Regardless of where the bile is—in the liver, in the gallbladder or in the bile ducts—the principles of manufacturing, thinning and moving bile are the same.
Bile helps to break down ALL dietary fats and ALL fat-soluble vitamins. This is no insignificant task. If you check any decent nutritional textbook these days and research all the symptoms and problems linked with fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies you will find everything from dry skin to indigestion to cataracts and cancer. Bile also acts as a lubricant for your stool to prevent constipation. Who knew?
Just as fascinating, French researchers have found that bile may be connected to our obesity epidemic and hypothyroidism. They discovered that fat metabolism is sped up by the activation of thyroid hormones in the fat cells. Could it be that an imbalance of bile is one of the reasons that hypothyroidism is so rampant today?
My friend Dr. Raphael Kellman, Functional Medicine guru and author of "The Microbiome Diet," told me, "I diagnose many people with hypothyroidism who have been suffering and undiagnosed for years. I use a test called the TRH stimulation test that the medical community abandoned when the routine TSH assays became more sensitive. In 2007, two studies confirmed what I have been saying to be true. I also treat many with both neurodevelopmental and degenerative diseases. Recent studies are showing low levels of T3 in the brain of such patients yet routine blood tests were normal. Anyway, the point of all this is that I have been suspecting that, in addition to low hydrochloric acid, there is also low bile production in so many people with low thyroid function. So many of the people I diagnosed with low thyroid also had a cholecystectomy in the past. Many have GI dysfunction that is consistent with low bile. So I'm with you!"
Let Sleeping Gallstones Lie
Millions of us experience unrecognized signs of poor bile digestion like bloating, nausea, sluggishness, poor thyroid function, constipation, hemorrhoids, and dry skin and hair. Well over 20 million Americans have known gallbladder challenges while millions more go undiagnosed. Why? They haven't been able to connect the dots between ALL the seemingly disconnected—but urgent—SOS signals our body is sending out loud and clear.
It is a shame that gallbladder removal has become the most common type of surgery performed in this country, usually due to the presence of gallstones. Gallstones commonly occur because of congested bile due to buildup, which results in the precipitation of stones.
Ideally, treatment should consist of making sure the bile is thinned, decongested, and fluid—a major focus of my book "Eat Fat, Lose Weight."
For those who no longer have a gallbladder, it is critically important to mimic your body's natural output of bile by taking an ox bile supplement (also known as bile salts). While you may not be able to duplicate your body's remarkable wisdom of knowing just when to release the exact right amount of bile, supplementation with bile extracts can go a long way in maximizing the process and assuring that your fat-soluble vitamins are being absorbed.
Too much bile supplementation can create loose stools, while too little can make for very light or clay colored stools.
The Allergy Connection
If you still have your gallbladder but are experiencing frequent gallbladder attacks OR if you have had your gallbladder taken out but still experience pain (what is called "post-cholecystectomy syndrome,") you should definitely know about the work of allergist Dr. James C. Breneman. He identified food allergies as a primary underlying cause of gallbladder pain.
I discovered Dr. Breneman's landmark work thanks to a newsletter ("Dr. Jonathan Wright's Health and Healing") written by my personal integrative physician, the brilliant and insightful Dr. Jonathan Wright in 2004 with the enticing headline, "The 99.9 percent effective technique for eliminating gallbladder attacks forever."
The article brought to light Dr. Breneman's surprising discovery that gallbladder pain was significantly related to food allergies. In his study from the 1960s–70s of individuals both with and without a gallbladder he found that the major offenders were eggs (92.8 percent), pork (63.8 percent), onions (52.2 percent), chicken and turkey (34.8 percent), milk (24.6 percent), coffee (21.7 percent), and oranges (18.8 percent). Other foods which accounted for less than 15 percent of attacks included corn, beans, nuts, apples, tomatoes, peas, cabbage, spices, peanuts, fish and rye.
When his study participants eliminated their food allergies, they obtained 100 percent relief. WOW! So, needless to say, if your gallbladder's acting up, give an elimination diet a try. Or, at least avoid the top three primary offenders like eggs, pork and onions. You know what you've got to lose!
The bottom line is you simply must ensure that you will be utilizing all the Smart Fats you will be adding back into your diet—with or without your gallbladder—for the most complete digestion, assimilation and utilization.
Bile: Your New BFF
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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS
Visionary health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, has always been a trendsetter. With millions of followers nationwide, she has the uncanny ability to pinpoint major health concerns and provide solutions years ahead of anybody else.
Highly respected as the grande dame of alternative health and award-winning author of 30 books, she single-handedly launched the weight loss/detox revolution in her New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan. A Connecticut College and Teachers College, Columbia University graduate, Dr. Ann Louise was recognized as one of the top ten nutritionists in the country by Self magazine and was the recipient of the American Medical Writers Association award for excellence. She has been a popular columnist for First magazine since 2003.