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Constipated? Why bile is your best friend

Constipation is a common yet often overlooked issue that affects millions of people worldwide. While many focus on fibre intake and hydration to combat this uncomfortable condition, there’s another crucial player in the digestive game that deserves your attention: bile. Understanding the role of bile in digestion can be a game-changer in your quest for regularity and digestive comfort.

What is bile?

Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It plays a vital role in breaking down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed by the digestive tract. Yet bile’s benefits extend beyond fat digestion. This yellow-green fluid is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system and preventing constipation.

What does bile do in the body?

Bile serves several functions in the digestive, detoxification and elimination processes of the body. It emulsifies fats, breaking them down into smaller particles which is essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and fatty acids. Bile also helps neutralise the acid from the stomach as it enters the small intestine, creating an optimal environment for enzyme activity and nutrient absorption. Since it stimulates the peristaltic movements of the intestines, which are the wave-like contractions that move food through the digestive tract, bile ensures the contents in the digestive tract are moving efficiently and that waste is expelling regularly. Bile is essential for carrying waste products and toxins from the liver into the intestines for excretion. This detoxification process is vital for maintaining a healthy gut environment, which in turn supports regular bowel movements. It is also known to have antimicrobial properties so an insufficiency may contribute to Small Bowel Overgrowth (SIBO), a condition where concerning bacteria take up residence in the small intestine, where they are not welcome.

Boosting bile production

If you’re struggling with constipation, enhancing your bile production can offer an effective solution. Here are some tips to help boost your bile flow:

1. Incorporate bitter foods and herbs

Bitter foods naturally stimulate bile production. Green leafy vegetables have a bitter taste base so these are a great inclusion. Look for foods like dandelion greens, rocket, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts in your diet. Medicinal herbs like St Mary’s Thistle, Globe Artichoke and Gentian are also excellent. Drinking lemon juice in warm water before meals can also enhance bile flow.

2. Amino acids

We obtain amino acids from our protein foods and some are crucial for bile production. Taurine and glycine are needed to make the bile salts so ensuring you are obtaining adequate protein across the day is also important for healthy bile.

3. Selenium

Brazil nuts are our best food source of selenium, a trace mineral essential for your liver to be able to produce bile. Ensure you are including a few Brazil nuts each day to meet your needs. Look to supplement selenium if you tend not to include Brazil nuts.

4. Betaine

Betaine is a natural component of beetroot and spinach so let this be some additional encouragement to include these foods regularly in how you eat.

You might choose to supplement some of the above factors to better support your bile: the bitter herbs listed above, for example, can make a significant difference to constipation created by bile insufficiency.

Recognising bile deficiency

It’s important to recognise the signs of bile deficiency, which can include chronic constipation, bloating, indigestion, and pale or clay-coloured stools. If you suspect you have a bile deficiency and the steps you take to increase bile flow don’t help, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Embrace bile as your digestive ally, and enjoy the benefits of a more comfortable and efficient digestive process.

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