Why Does Your Body Recycle So Much Bile

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 03/07/2024

Bile is crucial for digestion, nutrient assimilation, cholesterol regulation, toxin elimination, and immune system support. Learn about why your body needs bile and how to increase bile production to enhance your health and well-being.

Primary and Secondary Bile Salts

Bile salts are split into primary and secondary categories, with the latter being a product of bacteria acting on the former in our gut microbiome.

Gallbladder's Role in Concentrating Bile

The liver uses recycled bile salts to produce, which is then stored and concentrated in the gallbladder before being released into the small intestine for efficient emulsification of fats during digestion.

Bile plays a crucial role in many physiological functions, including:

  • Fat absorption: Bile breaks down large dietary fat globules into smaller droplets for easy absorption.

  • Nutrient assimilation: Bile facilitates lipid breakdown & solubilization, allowing for better absorption of essential fat-soluble nutrients.

  • Cholesterol regulation: Bile helps regulate cholesterol levels by excreting excess cholesterol from the body.

  • Toxin elimination: The liver uses bile to remove toxins such as heavy metals or pesticides from our system through fecal elimination.

  • Immune system support: Bile has antimicrobial properties that help prevent small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) while supporting healthy gut microbiome composition.

Primary vs. Secondary Bile Salts

The liver produces primary bile salts conjugated with amino acids to make them more water-soluble. In contrast, secondary bile salts are unconjugated, less water-soluble, made by the gut microbiome, and better recycled for increased absorption efficiency.

Bile salt conjugation combines primary bile acids with specific amino acids, making them more water-soluble and effective at emulsifying fats during digestion, with added antimicrobial properties to maintain gut bacteria balance.

Gut bacteria, gut flora, microbiome. Bacteria inside the small intestine

Role of Microbiome in Producing Secondary Bile Salts

The gut microbiome converts primary bile salts into secondary bile salts through deconjugation and enzymatic reactions, aiding fat digestion and efficiently recycling back into circulation via enterohepatic recirculation.

Certain gut bacteria break the bond between bile and amino acids, returning conjugated primary bile salts to their unconjugated form. The microbiome is also involved in an enzymatic reaction that transforms primary bile acids into secondary bile acids by removing a hydroxyl group, with deoxycholic acid being the most common secondary bile acid produced.

Benefits of Recycling Bile

Our bodies are incredibly efficient at recycling bile by reusing existing bile salts instead of continuously producing new ones, which conserves energy resources needed to create fresh bile constantly.

Recycling bile helps conserve energy, allowing our bodies to allocate more energy towards other vital processes such as cell repair and immune system function.

Bile is essential for breaking down fat while eating, allowing our intestines to take in nutrients like vitamins A, D, E & K and omega-3 fatty acids. Recycling ensures there's always an adequate supply ready whenever it's needed.

Functions of Bile Salts

Bile salts perform multiple functions, from aiding in the absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients to regulating cholesterol levels, eliminating toxins, preventing bacterial overgrowth, and supporting our immune system.

Fat and Nutrient Absorption

Bile salts are essential for breaking down lipids and taking fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E & K, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are fundamental for sight, bone health, cognitive performance, and inflammation.

Bacterial Overgrowth Prevention

Bile's antimicrobial properties can help inhibit SIBO, a condition associated with digestive symptoms such as bloating or diarrhea.

Cholesterol Regulation

Bile helps regulate overall cholesterol levels and maintain cardiovascular health by producing bile salts from cholesterol and excreting excess cholesterol from our bodies.

Toxin Elimination

Bile binds to toxins like heavy metals, pesticides, or excess hormones and eliminates them from our bodies through fecal excretion, which is essential for maintaining liver health and preventing chronic diseases.

Immune System Support

Bile salts prompt the generation of Immunoglobulin A, an antibody that shields against harmful microorganisms in the intestinal tract wall.

Benefits of Ox Bile Supplements

You may have heard of ox bile supplements if you're following a ketogenic diet or practicing intermittent fasting. These supplements are made from the bile of cows and can provide several benefits for your digestive system.

Bile salts are produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. They play an essential role in breaking down fats so your body can absorb them. Without enough bile salts, fat digestion becomes difficult, leading to symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

The Importance of Ox Bile Supplements

When you follow a high-fat diet like keto or intermittent fasting, your body produces more bile to help digest all the fat you consume during mealtimes.

In addition to aiding with fat digestion, ox-bile supplementation could also benefit those who experience indigestion or other gastrointestinal issues that affect nutrient absorption, such as SIBO, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn's disease.

However, some people may not have enough bile independently due to certain health conditions or after removing their gallbladder.

Human digestive system illustration

How to Take Ox Bile Supplements

Ox bile supplements are available in capsule form and can be taken with meals that contain fat. The dosage will depend on the individual, but starting with a low dose is recommended and gradually increasing as needed.

If you want to try ox bile supplements, speak with your healthcare provider first to ensure they are safe for you to take based on your medical history and any medications you may be taking.

Bile salts should not be confused with digestive enzymes like lipase or protease, which help break down food into smaller molecules so the body can absorb them.

However, some products combine bile salts and digestive enzymes (such as those containing pancreatin) for comprehensive digestion support.

The Crucial Role of Bile Salts in Digestion and Health

Bile salts are essential for digesting and absorbing fats, regulating cholesterol, eliminating toxins, and supporting the immune system by maintaining a healthy gut environment.

Bile salt supplements like TUDCA are beneficial in increasing bile production from the gallbladder.

The 4 Main Functions of Bile Salts

  1. Bile salts aid in the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients.

  2. They regulate cholesterol levels by either excreting or recycling them.

  3. Bile salts help eliminate toxins by binding to harmful substances.

  4. They support the immune system by promoting a balanced gut microbiome.


Bile salts are essential for digesting fats and absorbing fat-soluble nutrients, regulating cholesterol levels, and keeping our immune system in check.

By recycling bile, our body efficiently uses its resources and ensures a constant supply for digestion. However, low bile production or poor recycling can lead to digestive issues, vitamin deficiencies, and hypothyroidism.

Taking purified bile salts is an effective way to promote healthy digestion. It may be particularly beneficial for individuals without gallbladder or liver issues and those who follow a high-fat diet like keto.


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