Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
4 min read
The first thing to understand is that your body – specifically your liver – naturally produces bile, which then resides in your gallbladder. Bile helps your body digest and absorb the fat from food, as well as fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. Bile contains bile salts, cholesterol, water, bile acids, and the pigment bilirubin.
Bile helps regulate the metabolism of nutrients in the liver. Bile acids also function as nutrient-signaling hormones; they can activate nuclear receptors, which are a class of proteins responsible for sensing steroids, thyroid hormones, cholesterol, and vitamins. Bile acids also play a critical role in the regulation of lipid, glucose, energy, and drug metabolism. Moreover, bile helps the body with the elimination of waste – toxins, metabolic waste, medications, and more. Bile can even help the liver in removing excess cholesterol, and it’s essential to the composition of your gut microbiome. This is critical, because the health of the gut microbiome has a broad impact on the health of the rest of your body.
But what do you do if your body isn’t producing enough bile to perform these vital functions?
That, hypothetically, is where bile supplements come in. One popular bile supplement is ox bile, which is exactly what it sounds like: bile from an ox. Ox bile is sometimes recommended as a supplement for people experiencing a bile deficiency. Ox bile supplements include bile extract powder or salts that are combined with digestive enzymes, and there’s some evidence that ox bile supplementation can broadly support digestive health.
Ox bile supplements can be helpful for supporting your liver and allowing you to absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. They can also help your body eliminate waste. It’s recommended that you take ox bile with a fat-containing meal, so as to support proper digestion and absorption.
Ox bile supplements can help make up for bile deficiencies in your system and thereby help support the liver, combat gut imbalances, and promote gut health. Left unaddressed, poor bile production can lead to stomach issues, poor gut health, and even nutrient deficiencies.
While there’s much anecdotal support for the use of ox bile, much more research is needed to determine its overall effectiveness. That being said, ox bile has been used for centuries in Chinese traditional medicine to support a range of health outcomes, from gut health to skin health.
Most studies have been conducted on purified bile salts called TUDCA (taurodeoxycholic acid) and UDCA (ursodeoxycholic acid). These bile salts are naturally found in ox bile. Animal studies show TUDCA supports gut barrier function, decreasing intestinal fat transport and modulating intestinal microbiota composition. Bile acid TUDCA has been shown to even possess some neuroprotective properties. Numerous TUDCA benefits may be due to its antioxidant properties which act by reducing oxidative stress. Additional clinical trials are being conducted to investigate potential effects of ox bile on blood sugar regulation.
Before incorporating ox bile into your routine, it’s important to consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner. A doctor may advise that you start with a small dose and work your way up, as needed.
Whenever you add a new supplement to your routine, it’s possible that you’ll experience some side effects. The same is true for ox bile supplements.
Ox bile can lead to some pesky digestive issues, such as constipation, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. To be sure, ox bile is sometimes recommended for treating diarrhea, but in some cases bile salts can make the situation worse. Bile salt supplements can also negatively affect the gut barrier.
If you’re considering taking ox bile, the first thing you should do is talk to a medical professional. A medical professional can help examine your absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins and help you come up with a suitable supplement. Some common symptoms of bile deficiency include:
Since about 85% of bile is made up of water, staying hydrated is of the utmost importance. You can also up your bile salt production by eating beets and beet greens – they both contain the nutrient betaine, which is a powerful liver detoxicant.
Your body naturally produces bile in your liver, and then the bile is stored in your gallbladder. Bile helps the body digest fat from foods, and it helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. It also supports liver health and assists with the elimination of waste.
There are times when, for a variety of reasons, your body may not be producing enough bile. That’s when a bile supplement may be necessary. Ox bile is a popular and effective bile supplement.
If you are noticing any symptoms of bile deficiency, you should talk to a medical professional about what steps you should take. Some of those steps will likely include upping your hydration, increasing your beet consumption, and possibly taking a bile supplement, such as ox bile.