Eating stimulates a whole digestive cascade that goes on to ensure we properly absorb our food. Once food hits the stomach, we need to be able to break it down as it moves into the small intestine. To absorb the fats in our food we need bile which comes from the gallbladder and liver.
Bile acts to emulsify the fats, allowing us to extract all the wonderful essential fatty acids out of the food, allowing us to incorporate the fat into our cells, further breaking it down to become the backbone for our hormones and finally helping us to excrete fat soluble nutrients out of the body.
We also need bile to absorb all our fat soluble vitamins- A, D, E, and K. Phew! Talk about important stuff.
How do you know if you have gallbladder issues?
One of the big issues we see is if you eat a fatty meal and it doesn’t sit well with you, this could be a sign that your gallbladder isn’t functioning optimally and needs support. If you see fat in your stools, they are bulky or difficult to flush, have a foul-smell or are oily or pale; these are all signals of impaired digestion and absorption, which may have their root in a sluggish biliary system.
Other common symptoms of gallbladder problems include:
● Feeling full after a small meal
● Right sided heaviness at the base of your rib cage
● Right shoulder tightness or pain by your scapula
● Diarrhea when eating too much fat
● White or gray colored stools
● Stools that float or are frothy
● Intolerance to eating fat of any type: oils, salad dressing, fatty vitamins, nuts, seeds, ice cream, dairy products, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.
● Yellowish coating on your tongue
How to stimulate bile flow?
Bile is formed in our liver and stored in the gallbladder. So what happens if you don’t have a gallbladder anymore? Well, you still make bile, but instead of storing some in the gallbladder so that it may be quickly excreted on demand when you eat fat, it’s a slow, constant drip.
If you find difficulty with eating rich meals, or fats in general, you may want to consider using a bile supplement with your food. Adding bile to your body can actually stimulate your liver to produce more bile naturally. Bile production is also stimulated by eating bitter foods—probably the least favourite flavour, but consider adding some leafy greens, like; kale, endive, dandelion leaves, radicchio, arugala, beet greens and chard. If you work on incorporating some of these into your diet on a regular basis, you will help to stimulate bile formation, and if you eat these with fats, you’ll definitely improve your absorption!
What is bile?
Bile is composed mostly of water, but also contains important bile acids and salts and other organic compounds, as well as metabolic waste. In addition to the important roles it plays in the digestion and absorption of dietary fats, bile also facilitates the removal of waste, cholesterol and toxins from the body. To ensure good detox pathways through the liver and colon we need to have good bile flow.
A less commonly known function of bile is to support a healthy amount of bacteria in your small intestine, which can be important in controlling SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Bile acts as a natural antibacterial agent. A lack of bile in the small intestine may be the root of many cases of SIBO!
Bile also helps to stimulate bowel movements, coffee contains both bitters and caffeine, which stimulate bile flow, which is why so many of us find a cup of coffee in the morning can get everything moving!
If you’ve learned something new about bile and digestion, stay tuned for more mind-blowing info next week when we’ll discuss how bile is essential for your hormones!
Dr. Rebecca Sagan, ND and Dr. Hajnalka Pinter, ND