What are bile salts?

Bile salts are one of the primary components of bile. Bile is a greenish-yellow fluid made by the liver and stored in our gallbladder.

Bile salts help with the digestion of fats in our bodies. They also help us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.

In addition to bile salts, bile contains cholesterol, water, bile acids and the pigment bilirubin. The role of bile (and bile salts) in the body is to:

  • aid digestion by breaking down fats
  • help absorb fat-soluble vitamins
  • eliminate waste products

Bile and bile salts are made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder between meals. After we eat and there are fats present in our digestive tracts, our hormones send a signal to our gallbladders to release bile.

The bile is released into the first part of our small intestine called the duodenum. This is where most of the digestion happens. The bile helps to process and digest the fats.

Another primary function of bile is to remove toxins. Toxins are secreted into the bile and eliminated in feces. A lack of bile salts can cause a buildup of toxins in our bodies.

Bile deficiency can also cause a problem with the formation of hormones, as all hormones are made from fats.

Bile salts are produced by the hepatocyte cells in the liver and are derived from cholesterol. When an alkaline substance meets an acid, it causes a neutralizing reaction. This reaction produces water and the chemical salts called bile salts.

If the fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids that you eat can’t be absorbed, they pass into the colon where they can cause complications. People who don’t produce enough bile salts, possibly because they’ve had their gallbladders removed, can experience:

  • diarrhea
  • trapped gas
  • bad-smelling gas
  • stomach cramps
  • erratic bowel movements
  • weight loss
  • pale-colored stools

Bile salt supplements

People with bile salt deficiency may try bile salt supplements to counteract these symptoms. It’s also important to stay well-hydrated as about 85 percent of bile is made up of water.

It can also be helpful for people who don’t produce enough bile salts to eat a lot of beets and beet greens. This is because they contain a lot of the nutrient betaine, which is one of the most powerful liver detoxicants.

Untreated deficiency

If a bile salt deficiency is left untreated, it can increase your risk of forming kidney stones and gallstones.

There are two conditions that primarily result in bile salt malabsorption: Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

Bile salts are a primary component of bile and are needed by our bodies to help break down fats, aid digestion, absorb important vitamins, and eliminate toxins.

Bile salts are stored in our gallbladders when they’re not being used. If our gallbladders are removed for any reason, it can lead to a bile salt deficiency. This condition can also be caused by other diseases of the bowel.

If you experience any of the symptoms of a bile salt deficiency it’s important that you see your doctor. They’ll be able to talk you through your options. They’re likely to suggest that you’re properly hydrated at all times, that you increase your consumption of beets, and that you begin taking bile salt supplements.