Bile is a liquid produced by the liver that helps your body digest fats from the food you eat. It is stored in the gallbladder and empties into your intestines during digestion.
You may have heard about bile – maybe if you’ve had gallstones or been so ill that someone said you were throwing up “bile.” Produced by your liver, bile is used to digest fat.
Read on to learn more about this important substance and how your body uses it.
Bile is an olive-green or brownish-yellow fluid made by your liver and stored in your gallbladder. It’s important in helping you digest fat in your diet. It breaks the fats you eat into fatty acids, which your intestines can then absorb.
Bile is made up of several things, including:
- Water: Bile is made up of
- Bile acids (bile salts): Bile salts help you digest fat.
- Cholesterol: Cholesterol is necessary for your organs to function properly and helps your body make digestive juices, hormones, and vitamin D.
- Bilirubin: Bilirubin is a byproduct of red blood cells as they are broken down.
- Body salts: Salts like potassium and sodium are found in your body.
- Metals: Some copper and other metals your body needs may be stored in bile.
Bile’s main job is to help your body digest the fats you eat. Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When you start eating, the gallbladder contracts and bile flows into the bile duct.
From there, it makes its way into the small intestine, where the bile salts and other substances break down fat globules into smaller droplets. These droplets are easier for the digestive enzymes in your intestines to break down and absorb.
Bile is produced in your liver. Your liver is one of the largest organs in your body. It sits on the upper right side of your abdomen, just under your ribs.
The liver has hundreds of functions, including cleaning your blood, removing chemicals from your body, and making bile.
Unused bile is stored in your gallbladder, which is located on the upper right side of your abdomen, just under your liver.
If there’s not much fat in your meal that needs to be digested, then the extra bile is stored in your gallbladder until you need it. When more fat needs to be digested, the gallbladder contracts and dumps concentrated bile directly into the intestines through the bile duct.
Most health conditions that involve bile are related to blockages of the bile ducts. The most common of these is gallstones.
Gallstones are hardened crystals made primarily of cholesterol. These stones can block the common bile duct, which is the drain at the bottom of the gallbladder.
Other conditions related to bile include:
Symptoms of health conditions that affect bile production, movement, and use include:
- yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- yellowing of the whites of the eyes (icterus)
- brown-colored urine
- weight loss
- night sweats
- abdominal pain (often on the right side under the ribs)
- greasy or clay-colored stools
- reduced appetite
Can you live without your gallbladder?
Yes. Many individuals have their gallbladder removed. Your body can function without it. You may need to make a few diet or lifestyle changes, like eating less fat, having smaller meals, and limiting things like caffeine.
Where is bile stored if your gallbladder is removed?
If your gallbladder is removed, your body doesn’t store bile. It is still produced by your liver when you need it to digest food, though.
Can your body make too much bile?
Yes. Usually, you make the amount of bile you need, and your body stores the extra. If you have a condition that causes too much bile, you might cause a disease called bile acid malabsorption and may have symptoms like watery diarrhea, an urgent need to go, or bowel leakage.
Can your body make too little bile?
Yes. If you have too little bile, it can lead to malnutrition and deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Bile is a fluid made of water, cholesterol, salts, and other substances that help your body digest fats. Bile is made by your liver and stored in your gallbladder.
The most common concern related to bile is gallstones, and they can lead to the surgical removal of the gallbladder. You can live without your gallbladder, and your body will continue to make bile.