If you are putting a premium on your health, it’s no longer news to you that a healthy lifestyle, just like any other investment, will cost you time, effort and money. Your gym membership and workout equipment comes at a price. So as your friends are enjoying the lazy Sunday mornings, you are already sweating it like you mean it. Your fresh and organic produce also costs more. While others choose to dig in to a bowl of to-go chick n’ chips, you are in your kitchen prepping your grilled tuna and steamed veggies . While others splurge their extra cash to shop for the latest fashion trend, you are spending on vitamins and supplements to further boost your health.
Living and staying healthy is not cheap. That’s why it’s well within your right to know if the product you are planning to get is worth your hard-earned money. With health fads spreading like wildfire one day and gone a few weeks after, it’s wise to be a bit critical about your supplement choices. This is especially true for those with existing medical conditions or certain deficiencies.
Case at point – Bile Salts.
What are Bile Salts?
If you have tried to look up natural ways to aid digestion, improve gut health or help you after your gallbladder operation, you may have already come across bile salts. But what are bile salts? Is it similar to kosher, Himalayan or iodized salts? No it’s very different and not nearly as tasty.
Bile salts are a component of bile derived from the chemical modification of cholesterol. It is manufactured and secreted from liver cells. Bile salts enable bile to mix fats with water, electrolytes and other organic molecules present in the bile. Its primary role is to break down fats to prevent its crystallization and the formation of gallstones. It means that bile salts naturally exist within our body. The ones being sold are solely to supplement what we already generate internally. Why and when do we need to augment our natural supply, we will know in a bit.
When researching about it, I noticed that most open source literature available on the topic use the terms bile salts and bile acids interchangeably. To some extent, this is correct. So when you hear or read about bile acids, consider that it might be bile salt that is being discussed. Both bile acid and bile salt are cholesterol derivatives made in the liver, stored in the gallbladder and reabsorbed in the small intestine. Technically however, they still have different structural and biological characteristics. Bile acids are the product of cholesterol emulsification and utilization. Bile salt, on the other hand, is the collective term for conjugated bile acids and bile alcohol sulfates. When bile acid combines with glycine or taurine, bile salt is formed.
Who Needs Bile Salts?
Everyone. Bile salts are crucial in the solubilisation of cholesterol, lipids, some vitamins and other nutrients so it can be effectively delivered to the liver. However, supplementation is highly recommended for those with digestive issues, liver concerns and gallbladder problems (especially after the gallbladder has been removed). What do bile salts do that makes them so indispensible?
Bile Salt Functions
Bile Salts Aid Digestion
Bile salts play a crucial role in the complex digestive process. Every time we eat, the brain signals the release of stomach acids and the bile to help in the breakdown of food. Bile salts shake up the large fat molecules from the food we eat, turning them into simpler fats. It even makes simple fats more water-soluble.
Bile Salts Help in the Breakdown and Absorption of Vitamins A, D, E and K
Bile salts have an effect on both water soluble and fat-soluble molecules. This makes it an important player in the synthesis of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, E, K, iron, calcium and magnesium – fat-soluble components that our body needs. These can only be used by the body once it is broken down through the action of bile salts and the other digestive juices. Insufficient amount of bile salts in the body may lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies as well as poor cholesterol metabolism.
Bile Salts Provide Necessary Support for Those Who Have Had Gallbladder Surgery
Bile salt supplementation is extremely helpful for those who have had their gallbladders removed. This is because after the surgery, bile produced by the liver is no longer regulated. The gallbladder is not there to collect the bile and absorb water (about 90%) from the bile, releasing it as it is needed. Without the gallbladder, bile flows directly from the liver to the intestine. Therefore, it will not be as concentrated and effective as it once was. Bile salt supplements may help address this issue.
Bile Salts Offer Relief from Gallbladder Symptoms
Overall, purified bile salts help supplement gallbladder insufficiency and increase gallbladder function. Aside from that, you can find relief from certain gallbladder diseases by introducing bile salts to your everyday diet. Bile salts remediate inflammation of the bile ducts/gallbladder, help normalize bile flow, and soothe general gallbladder pain. People who are complaining about gas, bloating and distention can also be helped with the use of bile salts. These symptoms can be caused by a lot of things, but if it is gallbladder-related, then bile salts with choline would be an effective solution. For a quality Gas and Bloating Kit, click here.
Bile Salts May Help Dissolve Gallstones and Treat Other Diseases
For those who already have gallstones, bile salts can be a non-invasive alternative treatment to dissolve and flush the stones out of their system. Depending on the doctor’s assessment and the size of the gallstone, bile salts can be prescribed as a conservative way of dealing with it. This is sometimes considered for the elderly who might have a difficulty recovering from a surgery or pregnant women who might endanger their babies if they were to have the stones or their gallbladder surgically removed. However, it is important to note that a doctor’s expert advice must be sought before deciding to use bile salts for gallstones.
As proof of bile salt’s ability to keep the gallbladder healthy, the FDA has approved the production and commercial distribution of Ursodiol™. This is a brand of ursodeoxycholic acid, a type of bile acid. (Remember that most bile acids turn into bile salts as they are conjugated to amino acids taurine and glycine) UDCA reduces the cytotoxicity of the circulating bile acid pool and it has been prescribed for the dissolution of gallstones. It is also used to relieve obstetric itching for some women who suffer obstetric cholestasis or the abnormal flow of bile due to pregnancy.
Aside from gallstones, studies have also proven the effectivity of bile salt supplements and it has been used together with other bile acid derivatives as therapeutic agents for treating chronic liver diseases, obesity, and diabetes.
Bile Salts Trigger the Release of Glutathione
The bile is known to be one of the body’s natural ways to get rid of waste and toxins. The bile carries these toxins from the liver, helping the body flush it out during bowel movement. Bile salts play an important role in that process. But aside from that, bile salts have more antioxidant capabilities as shown in its relationship with the body’s main detoxification enzyme – glutathione. Numerous studies have shown that as bile flow increases through the action of bile salts, the amount of biliary glutathione also increases. Glutathione is beneficial in reducing inflammation, releasing toxins from the bile and improving overall health and well-being.
Bile Salts Have Antimicrobial Effects
Bile salts have the ability to control bacterial growth in the gut, particularly against gram-positive bacteria. It also breaks down the walls of viruses that may be present in the digestive tract.
A study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US showed that patients with liver problems, who secrete substantially lower amounts of bile salts than healthy individuals, have more bacteria in the intestine. They also are at greater risk of developing systemic infections. Studies in rats with cirrhosis of the liver revealed that bile salts administration reduces the proliferation of bacteria and increases the rat’s chance of survival. Based on numerous studies, bile salts cause bleach-like physiological effects in bacteria, which explain their antimicrobial properties.
Bile Salts are Signalling Molecules and Metabolic Regulators
Bile salts can help regulate your fats in the liver, glucose levels in your bloodstream, and facilitate optimal metabolism and energy production. Numerous studies both in animals and humans show that bile salts may improve glycemic control.
Bile Salts Stimulate Fat Burning
The metabolic effect of bile salts makes it an effective component for weight management. Bile salts and bile acids increase activity in brown fat, inducing thermogenesis or heat production to help waste calories and increase fat loss. Since it helps control glucose levels in the body, bile salts also help in controlling hunger pangs and sweet cravings.
Taurine-Enchanced Bile Salts
Taurine has many health benefits in and of itself from burning fat to balancing glucose levels. But the fact that taurine may reduce chronic brain inflammation and reduce stress makes it a great addition to any gallbladder supplement. But adding it to bile salts is there specifically because within the body taurine has the ability to change the balance of the bile acids to a water soluble and less toxic form. In other words, it makes for healthier bile.
There are indeed so many benefits to incorporating bile salts to your healthy lifestyle. But note that not all bile salt supplements are created equal and too much of a good thing can also be bad for you. For best results, consult your physician before taking bile salts or any supplement (more so, medication) for that matter.
Once you have decided to get yourself your own bile salt stash, don’t just buy the first product you see. It is advisable that you get small capsules so you can change your dosages randomly with every meal. If the dosage per capsule is too high, you may not be able to do that. If you are looking for quality, visit www.gallbladdersupplements.com and try our brand of purified ox-bile salts with added taurine. And review our specific kits for Gas and Bloating and the After Gallbladder Removal Kit. These related products, all containing Bile Salts may be just what your body need to improve your digestion of fats and boost your overall health.
Cremers, C. M., Knoefler, D., Vitvitsky, V., Banerjee, R., & Jakob, U. (2014). Bile salts act as effective protein-unfolding agents and instigators of disulfide stress in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(16), E1610-E1619.
Chiang, J. Y. (2013). Bile acid metabolism and signaling. Comprehensive Physiology.