Taking Bile Salts as Supplements

Have you had your gallbladder removed, and you have digestive issues such as indigestion, gas, and bloating? Are you experiencing a slow but constant downward spiral in your health? You may have had your surgery a month ago or 30 years ago – you may suddenly have symptoms, or you may have been living with them for years. Doctors offer little assistance in dealing with these problems, because according to them, “you don’t have to change what you eat.” Unfortunately, having your gallbladder removed only treats the symptoms, not the underlying causes of the gallstones in the first place.

However, with thousands of patients suffering indigestion, bloating and a slow decline in health post-surgery, naturopaths have done their own research, and a lot of evidence points to a lack of bile salts.  Find out about this supplement below and how it can benefit you.

biliary system

Why Bile Salts?

Because the gallbladder aids in the digestion of fats, removal of the gallbladder can result in such symptoms as indigestion and gas due to improper absorption of fats. This is because bile, which includes bile salts, is no longer gushed into the intestines in adequate quantity to digest the amount of fat found in a large meal.

Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When the gallbladder is removed, bile will continually trickle into the digestive system, whether you are eating or not.

Normally when you eat a heavy meal, the gallbladder responds by forcing a large amount of bile to efficiently digest the fats – not just fats from greasy foods, but healthy essential fats such as omega-3 fatty acids.

So, without a gallbladder, you are not only inefficiently digesting your meals, but your body is missing out on some of the healthy fatty acids and oils needed for your heart, nervous system, absorption of sugars and a healthy brain. Over the years, your body will wear down faster than it should be.

Bile Salts as a Solution

ox bile salts supplementMuch research has pointed to the use of bile salt supplements as an effective means of dealing with the digestive disorders common after gallbladder surgery. Taken with a meal, bile salts help to digest fats and aid in absorption of the fat soluble vitamins.

  • Dosage – the dosage of bile salts will depend on the brand, the type of bile salt, and the milligram content of the supplement. Also, many people find that adjusting the amount of bile salts to their own comfort level is ideal. Bile salts are best taken with a meal, as they provide the acids needed to digest your food. One brand recommends taking two tablets with each meal, but this will vary depending on your specific dietary needs.
  • Brands – a number of brands offer bile salts. These include Standard Process (Cholacol), Dews (Bile Salts), Swanson (Liquid Liver Extract with Bile Salts), NutriCology (Ox Bile), and Jarrow Formulas (Bile Acid Factors).

Side Effects

Although many people experience help from bile salts, there is one main side effect some people experience: diarrhea. This can be attributed to the fact that unabsorbed bile salts go directly into the colon and acts as a laxative. Some people have found the diarrhea related to bile salt supplementation can be painful. If this is the case, lower the dosage. You need just the right balance of your body’s production and the supplement. Everybody is different.

On the opposite side of the coin, if you experience constant diarrhea after you have had your gallbladder removed, you may have the opposite effect – bile salt diarrhea, where your liver is producing too much bile salt. This spills over into the colon, where it acts as a laxative.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this, though you can take cholestyramine, a prescription cholesterol drug that also soaks up excess bile salts. It is estimated that 5% of people who have had their gallbladder removed will suffer from this. There seems to be no reason for this type of bile salt malabsorption (for instance, a blotched surgery) – it seems like just bad luck.

Other Supplements That Help

Taking bile supplements can be one part of your regimen for digestive health, but there are several others supplements that may be helpful as well.

  • Calcium Carbonate – if you think that calcium is only for strong bones, think again. Calcium carbonate is commonly used to control the symptoms of diarrhea, and may be a great companion to deal with the side effect of bile salts.
  • Fiber – not only will fiber absorb water and firm up the stool, it may also work as a digestive sweep; aiding in the digestion of fats and eliminating toxins.
  • Probiotics – another great key to digestive health is probiotics. Made up of “good bacteria” commonly found in the intestinal tract, probiotics help maintain balance in the intestinal tract. They have been found helpful in dealing with gas and other digestive issues.
  • Betaine – This is a supplement made from beets, and aid in the breakdown of fats, just as bile salts do. If you are experiencing constant diarrhea, swap the bile salts for betaine instead.
  • Choline – Another aid in digestion. Choline supplements help absorb excess cholesterol and fats. They also help with the liver. Many people take bile salts and choline together, as they work well with each other.


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