The liver performs several hundred functions in the body, one of them being bile production. Bile is a greenish-brown liquid primarily made of cholesterol, bile salts, and bilirubin. It's crucial because the bile salts are critical for breaking down fats for absorption in the intestinal tract.
After the liver makes bile, it's released into the gallbladder where it’s stored until fat is eaten. The gallbladder serves as bile’s storage unit, so to speak. When people eat fat, in whatever food or drink form, the gallbladder releases bile into the small intestine where the first step of digestion begins (breaking down fat so the lipase enzymes can digest it).
If breakdown of fat is disturbed, it’s because either the bile is too thick to begin with, the gallbladder is sluggish, or a combo of both.
Liver Health and Bile Health
The consistency of the bile can change if the health of your liver is even remotely suboptimal. Your liver can become weakened or sluggish by things like pathogens, viruses, toxic heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, solvents, plastics, industrial chemicals, drugs, medications, excess stress hormones, and fatty liver. A harmed liver produces really thick bile – meaning, when bile is released out of the gallbladder, it’s like sludge. The thicker the bile, the more sluggish the liver. I compare it to the oil in your car – clean and new oil flows easily and properly vs. dirty and old oil in your car is thick and doesn’t do its job well.
Everything your body makes (hormones, both artificial and natural) + all the things you get exposed to environmentally (medications, food, water toxins) – they’re all filtered through the liver. Get to know the 3 phases of detoxification, along with these simple suggestions for optimal cleansing.
Is Your Bile Too Thick?
Some signs of thickened bile:
- When you take 1 Tbsp of liquid fish oil or cod liver oil first thing in the morning and it makes you nauseous, or you burp it up and taste the oil right away.
- Pain in your right rib cage.
- A feeling of fullness even though there's nothing in the stomach.
What Causes Thick Bile?
#1: The #1 thing that thickens the bile is sugar, high glycemic foods and triglycerides (fat floating around in the blood). Where's all that sugar hiding, anyway?
#2: Next to high carb diets, the #2 most common cause for thick bile is a slow thyroid. The thyroid dictates the speed of metabolism and overall operations in the body. The thyroid also determines the viscosity of fluids in the body, so when the speed of operations slow down, fluids in the body start to congeal and thicken – this includes bile and mucus from the nose, lungs, and intestinal tract. A person may begin noticing more mucus in the stool. Here are some top nutrients to support the health of your thyroid.
When the thyroid is functioning sub-optimally, constipation typically happens, but that's how the body removes bile, so that's not a good situation either.
#3: A third cause of congested, thick bile is refined vegetable oils – toxic/processed/hydrogenated fats.
Dietary Tips to Thin Your Liver's Bile and Support Fat Metabolism
Once the bile gets too thick, there are some ways to thin the bile via the diet.
#1: The easiest and one of the best ways to get the bile to thin are leafy greens, especially beet greens.
#2: The amino acid taurine – 50% of bile salt contains taurocholic acid as its foundation (from sodium taurocholate or potassium taurocholate). Taurine promotes healthy bile consistency. I take 1 to 3 capsules of Healthy Goods Taurine at night. Aside from supporting bile consistency, taurine also balances the central nervous system stress response and supports normal, healthy sleep.
#3: Opt for healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, flaxseed, olive oil, fish oil, cod liver oil, coconut oil and ghee (my personal favorite type!). Olive oil helps thin your bile! Note: don’t overheat your oil or it can turn unhealthy. Here's a cooking oil 101 guide to reference.
I don't think many people recognize the importance of bile in the body. Maintaining an optimal amount of bile and keeping it the correct viscosity is imperative to your health.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods