Herbal Medicine: Bile Flow to Improve Your Digestion

herbal medicine for digestion byron bay herbalist naturopath gut health expert

Bile flow is an important but often neglected aspect of digestion.

Many times it is ignored up until the doctor is recommending surgery to remove your gallbladder.

Thankfully herbal medicine has an answer for improving bile flow and as a knock on effect improving digestion.

Read on to learn how herbal medicine and bile flow go can work together to improve the flow of bile, decrease bloating and indigestion and improve your digestion.

Herbal Medicine and Bile Flow – Improve Digestion and Eliminate Bloating

Today there seems to be an epidemic of people struggling with digestive issues. The only reason I know that is because I am one of them.

It all started with chronic parasite infections and dysbiosis (bacterial imbalances in my intestinal tract) and moved on to food sensitivities and bizzare symptoms like persistent headaches and chronic sinusitis.  

Getting your digestive function back online and firing on all cylinders should be the main focus and will help with many different health complaints even if they seem unrelated. Our ability to break down, absorb and transport the nutrients in the food we eat is essential for optimal health and wellbeing.

So today we will be talking about bile, what it is, what it does and how herbal medicine can help to get it flowing properly so that you can digest your food, feel great and live your life symptom free.

Bile Production Starts In The Liver

Bile starts it’s life in the liver.

Each day the liver produces between 800-1000 ml of bile made up of water, bile salts, cholesterol and bile pigments. 

You read right that is up to a litre of bile each and every day!

Herbal medicines that can help with bile production are called choleretics. They work with the liver to increase the production of bile.

Herbal medicine and bile flow production:

Bile Is Stored In The Gallbladder

Ah, the infamous gallbladder.

Having your gallbladder removed, called a cholecystectomy, is a common surgical intervention that is frequently recommended when people experience digestive pain, gallstones and bile stasis. I’m still a bit unclear why we jump to removing such a key digestive organ so quickly.

It baffles me.

Liver cells produce bile which then travels through a series of ducts to the gallbladder for storage. Without the gallbladder there is no place to store all the essential bile that facilitates digestion. This is why so many people that have had their gallbladder removed struggle to digest different foods, mainly fats.

A Surge Of Bile

From the gallbladder bile travels along the bile duct, meets up with the pancreatic duct and winds up in the small intestine. Here is where all the magic happens. Bile, along with pancreatic enzymes, works away on the fat molecules, breaking them down in a process known as emulsification.

From here they be absorbed across the gut wall and into the body for use by the different cells.

Now what we just covered is a perfect sequence.

This is what should be happening.

What we want to happen.

Unfortunately, for many of us, it doesn’t quite go this way. Many times bile can become sluggish and fail to flow properly.

Thankfully herbal medicine has an answer to this problem. The herbs that come to our rescue here are called cholagogues. A funny word that means they assist gallbladder contraction, and help to push the bile out of the gallbladder into the bile duct, sending it on it’s way to the small intestine.

I think of the gallbladder like a squeeze pump. You squeeze it and off the bile goes.

Herbal Medicine And Bile Flow

Ok now onto the different herbs that can help with bile flow.

Herbal medicine and bile flow secretion aka cholagogues:

You can see that many of the same herbs that help to make bile also help to stimulate it’s release into the small intestine.

Now there are some contraindications with cholagogues, meaning times when they shouldn’t be taken. That’s why it is important to work with a trained herbalist.

One of the biggest ones is gallstones. If you think you may have a gallstone then it is wise to avoid these gallbladder stimulating herbs. Contraction of the gallbladder when it has a gallstone in it would be incredibly painful and might lead to an emergency room visit and most likely a gallbladder removal surgery.

Something you want to avoid.

Ok now onto some different foods to help with bile flow.

Foods That Help With Bile Flow

Food is medicine as much as herbs are medicine.

Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to look a bit deeper and report back.

In cases with serious digestive issues we need to look to our herbal medicine to really get things moving in the right direction. We can use food to help support and maintain the physiological effects that herbs make.

In this way we can transition from a herbal formula with targeted food and then taper off on the herbs when digestion is functioning properly.

Dr. John Douillard from LifeSpa has written a great article on the different foods that can help mobalise bile. Instead of rehashing a great article I would recommend heading over and having a read.

Focusing On Bile Flow To Improve Digestion

As a quick recap. We have covered some important points often neglected with digestive health.

  1. Bile production, starting in the liver, can be improved with herbal medicines known as choleretics. These, often bitter, herbs stimulate liver cells into manufacturing more bile.
  2. Bile then travels to the gallbladder to be stored for future use. Herbs known as cholagogues improve bile flow from the gallbladder to the small intestines where it is used to digest fatty foods.
  3. Different foods can be used to improve bile flow, increasing your digestive function and reducing symptoms like bloating and indigestion. They can be found here.

Are you struggling with digestion? Leave a comment below on things that have helped!

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