By: Griffin McKenzie
Entrepreneur, Health Coach, and Blogger
When you had an upset stomach as a child, we’re going to go out on a limb and guess that your mom probably didn’t give you ox bile…but maybe she should have!
Some healthy supplements and ingredients just sound a little bit weird, and we’ll admit, ox bile is one of those! If you’re unfamiliar with this primary powerhouse in our Digest IQ supplement, you might be wondering, “What on earth is ox bile, and why do I need to consume it? Is it for everyone?”
Ox bile helps with digestion, inflammation, and gallbladder function because it improves the breakdown of fats, just like bile salts in your own body should do (1). If you’re struggling with digestive issues, suffering from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or dealing with frequent gallstones, ox bile could be a great addition for your health!
Ox Bile – What is This Stuff?
Ox bile is exactly that, the bile from an ox! It is considered to be a form of alternative medicine by many health professionals, but when you understand the inner workings of bile, it doesn’t sound so alternative at all. So, maybe the more appropriate question is: what exactly is bile?
Bile is a substance excreted by the liver of mammals, so both humans and oxen produce bile! It is secreted into the duodenum of the small intestine, where it aids in the digestion and absorption of fats (4). In all species that produce bile, bile serves the functions of digestion and absorption of fat molecules and elimination of waste products into the feces, such as bilirubin (9). When food travels from the stomach to the small intestine, bile salts alkalinize the acidic food coming out of the stomach, so that nutrients can be readily absorbed (3).
Bile consists of water, salts, cholesterol, and lecithin, and it helps break down dietary fats, absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K (the fat soluble vitamins), and reduces inflammation (2). In your body, bile also contains toxins to be excreted, hormones that need to be flushed out, and other foreign chemicals. By the time bile reaches the colon, 95% of the bile acids should be reabsorbed and sent back to the liver for recycling (4). So, if your body isn’t able to eliminate these substances with the proper amount of bile salts, toxicity can occur and poor hormone synthesis can be an additional result (3).
For humans that have difficulty producing an adequate amount of bile or deal with imbalances in their bile production, ox bile can support the body’s natural processes and aid in intestinal motility and absorption.
How Do I Know if My Bile Isn’t Doing It’s Job?
Outside of having a liver disease like cirrhosis, you might not know whether or not your bile could use a little assist. But, if you have dealt with frequent constipation or gallstones, those are key indications that your processes of digestion and elimination are not functioning as well as they could. Without adequate bile, individuals can also experience heartburn because the stomach acid in their body hasn’t been properly neutralized (3). When acid backs up, ulcers can form in the stomach, esophagus, and intestines, and some studies have shown that ox bile is a useful treatment for ulcers, as it diminishes gastric activity (7).
Gallstones occur when cholesterol and bile bind together and become lodged in the gallbladder, instead of moving through the digestive system and eliminating previously mentioned toxins. While it’s not 100% clear while gallstones occur in some people rather than others, many believe it’s because one’s bile contains too much cholesterol, or they are dealing with a hormonal imbalance (1). It’s important to do the preventative work to avoid the production of gallstones because the main treatment after they occur is surgery. If gallstones get worse, they can turn into cholecystitis or inflammation of the gallbladder (1).
Bile and SIBO
Many people have heard of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but SIBO isn’t as well known by the average American. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when the small intestine becomes overrun with bacteria in comparison to the colon. Some researchers believe that SIBO could be responsible for up to 84% of IBS cases (5). As a result, those who suffer from SIBO experience many of the same symptoms as those with IBS, but the symptoms can be more severe and the cause more confusing. Hormone imbalances, mood disorders, malnutrition, and fatigue can also come alongside indigestion, bloating, and diarrhea for a truly nasty experience (4).
Additionally, when the small intestine has too much bacteria, it is exposed to more bile than the colon. Bile is an emulsifier, and it actually works to keep bacteria counts in the small intestine low. It is antimicrobial and works to “seal” up a leaky gut and calm the overactive motility in the small intestine that can lead to diarrhea (4). For patients with SIBO, they are advised to avoid high FODMAP foods, restrict sugars and starches, and repair their gut lining with supplements, including fats rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and ox bile supplementation (5).
How Should I be Using Ox Bile?
A fascinating thing to note about ox bile is that it can be used for both severe digestive issues and as a preventative supplement. Yes, it will help if you’re dealing with an upset stomach, nausea, or inflammation from consuming a food that you’re sensitive to, but it will also work to promote healthy fat absorption on a daily basis. If you’re working to strengthen your gut and digestion in times of “normal” eating, then your system will be able to handle some of the less healthy foods that you eat when the time comes.
Once it is inside your body, ox bile works in the same way as your normal bile, but it is important that you consume it at the right time. We recommend taking 3 capsules of our Digest IQ daily, preferably at meal times with fat in the meal. Why? Bile aids in fat absorption, so it is important the substance has access to these healthy fats to do its best work.
Think of ox bile as the ultimate digestive enzyme. When taken as a supplement, the ox bile will mix in with the food in your digestive tract and act on the fat like a detergent to make it more easily digestible. Ox bile can clean away the bad stuff and help your body accept the healthy fats and nutrients so that you can achieve optimal digestive health (6). This “scrubbing” action of bile is accomplished because bile is amphipathic, meaning its molecules have water-loving and water-fearing sides, which help with the emulsion of fats and prevent them from reassociating (8).
It is important that you don’t over consume ox bile, as excessive amounts can cause diarrhea. Remember, taking ox bile supplements will not replace the bile in your own system, rather the ox bile will help you digest your food when your bile isn’t strong enough or balanced enough to do the job on its own.
What Can Ox Bile and Digest IQ Do For Me?
We designed Digest IQ to enhance your gut integrity, improve your mood, and promote optimal digestion because we know that your gut, your brain, and your overall health are linked together! Your gut influences the health of your brain, mood, and well-being, since it generates the majority of the body’s serotonin, or the “feel good” hormone.
Instead of taking laxatives to soothe your upset stomach or products that produce uncomfortable side effects and result in more indigestion, Digest IQ provides a natural alternative with real results. Get rid of your bloat, handle inflammatory foods with ease, and feel better with every meal. Ox bile is one of the main ingredients in this formula, but all of the components work together in such a synergistic way to heal your gut and promote the proper breakdown and absorption of food.
Goldbloom, A. A. (1954). Evaluation of clinical methods in gastrointestinal disease. VI. New approach to antiulcer therapy: organic potassium salts (F111) and ox-bile products in patients with simple duodenal ulcer: preliminary report. The American Journal Of Gastroenterology, 21(3), 205-218.