The liver is an incredibly complex organ. One of its functions is to produce bile. While bile is mostly known for breaking down fats, it also has numerous other complex functions in the body. For this reason, bile acid supplements such as TUDCA and ox bile are becoming popular for treating health issues ranging from psoriasis to obesity.
Here is what you need to know about TUDCA, ox bile and other bile supplements.
What Is Bile?
The liver makes bile acid from cholesterol. When we eat, the liver releases bile acid to help digest fats. Between meals, bile acids are stored in the gallbladder where they are concentrated. When you eat, the gallbladder contracts to release bile acids into the intestines. It aids in digestion and has numerous other roles in the body.
Bile Acid vs. Bile Salt
Even though the terms are often used interchangeable, bile salts usually refers to bile acids which are conjugated (bonded) with taurine or glycine. Conjugated bile acids are stronger than their unconjugated forms.
What is TUDCA?
TUDCA (tauroursodeoxycholic acid) is a type of bile salt. It is made from the the bile acid UDCA (ursodeoxycholic acid) with a taurine bond. There is a lot of scientific research which supports the health benefits of TUDCA. It is generally considered more potent and effective than ox bile supplements.
What Causes Bile Acid Deficiency?
There are numerous reasons why someone might not have enough bile. The main one is impaired liver function. Because of the increasing amount of toxins that people are exposed to on a daily basis, the liver can become overburdened and not function well.
Damage to the gallbladder ducts, gallbladder removal and bacteria overgrowth can also cause low bile acid levels. (6)
Health Benefits of TUDCA and Ox Bile Supplements
Bile acid supplements have been used for centuries to treat disease, especially liver and gallbladder diseases. In recent years, there has been a huge amount of research into these potential benefits – and with promising results.
Because bile acids have so many roles throughout the body, these are some of the benefits of taking bile supplements like TUDCA or ox bile.
1. Improve Digestion
The main role of bile is to help with digestion. Bile acids emulsify and break down dietary fats so they can be absorbed in the small intestine. (7)
2. Reduce Obesity
Because bile breaks down fat, it is essential for the body to process fats, regulate glucose levels and maintain a healthy weight. They also function like hormones in the body by helping regulate fat metabolism. Research shows that altered bile acid metabolism is linked to obesity. (8, 9, 10)
3. Improve Absorption of Fat-Soluble Vitamins
The body needs bile to break down fat soluble vitamins. These include vitamins A, D, E and K. This is one of the reasons that gallbladder removal patients often have vitamin deficiencies.
4. Prevent Gallstones
Bile acid breaks down cholesterol. If there is not enough bile, the cholesterol won’t be able to fully break down, leading to “sludge” forming in the gallbladder which can then solidify into gallstones. This is why the bile salts Ursodeoxycholic acid and Chenodeoxycholic acid are given as a treatment for gallstones. (11)
5. Balance Gut Bacteria
Recent medical breakthroughs show that gut bacteria – aka microbiome – is linked to mental health, cardiovascular health, metabolism, skin appearance, and much more.
Research also shows that bile acid has a huge influence on gut bacteria. The acids help keep “bad” bacteria under control. A bile acid deficiency could result in the bacteria getting out of balance, which in turn causes numerous health problems.
Interestingly, the effect runs both ways: low levels of bile acids alter gut bacteria. But, because gut bacteria also converts bile salts back into bile acids so they can be reused, the altered gut bacteria could cause low bile. (12, 13)
6. Treat Psoriasis
We now know that psoriasis is a disease caused by altered gut bacteria. Since bile acids are linked to gut bacteria, it should be no surprise that bile salts can treat psoriasis.
Several interesting studies found that bile salt supplements were able to treat psoriasis. Researchers also hypothesize that another way the bile salts help psoriasis is by breaking down endotoxins which contribute to the inflammatory aspect of psoriasis. (14, 15 ,16, 17, 18, 19)
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