Made up of water, electrolytes, cholesterol and phospholipids, bile is a green fluid produced by your liver to help digest fat and absorb nutrients. If the bile in your body isn't reabsorbed properly, it can accumulate in your colon and lead to bile reflux symptoms of diarrhea, urgency and fecal incontinence. As a source of cholesterol, bile has an impact on blood cholesterol levels. Eating foods that absorb bile and lower your cholesterol may relieve your digestive discomforts.
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All About Bile
Bile acids are derivatives of cholesterol and about 500 milligrams are used every day to make bile in your liver, according to Colorado State University. Bile is stored in your gallbladder until you eat, then it's secreted into your small intestines to help you digest the fat in your food. Bile helps your body break down the fat by emulsifying it and making it more soluble for digestion. After you've digested your food, the byproducts of stomach bile, including the cholesterol, are either recycled or eliminated from your body.
A condition, called bile reflux, may occur if bile backs up into your stomach and, in some cases, into your esophagus that connects your mouth and stomach.
Soluble Fiber and Bile
Dietary fiber, which can be soluble or insoluble, is the part of food that your body cannot digest or absorb. It absorbs water and adds bulk to your digested food to help prevent constipation. Soluble fiber turns to gel during digestion and is specifically known for helping to lower blood cholesterol levels. In your digestive tract, it absorbs the cholesterol and bile before they have a chance to get reabsorbed and carries them out of your body in your stool.
As part of a bile reflux diet, eating foods that have a high content of soluble fiber may help to lower blood cholesterol levels by preventing your body from reabsorbing bile.
Sources of Soluble Fiber
Dried peas and beans, oat products and psyllium are among the best sources of soluble fiber for bile reflux treatment. Milk and milk products contain very little soluble fiber. Some foods containing soluble fiber include:
- Grains, including oatmeal, oat bran, bran cereal, rye bread, pearl barley, brown rice
- Nuts and Seeds, including flax, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, lentils
- Legumes, including navy beans, black beans, lima beans, pinto beans and kidney beans
- Vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, asparagus, turnip, carrots, eggplant
- Fruits, including oranges, figs, passion fruit, pears, apricots
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!
Avoid Fatty Foods
When you eat a meal that contains even a small amount of fat, a signal is sent to your gallbladder to release bile, which flows through two small tubes into your small intestine. A high-fat meal causes your lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which slows the rate that food leaves your stomach.
Avoid foods that are high in fat, such as processed and red meat. Instead opt for foods such as:
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, including milk and cheese
- Egg whites or egg substitutes
- Crab, shrimp and light tuna (packed in water)
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Veggie Burgers
- Oatmeal and cold cereals
- Rice or noodles
- Fruits and vegetables
Read more: Is Eating Fatty Food Actually Bad for Me?
Bile Reflux Diet Ideas
You can easily incorporate the foods that help your body absorb bile. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with strawberries or diced pears. At lunch, add beans to your soup or salad or make a pureed bean dip and enjoy it with whole-wheat crackers or carrot sticks. Snack on figs or oranges in the midafternoon. For dinner, add sliced Brussels sprouts to your veggie stir-fry or add extra eggplant to your ratatouille.
- Colorado State University: "Secretion of Bile and the Role of Bile Acids In Digestion"
- MedlinePlus: "Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber"
- Mayo Clinic: Digestive Diseases: "Identifying Diarrhea Caused by Bile Acid Malabsorption"
- Mayo Clinic: "Bile Reflux-Diagnosis"
- Dietitians of Canada: "Food Sources of Soluble Fibre"
- NCH Healthcare: "Bile Reflux"
- American Cancer Society: "Low-Fat Foods"