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Research Suggests Bile Acids Have Potential as a Therapy for Dysbiosis, Constipation, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Generally, when we think of bile, we first think of the role it plays in digestion. Produced by the liver and expelled into the digestive tract by the gallbladder, bile is the substance that serves to emulsify and break down dietary fats so that they can be absorbed in the small intestine. Thus, supplemental bile acids with meals may be important for individuals post-cholecystectomy or with fat malabsorption for other reasons. However, the effects and potential therapeutic benefits of bile acids in the body go far beyond this.

In the digestive tract, bile acids also affect the balance of flora and gut motility.[1],[2] Outside of the gut, they regulate many critical facets of physiology, including glucose and cholesterol metabolism; activating farnesoid X receptor (FXR), pregnane X receptor, the vitamin D receptor, and various G-protein-coupled receptors.[5] Evidence also suggests that bile acids affect neurological function, as well as the response of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.[6] Bile acids have even been suggested to be “novel therapeutic modalities in inflammation, obesity, and diabetes.”[7]

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It is a global phenomenon – the increase in gastrointestinal inflammatory disease over the last 50 years, so fast is this occurring that genetic drift is very unlikely to be attributable as causal; but it is likely that changes in diet and lifestyle amongst the genetically susceptible act as triggering agents to induce aberrant immune responses that lead to inflammatory bowel disease and other systemic inflammatory illnesses.

In a fascinating study published in Nature on the 13th June in their letters section a group of researchers show how the inclusion of fats derived from milk, change the bacterial composition in the gastrointestinal tracts of mice promoting the development of colitis.[1]

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Bile. Also known as gall. Memorialised as “that green monster” in Shakespeare. Bile is a bitter-tasting, dark green to yellowish brown liquid produced by our liver, stored in the gallbladder, and known to aid in the digestion of lipids and fats in the small intestine. Bile acids are actually steroids derived from cholesterol.

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