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Can You Treat Bile Reflux Naturally?

bileBile reflux, which is similar to but not the same as acid reflux, happens when the digestive fluid made by the liver flows backwards into the stomach and up the esophagus. It may often be accompanied by acid reflux, but the two can happen independently and are always treated as two separate conditions. Interestingly, there’s nothing that indicates what kinds of effects bile reflux actually has. It’s generally assumed that bile reflux is to blame when a person sees little help from certain acid-suppressant medications. However, that link has not been confirmed.

What Causes Bile Reflux?

Bile is a fluid that’s used by the body for getting rid of some toxins, old blood cells, and for digesting certain fats. Every time you eat any meal with fat, the gallbladder begins releasing bile. This bile moves into the upper section of the small intestines. Food then leaves the stomach through a ring of muscle called the pyloric valve. This valve usually only opens a very small amount—small enough to allow food through but not allow bile to move into the stomach. With bile reflux, however, this valve doesn’t close quite right, so bile can move into the stomach. From there, it’s able to move up into the esophagus in the same way that stomach acid can. The result is bile reflux.

There are a few things that may be at the root of the problem here. Some surgeries, including gastric surgeries, may damage the pyloric valve. The same is true of gallbladder surgery, although it’s difficult to understand why having the gallbladder removed would lead to bile flowing into the stomach. Another problem is peptic ulcers. These ulcers can actually cause the pyloric valve to either not open enough or not shut right.

Symptoms of Bile Reflux

If you have bile reflux, you may at first assume that you’re actually dealing with acid reflux. That’s because the symptoms of the two different conditions are actually fairly similar, and since you may be dealing with both at once, it can be easy to mix up the few. However, if you have several these signs, you may be dealing with bile reflux:

• Frequent heartburn
• Having an odd, sour taste
• Feeling nauseous
• Vomiting up bile (a fluid that’s greenish-yellow in color)
• Feeling hoarse or having a cough
• Sudden weight loss
• Having pain in your upper abdomen.

If you have several of these symptoms, especially if they are severe, and you’re experiencing weight loss, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the issues. Also, if you’re on a medication for GERD or acid reflux but you’re still seeing symptoms, you may also have bile reflux and need a separate treatment for it.

Treating Bile Reflux

Bile reflux is most often treated with medications (ursodeoxycholic acid, bile acid sequestrants, or a proton pump inhibitor) or with surgery. Unfortunately, there’s not a true natural way of treating its specific issues other than remaining healthy and avoiding ulcers.