Bile’s Role in Detox: Gallbladder, Environmental Illness & Brain Health

by | Oct 19, 2023

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Synopsis

In this episode of the Modern Vital Podcast, Dr. Ben Reebs delves into the lesser-discussed yet pivotal role of bile, particularly in the context of environmental illness. Bile, produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, is not just essential for fat digestion and vitamin absorption but also plays a significant role in detoxifying our bodies. A deficiency in bile salts, critical components of bile, can lead to a myriad of health issues, from poor bone health to vision problems, largely due to hindered absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. The podcast highlighted the need for nutrients like taurine and glycine, vital for bile salt production, and emphasized the importance of dietary sources such as shellfish, eggs, bone broth, and grass-fed beef.

Dr. Reebs also touched on recent research suggesting the neuroprotective properties of bile acids. Certain bile acids have been linked to reduced risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. This revelation underscores the potential long-term consequences of cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) and its implications for chronic disease, particularly in individuals with environmental illnesses. Highlighting the compromised detox pathways seen in environmental illnesses like mold or tick-borne diseases, Dr. Reebs stressed the significance of the gallbladder’s role in toxin removal.

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Complete Transcript of Episode 13812277

Dr. Ben Reebs: On today’s episode of the Modern Vital Podcast, we’re going to discuss the significance of the gallbladder in environmental illness. Now, the gallbladder is known for storing our bile, which is slowly released as needed into our intestinal tract in order to break down or emulsify our fats and to remove or extract those fat soluble vitamins, A,D,E and K from our food.

But our bile can also be chock full of biotoxins such as mycotoxins from mold. And 95% of our bile acids actually get recirculated back through a process called enterohepatic recirculation. This basically means that 95% of our bile goes back into the liver and only 5% or 1/20 is actually secreted into our small intestine, particularly into the area called the duodenum or duodenum.

And then it moves out through our stool. By the way, the small intestine is made up of three parts. And I always remember the phrase DJI sort of like Dow Jones index in order to know the order in which they occur. First, we have the duodenum or duodenum, then the jejunum and then the ilium DJI. So our bile is secreted into the first part, the duodenum.

Here’s a fun fact in the end part of the ilium known as the terminal ilium, the ending, that’s where our B12 is mainly absorbed with the health of a protein called intrinsic factor, which is of course made by our liver. When we have more toxins in our body such as from mold illness, then we will have more toxins in our fat as well as in our bile. And because our bile is concentrated in our gallbladder, then we can have more toxins stored in our gallbladder and they could irritate it as well as pose a problem. And actually, I’d be very interested to know how much of a contributor this might be to irritating or inflaming our gallbladder. Unfortunately, we really don’t have the research on this, but approximately 1.2 million cholecystectomy or gallbladder removals occur each year in the US and on a global scale of course, the number is much bigger.

Let’s talk bile salts for a moment. Bile salts as mentioned are made in our liver from cholesterol. And one reason to have proper nutrient repletion is to provide the building blocks to make these bile salts. We need high quality cholesterol and we also need amino acids. Anyway, when we have more toxins in our body such as from mold illness, then we’ll have more toxins in our fat and we will also have more toxins in our bile.

And because the bile is concentrated in the gallbladder, they might irritate or inflame, the gallbladder. Approximately 1.2 million cholecystectomy occur every year alone just in the US. And of course, this number is much bigger. When we look at a global scale. Let’s talk bile salts for a moment. So bile salts are made by our liver as mentioned from cholesterol, which is one reason that in order to have proper nutrient repletion, we also need to have enough high quality cholesterol in our diet from food. What this also means is that we are more likely to be deficient in fat soluble vitamins if we consume a cholesterol, poor diet. Not to mention all of the other things that cholesterol serves as a building block for in our bodies such as our hormones. Our bile salts also help us to emulsify the fats and to make them soluble for absorption.

And one other important fact is that bile salts also act as signaling molecules to our liver and our gut. So if we don’t have enough of these bile salts, then the signaling will be off. Now, our bodies manufacture anywhere from 27 to 34 ounces of bile every day, which is about the equivalent of a liter and about 95% of our bile is made of water. And as our bile salts are made, they aid in the breakdown of cholesterol in the liver.

Hence, we are more likely to have non alcoholic, fatty liver disease or fatty liver in general. If we are deficient in bile salts because we won’t be breaking the excess fat in our liver as well. In our liver the process of making bile salts mainly happens in small organelles. These are the tiny organs in our cells called the peroxisomes. And this is where they are conjugated with the help of two really important amino acids, taurine and glycine.

Again, it goes without saying that if our diet is deficient in proteins and specifically amino acids such as taurine and glycine, then we will not have enough bile. Now, some excellent sources of taurine include shellfish, liver, eggs, seaweed, nuts such as peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts and more. And we have to be careful about the quality of our food and especially peanuts which can often be contaminated with mold.

Now, some excellent sources of glycine include bone broth, grass fed beef, poultry, pumpkin, beets, and seeds such as pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds and more. Again, if we do not have enough bile acids to emulsify our fats in the small intestine, then we will be deficient in vitamins, A,D,E and K. And this could lead to a host of issues such as vision problems.

We think vitamin A and vitamin E. Poor bone health. Think of vitamin D, immune dysregulation, think of vitamins A, D and E, skin problems. Think of vitamins D and E and even coagulation problems. Think of vitamin K. Just to name a few. We do see a lot of these problems in environmental illness as it can take a toll on the gallbladder and hence the absorption of these vitamins.

I want to mention one other fact, recent research over the last few years indicates that bile acids are also neuro protective. They protect our brain and deficiency in them is associated with a greater risk of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease, the bile acids tauroursodeoxycholic acid or TUDCA and Ursodeoxycholic acid or UDCA in particular have been found to have neuroprotective effects in animal studies.

And the pathway along which this neuroprotective activity takes place is called DRP- 1. In particular mitochondrial membrane potential is upregulated by these bile acids. And we know that each neuron in our brain contains approximately 2 million mitochondria. If mitochondrial membranes are not able to fire properly in our brain and in our body, then we’ll be deficient in ATP and that can lead to a lot of neurological issues as well as just general fatigue. So the moral of this story is that I think that cholecystectomy can produce profound health effects down the road, especially for those with chronic disease or environmental illness. And it could actually even be a potential underlying cause of chronic disease.

And also we know that in environmental illness, such as mold illness or tick-borne illness, we need even more support from our gallbladder because a lot of our detoxification pathways are shut down or compromised. I think a key point to also make here is that one of the primary functions of our bile is that our bile salts help with the removal of toxins. And so a lack of bile can easily cause a build up of toxins in our body, which can be a mediator of chronic disease and especially in environmental illness. Again, in environmental illness, our detox pathways are severely compromised.

That concludes today’s episode of the Modern Vital Podcast. We would love to hear from you. We really value your feedback. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to me at ben@modernvital.com and also please leave us a review if you enjoyed this episode and we look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of the Modern Vital podcast.

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About Me

Dr. Ben Reebs, ND, is an award-winning, naturopathic physician with a focus in environmental medicine, which looks at how environmental factors can cause chronic disease. He specializes in chronic infections, autoimmune disease, and digestive health.

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