What is Bile Reflux?
Updated: Jun 24, 2019
I’m sure everyone has heard of acid reflux and most of us have experienced it at least once in our lives. Acid reflux is when stomach acid reaches the esophagus and causes burning and discomfort. There are a lot of prescription and over-the-counter medications developed to treat acid reflux.
But not many people have heard of bile reflux. I hadn’t heard of it and had never had reflux of any kind prior to my gallbladder removal.
Bile is a substance made by the liver and held in the gallbladder. Bile is a fat emulsifier that is released from the gallbladder when fat leaves the stomach. But there are times when bile washes back into the stomach via the pyloric valve. People can vomit bile if they are throwing up and their stomach is empty.
For some people bile washing back into the stomach isn’t an occasional occurrence. Due to the loss of a gallbladder, a malfunctioning pyloric valve, or unknown causes, some people have bile in their stomachs on a daily basis. Bile in the stomach causes gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) which leads to daily discomfort, burning, or severe pain. Bile in the stomach also disrupts the natural ph levels. Bile is alkaline and neutralizes the stomach acid. This can lead to delayed stomach emptying, bloating, gas, and more discomfort.
Not only does the bile hang out in the stomach, many then have the substance reflux into the esophagus causing severe pain and burning. Ongoing bile reflux can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and also cause esophageal spasms.
Some symptoms of bile reflux are similar to acid reflux. Burning and pain in the esophagus, sometimes reaching the throat and mouth for further discomfort. But bile reflux symptoms also include nausea, stomach pain and burning, as well as vomiting bile.
Many doctors do not have experience with bile reflux. Others have found that it is difficult to treat.
When I began experiencing attacks of pain after my gallbladder was removed I underwent an endoscopy and bile was discovered in my stomach. My G.I. informed me that bile reflux is very hard to treat and gave me a medication to soothe the stomach as well as an acid blocker (in case I also had acid reflux.) The available medications to treat bile reflux are PPIs, Carafate, bile binders, and medications that thin the bile. Though some may find relief with medication, others have found they are often not efficient in reducing symptoms.
I went through a year and a half of daily attacks of pain (an intense squeezing on the inside) which I referred to as “heart attack” pain. It wasn’t until I began seeing a nutritional therapist that I began to experience a reduction in symptoms.
If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms and medications for acid reflux are not working, you may be dealing with bile reflux. A doctor will be able to diagnose bile reflux via endoscopy or ph testing.
If you would like more information about bile reflux or how to reduce or eliminate symptoms naturally, please contact me. Each person is different in the foods that cause discomfort and increase symptoms, and I will work with you to find just the right combination of diet and supplements so you can live a life free from daily pain and discomfort.