Bile Reflux

What is Bile Reflux?

While acid reflux is the backflow of caustic stomach acids into the esophagus, bile reflux occurs when bile flows upward from the small intestine into the stomach and esophagus. Bile is a greenish-yellow substance that plays an important role in helping us to digest foods, absorb fats and eliminate worn-out red blood cells and certain toxins from the body. Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder in a concentrated form, and even a modest amount of fat in a meal signals the gallbladder to release bile.

This phenomenon can also occur during pregnancy or happen due to obesity, as well as excessive bending over and lifting heavy weights. A peptic ulcer may also contribute greatly to – and be a cause of – bile reflux. Frequent heartburn, nausea, vomiting bile and occasionally a cough or hoarseness may be symptomatic of bile reflux.

  • Chamomile, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile teas are readily available and have a low risk of side effects.
  • Licorice, which is commonly used to soothe inflammation associated with GERD, gastritis, ulcers and other digestive problems. However, licorice contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin (gly-cyr-RIH-zin) that’s associated with serious health risks, such as high blood pressure and tissue swelling, if used long term. Talk with your doctor before trying this therapy. Prescription preparations are available that don’t contain glycyrrhizin.
  • Slippery elm, a product of a tree bark and root, may help soothe the digestive tract. Slippery elm can be mixed with water and taken after meals and before bed. But slippery elm may decrease the absorption of prescription medications.
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is an herb — not the puffy white candy — that has been used for GERD symptom relief. Like slippery elm, marshmallow may cause problems with the absorption of medications.