We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Bile Acids?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Bile acids are compounds the liver produces to assist with the digestion of dietary fats. Two common examples are chenodeoxycholic and cholic acid. The acids move from the liver to the gallbladder, which concentrates them before releasing them into the intestines after eating. Their levels in the body can vary depending on health and when someone has last eaten, and a doctor may request a test to check for them if there are concerns about a patient's liver, gallbladder, or digestive health.

The liver uses cholesterol as the source for bile acids, treating cholesterol with enzymes to break it down into usable components. After synthesis in the liver, they travel down the bile duct and into the gallbladder, where they wait until the body needs them. When people eat and the meal contains dietary fats, they signal the gallbladder to release some bile to assist with digestion. The bile acids travel through the intestines, and the vast majority is reabsorbed into the circulation, where the acids work their way back into the liver for recycling.

In addition to processing dietary fats, bile acids can also bind to waste materials in the body. When these bile acids move through the digestive tract, instead of being returned to circulation, they are expressed in the feces. Compounds like bilirubin rely on this method for transport out of the body.

These compounds can cause cellular damage if their concentrations get too high. High levels of bile acids will trigger inhibitor molecules to tell the liver to stop production until the body actually needs more. The body relies on feedback from the intestines, liver, and gallbladder to keep bile acids at a safe and reasonable level. Any errors with this process can cause problems for a patient.

Patients may have unusually high or low bile acids because of issues like liver dysfunction, problems with the hepatic portal vein, or gallbladder disease. The testing can provide information about the concentrations when fasting and after eating so the doctor has a complete picture of what is happening inside the patient. Doctors may also request testing on liver enzyme levels to see if the patient's liver is functioning normally. If the patient appears to have a problem, additional testing like abdominal ultrasound can provide more information, as can a patient interview to check for symptoms like abdominal pain. The patient can also provide information about her diet, which can offer useful diagnostic clues.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.