What is Bile Reflux?
Bile is a liquid produced in the liver that aids digestion. Bile reflux is a condition where bile refluxes or backs up into the esophagus and the stomach. Bile reflux is often difficult to distinguish from acid reflux or the backwash of your stomach acid into the esophagus. They are however two separate conditions.
While it is possible to control acid reflux with diet and lifestyle changes, it is more difficult to get bile reflux under control and it is usually treated with medications and in the most serious cases – with surgery.
Symptoms of Bile Reflux
The symptoms of bile reflux are very similar to those of acid reflux and they may occur simultaneously.
The most common symptoms of bile reflux include
- Pain in the upper abdomen ranging from moderate to severe.
- Frequent bouts of heartburn.
- Nausea and vomiting (of bile).
- Weight loss.
- Coughing and hoarseness.
Bile is a green colored digestive liquid necessary to digest fats and eliminate toxins from the body. It is produced by the liver then gets stored in the gallbladder. When we eat the gallbladder is prompted to release this bile through the bile duct and cystic duct and into the small intestine.
Bile Reflux to the Stomach
The bile mixes with food in the duodenum then enters the small intestine via a ring of muscles called the pyloric valve. This valve ordinarily opens just enough to release a tiny amount of liquid food but does not allow the digestive liquids into your stomach. In the case of bile reflux, this valve fails to close allowing bile to reflux into your stomach.
Bile Reflux to the Esophagus
This occurs when stomach acids and bile wash back into another valve called the esophagal sphincter. When this valve malfunctions, it relaxes for a little too long and allows bile to enter the esophagus,
Some of the causes of bile reflux include the following:
- Complications from surgery such as gastric bypass surgery and gallbladder surgery.
- Peptic Ulcers
Certain medications are prescribed for bile reflux along with diet and lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence that they are successful largely because it is unknown how much bile is responsible for the symptoms.
Where medications do not work and symptoms are severe, surgery may be necessary.
Bile reflux may well be unrelated to diet choices and lifestyle factors but because bile reflux often occurs along with acid reflux, certain lifestyle changes may help.
- Stop Smoking as smoking causes an increase in stomach acid production.
- Eat small meals more frequently and remain upright after your meal.
- Limit your intake of fatty foods.
- Avoid certain trigger food and drinks. These include carbonated drinks, caffeine, chocolate and citrus juices.
- Also try to avoid citrus fruit, onions, spicy food, mint and tomato.
- Avoid alcohol or cut back significantly.
- Lose some weight.
- Raise the bed to allowing your upper body to raise several inches.
- Try to relax as stress can make reflux symptoms worse. Meditation, yoga and certain natural remedies like chamomile tea and essential oils can help.
Home Remedies for Bile Reflux
As well as your lifestyle and diet changes, there are several herbal remedies that may help ease your symptoms. This is especially true if your bile reflux is accompanied by acid reflux. Unfortunately, they are not always effective but can help in some cases.
1) Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is used to fight inflammation and can help to prevent reflux. It also has calming properties that can help combat the stress which may be contributing towards your symptoms. Chamomile also contains a substance called mucilage which helps coat and soothe the lining of the esophagus.
To make a delicious cup of chamomile tea, simply add teaspoon of dried chamomile to a cup of boiling water and steep for at least 10 minutes. It tastes great on its own but you can add honey to taste.
2) Licorice Root
Licorice root is another popular home remedy used to combat the inflammation caused by a number of complaints including GERD, stomach ulcers and gastritis. Drinking a tea made with licorice root may also help you overcome bile reflux.
Be aware that licorice does not come without certain risks. It contains a compound called glycyrrhizin which has been linked to several disorders including tissue swelling and hypertension if it is used for a long period of time.
Not to be confused with the popular fluffy candy, marshmallow root is an herb with a number of therapeutic uses. It is a popular home remedy for the symptoms of GERD and various other digestive complaints. Try drinking a few cups of marshmallow root tea each day to see if your condition improves.
4) Slippery Elm
Slippery elm which is made from the root and bark of the plant can also help to soothe your digestive tract and is a popular remedy for various digestive issues including GERD and acid reflux. It has mucilage properties that can help to coat and soothe the lining of the esophagus and stomach.
You can mix slippery elm in water and drink it up after your meals and before going to bed. Speak with your doctor before using this herbal remedy because it may interact with certain prescription medications.
5) Lemon Balm
Lemon balm also commonly known as mellissa is another potentially effective remedy for bile reflux. It is one of the most popular natural remedies for stress and anxiety owing to its excellent, natural calming qualities. Because of the link between bile reflux and stress and because stress can make your symptoms worse, lemon balm may be an effective method of relieving your symptoms.
Garlic has incredible medicinal properties with a very wide range of therapeutic uses mainly because of the presence of allicin. It has been used for centuries as for various inflammatory and bacterial conditions but it may also be effective in treating digestive complaints conditions like bile reflux.
Adding plenty of garlic to your cooking adds great flavor to your dishes but you can also make a stomach soothing tea by simply adding a few cloves to some boiling water. Try drinking a cup of garlic tea after your meal and before you hit the sack.
7) Drink Some Cold Milk
If you are suffering from heartburn, which is a very common symptom of acid or bile reflux, then drinking a glass of cold milk may help relieve your symptoms. While it is definitely not a long term cure, the cold sensation can do a great deal to relieve the discomfort you are feeling.
8) Other Home Remedies
While not as popular, there are various other home remedies that people claim to have found effective. They include the following:
- Apple Cider Vinegar. The wonderful cure all that is also a popular remedy for acid reflux.
- Rhodiola Rosea. This can be taken in supplementary or tea form.
- Orange Peel Extract. This can apparently aid the passage of your food when swallowing and reduce reflux episodes.
We hope that one of these home remedies is effective for you but don’t forget that dietary and lifestyle changes may have a greater impact.
Let us know how you got on and whether there are any remedies that we have missed.