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Is ox bile supplementation possibly dangerous?

by (30)
Updated about 9 hours ago
Created May 08, 2013 at 10:14 PM

I just bought some ox bile capsules to see if that might help my digestion (I'm anemic and have low amino acid levels, despite eating a lot of red meat). But I'm a bit spooked (and confused) after reading about bile acids being carcinogens (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15652226) and this account of someone having terrible issues after taking ox bile (http://curezone.com/forums/am.asp?i=1880994). The www.drlwilson.com site, which is one of numerous sites that recommend ox bile (Chris Kresser is another), also says that a person may experience stomach aches for quite some time after starting these supplements, and just to ride them out for a month or so.

I'm not sure what to make of all this. I'm now leery of trying it. Does anyone have any insights on the science here, and who should be cautious?

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 6:15 AM

But stones are made out of bile. And if you take something its not going to ride up into your bile duct.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 6:11 AM

The other thing about all these random grasping at straws is that general knowledge about digestive solutions is poor. Doctors are basically clueless, they just prescribe PPI's, which just worsen your symptoms over time, and address nothing. Then you have all your new age flaky stuff, your apple cider vinegar, high ph, low ph etc etc, and here, people are just stabbing in the dark. Most of the time, its bacteria and gut lining, and lifestyle/foods consumed, especially with IBS. More rarely it might be acidity, but for some reason this is the new age "go to".

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 6:10 AM

Pumpkin seed oil contains a lipid that alters your hormone balance (more testosterone,). Just thought id give you the heads up on that. And to answer your question -once your bacteria is wrecked to the point of gut nerve damage, there actually isn't a lot you can do but take anti-biotic and pro-biotic substances, bone broth (& have larger gaps between meals, & avoid carbs & fibre). I don't use any pills, and I don't really need bone broth protocol anymore, but I have to keep my pro- and anti-'s up & my carbs moderate

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 5:05 AM

An underactive gallbladder is exactly what causes stones, and infection IMO. That stuff needs to keep moving. Which is why low fat diets cause gallbladder attacks. I had an infected gallbladder last year, it was horrible, darn near felt like dying. I cured it by constant consumption of high levels of fat (the opposite of what doctors recommend). If this bile lowers your own bodies use of the GB, and you have a gallbladder that still works, to some degree, it might be wise to avoid the bile, if its going to make your own bile stagnant.

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15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:06 PM

While you are looking for a good doctor - and I strongly recommend asking people you trust for references - you will get some test results. You won't be able to diagnose and treat yourself anyway, but you will at least see that yes, there is something wrong. Even if the test comes clean you will rule this out and eventually find what you are looking for.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

While you are looking for a good doctor - and I strongly recommend ask people you trust for references - you will get some test results. You won't be able to diagnose and treat yourself anyway, but you will at least see that yes, there is something wrong. Even if the test comes clean you will rule this out and eventually find what you are looking for.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:02 PM

If I were you, I would do various comprehensive tests. Since you are having digestive issues, you need to do a DNA stool analysis with GI effects. It would also be wise to have all kinds of testing for immunology, parasites, possible liver and pancreatic problems, breath test for SIBO.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Laura, this is very sad. This has been my experience as well. Even the last doctor, that I consider semi-okay, only prescribed things for me after I brought him an array of tests. If I did not do all the tests on my own, he would not have known what to diagnose, so I totally understand where you are coming from.

0ad1e18f9f932b6d3bc6cff2fa4d0e99
30 · May 10, 2013 at 2:28 PM

I've been trying to figure out the real cause of my digestive issues for almost a year now, and I've gone to about half a dozen doctors (MDs, naturopaths, acupuncturist, specialists), and they've run a bunch of tests. The things they've recommended so far not only didn't help but actually in several cases made me worse. So I'm doing research myself. As my acupuncturist herself told me, "You have to be your own doctor."

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7 Answers

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5802 · May 09, 2013 at 1:22 AM

Laura, I have taken ox bile, and I have never heard of something like that weird story! I don't understand how ox bile would cause a gallbladder attack - if anything, it gives the gb a break bc it doesn't have to provide as much bile. It sounds to me like this person in that linked story has other health issues that they haven't figured out yet. And it certainly never gave me diarrhea ... it actually helped to stop the diarrhea by digesting the fats.

Ox bile should only be used as a short term solution. If you are having trouble digesting fat, it can help you transition. But you should also be taking some enzymes to help with digestion. And even enzymes should be short term ... eventually, your body should take over producing those enzymes.

Also, ox bile should be used selectively. You don't take it with every meal. You consider the foods that you don't digest well, or if you having a significant amount of fat in a meal.

Use it as a tool, and observe your body to figure out if and when it helps. Don't take it forever. Maybe 6 months, and then re-assess.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 5:05 AM

An underactive gallbladder is exactly what causes stones, and infection IMO. That stuff needs to keep moving. Which is why low fat diets cause gallbladder attacks. I had an infected gallbladder last year, it was horrible, darn near felt like dying. I cured it by constant consumption of high levels of fat (the opposite of what doctors recommend). If this bile lowers your own bodies use of the GB, and you have a gallbladder that still works, to some degree, it might be wise to avoid the bile, if its going to make your own bile stagnant.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
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15400 · May 08, 2013 at 10:50 PM

I don't have an answer but can I please vent my frustration? I promise it is not directed at you, it is a general feeling...

Why aren't people trying to find the real cause of their digestive issues? Why do they try supplements without actually knowing whether it is going to help or not? Trial and error is great, but it is like the blind leading the blind - what if you won't find what you are looking for? I have spent around $3,000 on different supplements and in the end, none of them really helped me.

The only thing that actually (almost) cured me is OC medication that my doctor prescribed. Actually, there are four different meds: anti-giardia, one prebiotic, one probiotic vitamin complex and pumpkin seed oil in capsules. That's it. It only costs around $50. And my digestion is finally getting back to normal after seven years of suffering and so many unsuccessful attempts.

It only happened after I brought him an array of blood work and stool test results. Laura, I don't know if Chris Kresser actually knows what you, Laura, need. He hasn't seen your test results. So why do you think ox bile is for you? I am not saying it is NOT for you, I am just saying - why?

So my answer is - if you don't know what exactly causes your digestive problems, maybe you should find out and then ask the doctor if ox bile is really what you need.

0ad1e18f9f932b6d3bc6cff2fa4d0e99
30 · May 10, 2013 at 2:28 PM

I've been trying to figure out the real cause of my digestive issues for almost a year now, and I've gone to about half a dozen doctors (MDs, naturopaths, acupuncturist, specialists), and they've run a bunch of tests. The things they've recommended so far not only didn't help but actually in several cases made me worse. So I'm doing research myself. As my acupuncturist herself told me, "You have to be your own doctor."

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Laura, this is very sad. This has been my experience as well. Even the last doctor, that I consider semi-okay, only prescribed things for me after I brought him an array of tests. If I did not do all the tests on my own, he would not have known what to diagnose, so I totally understand where you are coming from.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:02 PM

If I were you, I would do various comprehensive tests. Since you are having digestive issues, you need to do a DNA stool analysis with GI effects. It would also be wise to have all kinds of testing for immunology, parasites, possible liver and pancreatic problems, breath test for SIBO.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

While you are looking for a good doctor - and I strongly recommend ask people you trust for references - you will get some test results. You won't be able to diagnose and treat yourself anyway, but you will at least see that yes, there is something wrong. Even if the test comes clean you will rule this out and eventually find what you are looking for.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 10, 2013 at 3:06 PM

While you are looking for a good doctor - and I strongly recommend asking people you trust for references - you will get some test results. You won't be able to diagnose and treat yourself anyway, but you will at least see that yes, there is something wrong. Even if the test comes clean you will rule this out and eventually find what you are looking for.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 6:11 AM

The other thing about all these random grasping at straws is that general knowledge about digestive solutions is poor. Doctors are basically clueless, they just prescribe PPI's, which just worsen your symptoms over time, and address nothing. Then you have all your new age flaky stuff, your apple cider vinegar, high ph, low ph etc etc, and here, people are just stabbing in the dark. Most of the time, its bacteria and gut lining, and lifestyle/foods consumed, especially with IBS. More rarely it might be acidity, but for some reason this is the new age "go to".

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 6:10 AM

Pumpkin seed oil contains a lipid that alters your hormone balance (more testosterone,). Just thought id give you the heads up on that. And to answer your question -once your bacteria is wrecked to the point of gut nerve damage, there actually isn't a lot you can do but take anti-biotic and pro-biotic substances, bone broth (& have larger gaps between meals, & avoid carbs & fibre). I don't use any pills, and I don't really need bone broth protocol anymore, but I have to keep my pro- and anti-'s up & my carbs moderate

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17101 · February 25, 2014 at 11:45 AM

That's ridiculous. We produce bile, do you really think that after several millions of years of evolution, we'd produce something endogenously that was carcinogenic?

Certainly there is a correlation to gallbladder removal and higher colon cancer - this is likely caused by the lack of food while bile drips into the intestine. But you wouldn't be supplementing oxbile on an empty stomach - you'd certainly only consume them right before a meal.

And there is a correlation of acid reflux causing esophageal cancer, which is why you'd want to avoid reflux. But those are situations of digestive fluids being where they shouldn't be at the wrong time.

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60 · February 25, 2014 at 6:01 AM

I had a GB infection last year. The thing I discovered was, like most things, your GB is use it or lose it -if the bile stagnants inside the GB, it can cause stones, or infection. IF indeed ox bile lowers the activity of your own GB, thats not helpful (although whether it does or not, I have no idea).

Regarding diarehha etc, yeah, that is common with people who have their GB's removes, and have a slow constant leak of bile, so presumably that will happen if you dont match food and bile amounts closely enough.

Digestive enzymes boost digestion, and are harmless when used properly. I also seem to recall something called "high meat" which is like some distillation of meat enzymes that raw meat eaters use to aid digestion in an all meat diet. IDK even what that is really, but there's another possibility.

As for bile acids being carcinogens? Well that seems silly doesn't it on the surface? bile is made by the body. If you don't use your gallbladder enough, it can become infected. Wouldn't be very adaptive if it also caused cancer when you did use it would it!? Sounds like more anti-high fat dogma to me. They can, BTW, do direct cell studies to test if something is genotoxic or not. And thats definative. No questions. So I am a little skeptical about these "15 reports". They don't sound like cell genotoxicity studies at all. I'd want to look at the full text of that study before drawing any conclusion about the strength of the evidence they present, but I am doubtful off the bat.

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20 · February 25, 2014 at 4:21 AM

I use this supplement and it has helped me with heartburn and gerd. If you are taking PPI's you might want to re-think this as this may be considered contraindicated...it would be better to have someone knowledgeable to monitor your progress.

I started the process by taking one 648 mg capsule of Betaine HCL at the beginning of a meal that had at least 15-20 grams of protein and if there is no burning I upped it one more the next meal. When I got to 10 - got a little warm so I backed off one capsule and stayed at that level for a while. It completely reversed really terrible heartburn and gerd fairly quickly.

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0 · February 06, 2014 at 10:55 AM

I have been taking a good digestive enzyme but thought I would try one with ox bile since I had my gallbladder removed last year. A big mistake for me because it caused a major migraine and I had to take Imitrex and coffee to get rid of it since I need to go to work. I understand it flushes your liver. I am sure I have some (a lot) of liver toxicity but it is going to have to heal with AIP diet which I have been on for a couple of weeks and had been feeling better. Anyone else ever had problems with ox bile causing a migraine?

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0 · July 24, 2013 at 8:09 PM

To answer your question on gallbladder attacks when using ox bile. If you have a known presence of gallstones and one is stuck within your ducts, it is possible for the ox bile to start breaking it down and thus dislodging it - which can cause pain or bring on an attack. With that being said I typically recommend if you have that toxic of a liver and thus gallbladder that you see your doctor to obtain an ultrasound to confirm if you indeed do have a gallstone that may become dislodged. Overtime it is possible to breakdown the stones (depending upon the size and your diet) using various methods while under supervision from a professional.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e
60 · February 25, 2014 at 6:15 AM

But stones are made out of bile. And if you take something its not going to ride up into your bile duct.

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