I’ve been spending some time on a few of the many reasons that might be throwing a wrench into your fat loss attempts. And today I’ve got another one for ya! You may know that sugar, excess refined carbohydrates, inflammatory fats, and the like can all pack on the pounds, but there is often more to the story than just that.
Sometimes folks will change their diet but the weight just doesn’t want to come off. And I’ve talked about the connection between “leaky gut” and weight gain as well as inflammation and weight gain. Today we’ll look at another piece of the puzzle.
The extremely important substance in your body that has a kinda gross name: bile.
Bile is a greenish-yellowish fluid produced in your liver and stored in your gallbladder. It is composed of bile salts, bile acids, cholesterol, bilirubin, electrolytes, and water. Bile is necessary to break down most fats in your diet and plays a huge role in eliminating waste products from your body. After food leaves your stomach, it enters into the beginning section of the small intestine, or duodenum. The presence of fat triggers a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) to tell your gallbladder to squeeze and release bile into the duodenum. The bile acts like dish soap on grease, emulsifying the fats so that they can be absorbed in the small intestine. The bile travels through the intestines as well, and with the presence of fiber, binds to toxic material and moves them through the colon to be eliminated.
Side note: notice I said the presence of fat triggers the gallbladder to release bile? If you are eating a low fat diet you will not be using much bile and it will just sit in your gallbladder. The longer it sits there not utilized, the more likely you are to develop sludgy bile.
How sluggish bile can make you gain fat:
When bile is not flowing easily as it should, you will have a harder time breaking the fats down in your food into fatty acids that you can then absorb and utilize. This is a problem because every cell in your body needs fat in order to function properly.
When you are deficient in good quality fatty acids you can expect your hormone production and function to suffer, you will feel fatigued, and you will experience blood sugar disruptions. That will all kickoff a downward spiral of destruction leaving you feeling depleted, inflamed, and probably experiencing some level of anxiety.
Your hormones, including your sex hormones and thyroid, all require fatty acids for their formation. That is one of the main components of them. So if you have sluggish bile that cannot do its job of emulsifying fats for absorption, you will not be getting the building blocks for healthy hormones.
Weight gain (particularly around the midsection and hips), fatigue, pain, inflammation, headaches, belly issues, etc. are all symptoms of unbalanced hormones. Did you ever think that maybe your bile is the reason, or at least a contributing factor, to your lack of thyroid hormone production??
Bile is also necessary to remove fat soluble toxins from your body. When a substance is fat soluble, it can be absorbed into any cell in the body through the fatty acid layer of the cell. This is the case also for fat soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins or toxins are absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted through the kidneys. This is why it is easier to build up toxic levels of fat soluble vitamins compared to water soluble ones like B vitamins or C.
So, when toxins are not bound up and removed by bile, where do they go? Well, they can go into any cell which can cause all kinds of unpleasant symptoms but your body is going to try to protect you by storing those toxins in fat. In your body’s innate wisdom and goal of survival, it’s going to hold onto that fat (and those toxins) until it’s safe to release them. If you don’t have healthy bile and the toxins cannot be safely eliminated, your body will just continue to hold on to those fat cells.
Body fat produces inflammatory compounds which then feed the cycle of inflammation in the body that also contributes to weight gain. On and on the cycle goes unless we do something about it!
The good news is by making some changes to improve the flow and consistency of your bile you’ll also be providing your liver with quality nutrients that it needs to produce good bile and do its 500 other jobs. Additionally, lifestyle decisions that are healthy for your bile are also going to be healthy for reducing insulin, inflammation, improving your gut health and your mood. All good things!
Improve your bile to lose weight (bet that isn’t a phrase you thought you’d ever hear!)
One key aspect of creating healthy, easily flowing bile is to hyyyydrrraaatttteee. If you aren’t drinking enough water or are drinking too many sodas, juices, or caffeinated beverages (or alcohol), you just will not be able to produce thin bile.
Also important is to respect the process of digestion. This deserves its own post (but you can read this one for now). Digestion is a cascade of events starting with the brain (yep, the brain!) and ending you-know-where. Lack of stomach acid (from stress, lifestyle factors, chronic use of acid suppressors or blockers, or even just older age) will actually suppress the triggering of CCK (that hormone that stimulates bile release), leaving you with a lack of bile to digest those fats. And on and on this can go.
Some foods that are helpful for bile production and health include all the bitter leafy greens. Beet greens (and the roots) are especially wonderful for bile and your liver but so are arugula, kale, collards, radicchio, and endive. Artichokes, carrots, celery, radishes, ginger, turmeric, lemon, and grapefruit are also helpful. A little raw apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice in an ounce or so of water 10 minutes before meals can help naturally stimulate the digestive juices which will help bile flow. You can even buy digestive bitters to take before meals to naturally increase stomach acid and better digest and therefore release bile.
As helpful as it is to increase those foods for healthy bile, you have to also remove the foods that will increase the likelihood of sluggish and thick bile. You know what they are. Say it with me now, “sugar, processed and refined carbohydrates, and refined industrial oils like soy, canola, cottonseed, corn, sunflower, and safflower.” There you go!
Getting that stuff OUT and the healing foods IN will allow your body to produce the various substances it needs to and reduce the toxic load on your body. This will help produce healthy flowing bile which will increase your energy and is likely to decrease your fat!
Want to talk more about this in regards to your own health? I’d love to chat! Sign up here for a free, no strings attached phone consultation.