Ox bile has a number of medicinal uses, but is perhaps most popular as a way for patients to improve their metabolic processing of fats and certain vitamins, and as a treatment for chronic constipation. It is also believed by many to help prevent gallstones and reduce liver inflammation. Most health care professionals consider ox bile a form of “alternative medicine.” This doesn’t mean that it is less effective than other more streamlined pharmaceutical treatments, but it does tend to be less popular and is not always widely accepted. Bile preparations aren’t usually subjected to the same rigorous testing and regulatory processes as most pharmaceuticals are, either, which can lead to a greater degree of variation when it comes to purity and efficacy.
Fat Breakdown and Vitamin Absorption
Bile is a substance excreted by the livers of mammals to assist in the chemical breakdown of fats and the absorption of certain vitamins in the digestive process. When it comes to basic chemistry, ox bile is remarkably similar to human bile, and this is one of the reasons why it often works as a medicinal aid in people. One of the primary ways it can be used is to assist the body in the breaking down of fats and the assimilation of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Healthy people are usually able to do this on their own, but those who don’t produce enough bile or who have other imbalances in their blood chemistry often need a bit of extra help.
Ox bile primarily consists of water, salts, cholesterol, and lecithin, a fatty substance. One of its main roles in a living ox is to help the animal absorb vitamins from food that has been ingested, and these properties hold true when the substance is processed and prepared for human consumption, too. When people take a bit of the extract with food they are often able to better digest some of the more complex nutrients and minerals, which in turn contributes to better health and overall feelings of fullness and satiety. In the absence of bile food can still be digested, but a lot of the nutritive value is lost or flushed out before it can be useful.
Bile disruption also affects intestinal motility and absorption of nutrients in the colon. People who aren’t able to properly pull fats and vitamins out of their food during digestion often end up with constipation and bowel obstructions since the intestines and colon usually depend on fatty oils to process stools. When these are missing or inadequate, the result is often a dense mass that is difficult if not impossible to pass. People who consume the ox extract in these cases often do so to promote digestive health, which can cure the root cause of their constipation; relief is often somewhat slow in coming, though. Laxatives or bulk fiber are usually more effective immediate solutions, and are often taken alongside bile for more comprehensive treatment.
The liver stores bile in a small sac called the gallbladder, from which it is distributed to the body. A lack of bile or a production imbalance may lead to wide swings in cholesterol and fat levels in the bloodstream. This is a contributing factor in the formation of gallstones, or calcified obstructions of the gallbladder. People who are prone to this condition sometimes supplement with bile from oxen as a way of restoring proper liver functionality and preventing painful stones. The extract can also sometimes speed recovery in people who have undergone a cholecystectomy, which is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. It’s relatively easy to live normally without this gland, but people in this position often need to pay special attention to diet and nutrient absorption in order to stay healthy. Taking supplementary bile is one way of doing so.
Treatment of Liver Diseases
The supplement might also help treat certain liver diseases, particularly cirrhosis. Cirrhosis happens when the liver’s tissues stop regenerating and begin turning to thick scar tissue. This impedes the liver’s ability to do much of anything, including bile regulation. Supplementing with ox product may help patients overcome some of the disease’s side effects, though it is rarely able to offer anything near a cure.
Processing and Manufacturing
Bile from oxen is typically prepared for medicinal use in a two-step process. It is first extracted from the animal and sterilized, usually with heat. Manufacturers must strike a balance between killing harmful bacteria and damaging the chemical integrity of the compound. To hot and things tend to become ineffective, but not hot enough and toxins and other harmful substances can thrive.
Next the bile is dried, usually in industrial dehydrators, and crushed. It is typically prepared for the market either as a loose powder or in pill or capsule form. There isn’t usually any uniform way to purchase the supplement, and dosages can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Anyone interested in starting a regimen is usually advised to get specific recommendations from a healthcare provider when it comes to which brand or preparation to choose, and how much to take.
Common Side Effects
Some of the most common side effects of ox bile extract are nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea, often as a result of exceeding the recommended dosage. Possible allergic reactions may also occur in some people. As with any medication, it’s usually a good idea for people to get an official opinion before self-diagnosing or self-dosing. Bile produced from oxen may be “all natural,” but this doesn’t mean that it should be taken lightly or without regard for its potentially serious health implications.