Filter Glossary

Bile reflux

  • Overview


    When digestive liquid produced in your liver (bile) flows back into your stomach and sometimes into the tube that connects your mouth and stomach, it is called bile reflux. This may also occur alongside stomach acid reflux, leading to a severe condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), causing inflammation and irritation in the esophageal tissue.

    Unlike gastric acid reflux, lifestyle changes and dietary modifications cannot entirely control bile reflux. Treatment usually involves medications and, in severe cases, surgery.

  • Symptoms


    It can be challenging to differentiate between bile reflux and gastric acid reflux as they share similar signs and symptoms, and both conditions may co-occur.

    Signs and symptoms of bile reflux include:
    Pain in the upper abdomen could be harmful.
    A burning sensation in your chest that occasionally travels to your neck and a sour taste in your mouth are symptoms of frequent heartburn.
    Vomit a bile-like greenish-yellow fluid.
    Now and then, a cough or hoarseness.
    Unwanted loss of weight.

  • When to see a doctor


    If you often experience reflux symptoms or are experiencing unexplained weight loss, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with GERD, but your current medications aren’t providing enough relief, it is best to call your doctor, as you may require additional treatment for bile reflux.

    Book Appointment
  • Causes


    Bile plays a crucial role in the digestion of fats and in removing old red blood cells and harmful toxins from the body. It is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When you consume a meal containing even a small amount of fat, the gallbladder is signalled to release bile, which enters the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum) through a small tube.
    Bile reflux into the stomach
    After food and bile combine in the duodenum, they enter the small intestine. Typically, the pyloric valve – a strong muscle located at the stomach’s exit – only opens slightly, releasing small amounts of liquefied food at a time. However, bile can flow back into the stomach if the valve fails to close correctly. This can cause inflammation of the stomach lining, known as bile reflux gastritis.
    Bile reflux into the esophagus
    When the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve that separates the esophagus and stomach, malfunctions, bile and stomach acid can flow back up into the esophagus. Usually, the valve opens just long enough to let food pass into the stomach. Still, bile can reflux into the oesophagus if weakened or abnormally relaxed.

    What leads to bile reflux?
    Various factors, such as surgery complications, can often cause bile reflux. Most cases are caused by stomach surgery, including total or partial stomach removal and gastric bypass surgery for weight loss. Peptic ulcers can also be a culprit by blocking the pyloric valve, causing stagnant food in the stomach to increase gastric pressure and allow bile and stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. It is important to note that individuals who have undergone gallbladder surgery are at a higher risk of bile reflux compared to those who haven’t had this surgery.

  • Risk factors

  • Prevention


    Bile reflux, a condition in which bile flows back into the stomach and esophagus, can cause discomfort and lead to more serious health issues. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to prevent it. First, maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting pressure on your digestive system. Second, avoid eating large meals and instead opt for smaller, more frequent ones to reduce the amount of acid and bile your stomach produces. Third, avoid foods that trigger acid reflux, such as spicy or fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeine. Fourth, don’t lie down immediately after eating, and raise the head of your bed to prevent nighttime reflux. Lastly, talk to your doctor about medications that may help reduce bile reflux.

  • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

Content Details

Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

Last updated on: 07/08/2023