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Bile

Definition

Bile is a fluid that is made and released by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.

Bile helps with digestion. It breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can be taken into the body by the digestive tract.

Bile contains:

  • Mostly cholesterol
  • Bile acids (also called bile salts)
  • Bilirubin (a breakdown product or red blood cells)

It also contains:

  • Water
  • Body salts (such as potassium and sodium)
  • Copper and other metals 

References

Fogel EL, Sherman S. Diseases of the gallbladder and bile ducts. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 155.

Jackson PG, Evans SRT. Biliary system. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 54.

Johnston LR. Bile secretion and gallbladder function. In: Johnston LR, ed. Gastrointestinal Physiology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 10.


Review Date: 8/22/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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