Bile Definition

Bile is a liquid that the liver produces to carry some of its waste products into the digestive tract. Specialized cells called hepatocytes synthesize bile from water, cholesterol, bile acids, bile salts, bilirubin and other bile pigments, and electrolytes. The hepatocytes break down cholesterol, a fatty acid, into bile acids. Other cells in the liver further convert bile acids into water-soluble forms called bile salts.

The spleen is the body’s scavenger and one of its jobs is to remove old erythrocytes (red blood cells) from the blood and break them down. One of the byproducts of this process is heme, the iron compounds. After further metabolism one derivative of heme is bilirubin. Bilirubin is dark yellow and is the primary pigment in bile, giving bile its dominant yellow coloration. Other bile pigments come from substances the liver detoxifies from the blood, adding to the bile’s color.

A network of bile ducts collects bile from the liver and carries it to the gallbladder. The walls of the gallbladder absorb about 90 percent of the water the bile contains, producing a greatly concentrated solution that the gallbladder ejects during digestion to aid in digesting fatty foods.

Bile that enters the intestinal tract that the body does not need for digestion continues to travel through the intestines, eventually mixing with fecal matter for excretion from the body. The liver secretes about 750 milliliters (roughly a quart) of bile every day.


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