Bile reflux is a condition where the digestive liquid from the liver backs up into the stomach. The bile makes its way into the esophagus which is a connective tube between the stomach and the mouth. Bile is acidic and can cause a burning, uncomfortable sensation which can become chronic.


Bile is green/yellow in color and is a fluid released from the gallbladder into the small intestine to aid in digestion of fats and toxins in the body. When digestive muscles malfunction as food enters the small intestine, food is permitted into the small intestine but bile is able to escape, going back into the stomach. Additional muscle failure can lead to the bile being further pushed into the esophagus. The cause of bile reflux may be due to complications from surgery particularly with the gallbladder or from peptic ulcers.


While bile reflux is similar to acid reflux which involves the backing up of stomach acids into the esophagus, they are not the same thing. Bile reflux cannot typically be controlled by changes to lifestyle or daily diet. Most cases of bile reflux will need to be treated with medications. For chronic sufferers, bile reflux will need to be treated surgically.


Symptoms of bile reflux may mimic acid reflux so it can be difficult to diagnose, especially become both types of reflux can occur simultaneously. There is not currently an established relationship between bile and acid reflux or if bile reflux causes acid reflux.  Typically, symptoms involve pain in the upper abdomen, frequent heartburn, vomiting of green or yellowish bile, weight loss that is not intentional, and in some cases a cough or hoarseness of the throat.


It will be important to make an appointment with your family physician if symptoms of reflux become chronic. Weight loss is also a concern that a doctor’s visit is necessary. Medications that interrupt the movement of bile may be useful for treating issues. Surgical treatments may be necessary to reduce bile reflex or when the esophagus has been negatively affected by the bile.