How to Keep Your Bile Thin and Moving?

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Why is it so important to take care of your liver and gallbladder? The liver produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder. When we eat, the gallbladder squirts bile into the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine) as part of the digestive process. Bile is essential for breaking down fats—not only from food, but also fat-soluble toxins, fatty hormones such as estrogen, and more. When we consistently eat fatty, hard-to-digest foods, the gallbladder becomes sluggish and begins to accumulate a thick, gluey sludge that can lead to thickened bile, gallstones, gallbladder inflammation, and other issues.

Congested bile lowers digestive fire and slows down fat metabolism. You may feel:

  • indigestion (bloating, gas, acid reflux, belching)
  • constipation
  • sluggishness
  • nausea
  • pain under the rib cage, on the right side
  • headaches

Indigestion produces excessive ama (poorly or semi-digested food) in your body and ama creates a vicious cycle of more digestive clogging and even stiffness in the muscles and joints. Long-term bile issues can lead to high cholesterol, weight gain, gallstones, reabsorption of toxins and hormones, thyroid imbalance, and more. Sadly, removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States today.

What Can Cause Bile Sludge?

The foods listed below are hard to digest and can cause gallbladder and bile issues:


  • Frozen/ice-cold foods and beverages: The cold causes the fats in the bile to thicken and congeal.
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Hard-to-digest oils and oil supplements: Vegetable oils, hydrogenated fats and margarines, fish oil, flaxseed oil, and other oils rich in omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) can overwhelm the gallbladder’s ability to break down fat.
  • Cold dairy—especially Greek yogurt, cold milk, ice cream, frozen yogurt
  • Aged cheeses
  • Nut butters
  • Red meats
  • Refined flours and sugars

Some Foods That Support Healthy Bile Production

  • To thin bile: cooked beets, artichokes, sunchokes, carrots, apples
  • To flush the liver and gallbladder of congested bile: cooked leafy greens, arugula, fresh lime/lemon juice, aloe vera juice, grapefruit
  • To supply soluble fiber: whole grains, lentils, cooked cabbage, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens; daikon radish, celery, berries, powdered psyllium husk
  • To stimulate the release of bile: healthy oils in small quantities, such as cultured ghee, olive oil, coconut oil
  • To help move stagnation: hot water
  • Herbs: Triphala, shilajit, guduchi, hibiscus
  • Spices: fenugreek seedscinnamon stickturmericginger


To Learn More on This Topic:

Dr. John Douillard, Ayurvedic Herbs for Bile Sludge & Gallbladder Health

Dr. John Immel, Diet and Herbs for Healthy Bile Production

 Dr. Marianne Teitelbaum, Healing the Thyroid with Ayurveda, Chapter 6: Gallbladder Function and the Thyroid Gland (Healing Arts Press, March 19, 2019).

Dr. John Douillard, Eat Wheat, (Morgan James Publishing, 2017)



Cooked Apple-Beet Smoothie

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe and Beets with Saffron Almonds


13 replies
  1. Irina French
    Irina French says:

    Thank you so much for your article. I will implement the suggestions into my lifestyle.

    Could I ask why nut butters are problematic, please? Is it the quantity in excess that is the issue? Otherwise, it’s just like nuts, am I right? Unless it is about the skin not being removed and nuts not being soaked?

    Do you recommend using almond butter at all vs soaked and peeled almonds?

    Thank you so much for all you do.

    • Divya Alter
      Divya Alter says:

      Nut butters are very dense, heavy, and clogging for people who do not have very strong digestive fire–this is why they can thicken the bile.
      Soaked nuts are much easier to digest; peeling the soaked almonds is ideal for digestion. Please try for yourself and see if you feel the difference.

  2. David
    David says:

    Hi. Interesting. Any suggestions for someone with Bile Reflux? I just discovered I have this. After eating healthy for over 14 years this is troublesome. The episode happened after I had a green smoothie after being too busy to eat the whole day, then finally that evening I had to get my green smoothie in, that had all organic dandelion greens, broccoli, and spinach, and wild blueberries, as well some protein powder, coconut milk and coconut water. as well as spirulina, and camu berry powder. As well as a few ice cubes to make it cold. I live in the hot desert. But Im thinking this may be problematic. However I thought because it was all blended it would be a digestive dream of ease to consume it. This has never happened before when drinking a green smoothie so it was shocking to me. But because I hadnt eaten anything, clearly something in it triggered it. I also had a splitting headache as a result, and it would not go away unless all the bile was thrown up. Was a horrible 2 days. Would the advice here help with that as well? Opinions on smoothies? raw veggies? Thanks

    • Divya Alter
      Divya Alter says:

      Hi David, I’m sorry for my delayed reply. I hope you feel much better by now. Please consult with an expert Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner about your bile reflux.

  3. Loraine
    Loraine says:

    Hi, divya! Great article. I’m somewhat confused though.
    I thought the liver makes about a liter of bile each day. So, why would a reasonable amount of healthy fats whether in red meat, monounsaturated oils, or coconut milk thicken the bile? And wouldn’t the cold dairy be warmed up in the stomach before it enters the duodenum?

    • Divya Alter
      Divya Alter says:

      Cold and fatty foods are much harder to digest. Yes, cold foods warm up in the stomach, but the stomach has to work extra hard for them, and gradually digestive fire may weaken. I’d highly recommend reading Dr. Marianne Teitelbaum’s book, “Healing the Thyroid with Ayurveda” — she explains the gallbladder/liver/thyroid function in relation to food really well.

  4. Preet
    Preet says:

    Hello. Ive been dealing with chronic constipation and now with piles. No one is able to detect the root cause of constipation for me so far. I jave been taking laxatives for 9 years. Is there any suggestions that you can please provide. Could it be my gallbladder or liver is weak and what i can do?

    • Divya Alter
      Divya Alter says:

      Hi Preet, please keep searching for the deep cause of your chronic issue and try to address it on different levels/different types of treatments.

    • Divya Alter
      Divya Alter says:

      anything pungent (including foods) – chiles, black pepper, peppermint, ginger
      there is a lot more care needed with this condition — please consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner or another health specialist.


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