Bile acid

Synonyms: Digestive acids

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Gastroenterology, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

In the body, bile acids are fatty substances formed from cholesterol and secreted by the liver to help the body digest fats and fatty acids.   

In Our Own Words

Bile acids are weak acids, formed in the body from cholesterol. Bile ducts carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and then, when needed, to the small intestine.

When we eat, fat contained in food triggers the release of a hormone that leads to the gallbladder contracting and releasing the bile acids into the intestine. In the small intestine, bile helps break down fats so that they can be absorbed, and the cholesterol that comes from food and bile is absorbed.

Relevant Conditions
  • Gallstones
  • Gall bladder removal (cholecystectomy)
  • High cholesterol
Share this article
  • Harvard Medical School. "Medical Dictionary of Health Terms" 2013. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • American College of Gastroenterology. "Understanding Your GI Tract." Digestive Health Topic 2013. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Bile: Q&A." Diseases & Conditions. March 2012. Accessed July 2013.
  • American Heart Association. "Common Misconceptions about Cholesterol." Conditions Nov. 2011. Accessed July 2013.
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