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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), and bilirubin (a breakdown product of red blood cells). It also contains:

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


Afdhal NH. 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 158.

Review Date: 10/27/2014
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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