TUDCA Benefits: Linked to Bile, Liver, and Gut Health
By Dr. Todd Watts and Dr. Jay Davidson
Researchers continually study what makes your body tick. What are the root causes of your illness or disease? Do many diseases all lead back to the same problematic source? Increasingly, many roads seem to lead back to your liver bile duct and digestive health. But an even more important question is this one:
What can I do or take to get my liver bile duct healthy?
There are nutrients you can focus on getting into your diet for better liver function. Additionally, there are herbs that can support your liver as well. Coffee enemas can also help detoxify your liver bile duct. But there is a hidden gem to increase your liver function that most people aren’t aware of.
That hidden gem is TUDCA.
What Is TUDCA?
Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, TUDCA, is a component of your bile acid. It’s used as a therapy for people that have any type of issue with the liver or liver bile duct. You only have small amounts of this amazing compound in your body. Increasing the amount of TUDCA in your body can help clear up issues you are having with your liver.
Fun Fact: You may have only a trace, but the bile of Asian bears is almost 50% of this type of bile salt! Scientists think this is one of the reasons bears are able to hibernate as long as they do.
How Is TUDCA Made?
Like many mechanisms in your body, TUDCA is made through a microbial process.
Bile salts are released into your intestines through your liver bile duct. Then the microbes in your gut metabolize the bile salts into ursodeoxycholic acid or UDCA. Later it is connected to a taurine molecule to create TUDCA.
This is done in your body, but it can also be synthesized outside the body through the same process.
But the microbes can’t do their job if we don’t give them bile salts to work with.
What Is TUDCA Used For?
TUDCA benefits are mostly associated with helping people that have what would be called cholestatic diseases. These are any problems with the flow of bile from the liver to the intestines. This is how those microbes are starved of bile salts to work with.
Basically, there are two ways your bile system can become an issue:
- It can become physically blocked
- You start to produce less and low-quality bile that doesn’t do its job
How Can The Bile Duct Become Blocked?
Imagine your bile ducts to be like a tree. Small, skinny branches on the outer parts of your liver lead down to larger branches. Those larger branches get bigger in diameter the closer you get to the trunk of the tree. All the branches eventually connect to the trunk. The trunk would be like your main bile duct away from the liver. The smaller ductules get clogged first. Then the intermediate ducts become blocked until the main liver bile duct becomes severely restricted.
Your liver bile duct can get physically blocked in several ways:
- Gallbladder stones can obstruct it and stop your flow of bile
- Liver injury can cause scar tissue formation in your bile duct, making the opening much smaller so less bile can get through
- Viruses like Hepatitis C can create scar tissue as well as reduce the opening of the duct
- A poor diet can make bile thick and sludgy, unable to flow properly
- Parasites can physically block the bile duct
- Tumors or cysts
- Autoimmune disorders or Cystic Fibrosis
- Fatty liver disease can cause triglycerides to collect in the bile duct and block it (1)
Certain drugs can chemically alter your bile flow and bile quality. These include:
- Diuretics used for hypertension
- Blood pressure medication
- Estrogen therapies
- Anti-anxiety drugs (2)
- Medications for Type II Diabetes (3)
What’s The Big Deal About Bile?
TUDCA benefits your liver bile duct and supports your liver. But why is this important?
Not having a free-flowing bile duct causes a domino effect that negatively impacts your health in every area.
Think of your liver like the water processing plant of a city. Water from every pipe and drain in the city merges to a central place. There, it is cleaned of debris and contamination. Clean, purified water then flows back to all the homes and businesses in the city. The contaminated sludge gets hauled away so it doesn’t become a problem and pollute the water again. The cycle keeps repeating to protect people from contaminated water.
Your body is the same. Your lymphatic and cardiovascular systems push all their fluid through the “pipes” of those systems to your liver. Then your liver filters all the fluids removing debris and dangerous chemicals. The cleaned blood and lymph go back into circulation. The contaminated sludge your liver collects gets dumped into your bile. Then it gets “hauled away” in your intestines and out through your stools to not pollute you.
If your liver bile duct is blocked, your body can’t haul away the contaminated sludge. It sits stagnant in your liver and gallbladder. Besides being continuously exposed to the garbage your liver wants to remove, that garbage begins to “rot.” It causes inflammation and liver damage.
But the problems don’t stay in your liver. Not being able to properly remove toxins through your bile duct affects your other organs like your lungs and kidneys. (4) It can also cause you to have itchy skin, and increase the chances of a bacterial infection.
Bile is also needed to break down and absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Not having bile flowing freely to the intestines will cause you to have a shortage of these important nutrients. This will add to the dangerous domino effect even more.
TUDCA To Rescue
The good news is, getting your liver bile duct flowing can also have a domino effect — a positive one!
There are 6 ways that TUDCA goes to work right away as you start implementing it into your health plan:
1. TUDCA Stimulates Bile Flow
Just like removing logs that would jam up a river after a flood, TUDCA helps remove what’s jamming your liver bile duct from flowing. Some studies show that TUDCA can help get bile moving 250% more than before taking TUDCA! (5)
Not only did TUDCA dramatically increase bile release, it improved the quality of the bile itself. There is a higher amount of the bile salts for the microbes in your intestines to create more of your own TUDCA.
Getting your bile moving is going to help your downstream organs, but it will also help inside your liver cells themselves.
2. TUDCA Helps The Mitochondria In Your Liver Tissue
If the liver bile duct is blocked, your liver starts to die from the inside out on a cellular level.
When your liver can’t dump its pollutants to be hauled away by your intestines, a massive amount of free radicals are produced in your liver cells. The mitochondria of these liver cells are under attack from all the reactive oxygen species. It makes it impossible for them to do their job of folding proteins correctly. Your cells are programmed to die once they can’t do their jobs effectively.
TUDCA can swoop in and address all three of these problems in your liver.
TUDCA helps to:
- Maintain the proper protein folding process
- Reduce free radical oxygen species
- Stop your liver cells from programmed cell death (6)
3. TUDCA Reduces Liver Enzymes
When your liver is under high stress because of a blocked bile duct, your liver enzymes can elevate significantly. Another TUDCA benefit is lowering these liver enzymes. One study showed that even a modest TUDCA dose can dramatically lower your liver enzymes in two months. (7)
4. TUDCA Helps Heal The Liver Bile Duct
Your liver releases ATP (the energy our cells produce and live on) into bile when it is healthy. If your liver cells are dysfunctional, they can’t fill your bile with ATP. TUDCA helps your cells get back on track with delivering ATP into the bile liquid. But why would that be important?
Your body has incredible protective and healing mechanisms in place. It knows how important your liver bile duct is! Secreting ATP into the bile gives your bile duct cells added protection as it flows past those cells. (8) This helps prevent them from becoming damaged or scarred as the liver dumps dangerous chemicals to be taken away by your stools. Stimulating the bile flow and ATP release will strengthen the lining of your bile duct.
5. TUDCA Helps Your Intestines
Problems upstream will always affect everything downstream.
If your liver bile duct isn’t working properly, your intestine function is going to change as well. Your blocked bile duct can lead to:
- Intestinal inflammation
- Changed gene expression in the gut
- Leaky gut
- Altered gut microbiome
- Increased insulin resistance (9)
- Damage and loss of microvilli (10)
Once again, TUDCA benefits save the day on all fronts of the battle!
TUDCA can lower your inflammatory response in the gut as well as the inflammatory cytokines. It can change your gene expression for the better. It helps strengthen the tight junctions in your gut helping eliminate leaky gut. TUDCA helps to solidify the gut barrier. (Is the real cause of your leaky gut a blocked liver bile duct?)
TUDCA can help restore the right microbiome in your intestines, giving them more bile salts to work with. Low levels of bile also contribute to SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. (11) SIBO creates inflammation and major digestive issues. TUDCA stops this imbalance and resets the equilibrium. A better microbiome also helps you have an improved insulin response.
TUDCA helps to protect and reestablish the microvilli in your intestines. Not having enough healthy microvilli to absorb nutrients will create deficiencies in both micro and macronutrients. Strengthening the microvilli might be the most important TUDCA benefit for the intestines.
Better bile flow keeps going downstream to your large intestine too. TUDCA helps with ulcerative colitis and any inflammation you may have in the colon. (12) It helps to protect from cell death in the lining of your colon, similar to how it protects the cells in your liver.
6. TUDCA Helps Protect You From Viruses
Viruses like Hepatitis can damage your liver and stop it from functioning well. Hepatitis can be a devastating virus to acquire. TUDCA comes to the rescue once again and helps to block the virus from entering your cells. (13) It stands in front of your cell receptors like a shield.
But that’s not the only virus TUDCA helps to protect you from.
Influenza A is also blocked from entering your cells with TUDCA. It has been shown to help stop the virus from replicating. TUDCA can even increase your body’s ability to fight the virus. It helps your immune cells to kill the virus faster. (14)
TUDCA can inhibit RSV infection from spreading in your body as well. (15)
This bile component is a great defender against viruses!
TUDCA Tackles Other Health Issues Too
You can’t underestimate the TUDCA benefits on your bile duct and how that will impact your health. But TUDCA doesn’t stop there. It can have a positive effect on other areas of the body as well.
These bonus benefits happen over time when you consistently take TUDCA. But make no mistake, these benefits have a huge impact on your overall health:
1. TUDCA Helps The Thyroid
How well your thyroid functions can determine how much energy you have. It can influence your weight as well as how well you use insulin.
TUDCA helps increase your thyroid function. It helps upregulate energy in your cells. Brown adipose tissue is more metabolically active than white. One study showed that TUDCA can double the amount of brown adipose tissue! (16) TUDCA increases the amount of energy you use up and helps you use insulin better.
2. TUDCA Helps The Heart
High levels of sugar in your blood because of poor insulin usage doesn’t just affect your weight. High glucose levels damage your endothelial cells. These are the cells that line the inside of all your organs and blood vessels. This damage increases your chance for cardiovascular disease.
TUDCA helps protect these special cells that line your heart and arteries. It reduces oxidative stress. It prevents your endothelial cells from becoming dysfunctional in the presence of too much glucose. (17)
Just like TUDCA prevented cell death in your liver, it can help do that in your heart muscle as well. The cells of the heart muscle die during a heart attack. TUDCA sharply reduces the number of cells that die during a heart attack. It can also help to heal your cells that were damaged from a heart attack. (18)
3. TUDCA Is Neuroprotective
TUDCA has shown that it helps with health issues in your nervous system and brain. It can help with:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s diseases
- Stroke (19)
For Alzheimer’s, TUDCA helps to stop DNA from breaking and your cells to live longer. It can help prevent memory loss and keep your cognitive function running longer. TUDCA helps reduce the toxic effects of amyloid plaque in your brain as well.
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by cell death and mitochondrial dysfunction. Once again, TUDCA can increase how long your brain cells live and help your mitochondria to work better. It also can decrease the amount of dopamine cells you lose over time.
TUDCA benefits people with Huntington’s much the same way as Alzheimer’s. In addition to protecting your DNA and cognitive function, TUDCA may prevent swelling in the mitochondria.
TUDCA can help protect your brain from the effects of a stroke. One study showed that brain damage was reduced by 50% because of TUDCA. (20)
In all of these cases of neurological disorders, the important takeaway is the same:
TUDCA prevents your brain cells from dying.
TUDCA – Basic But Powerful
It’s tempting to dismiss how potent TUDCA can be for your health if you think of it only in terms of digestion. Stimulating bile flow impacts your health in every area. This is why health practitioners are increasing their focus on getting your liver bile duct to flow well. It improves your:
- Intestines and microbiome
- Virus protection
- Gene expression
TUDCA is a treasure trove of health rewards.
What health challenges could TUDCA help you with?