Bile

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Bile or gall is a bitter-tasting, dark green to yellowish brown fluid, produced by the liver of most vertebrates, that aids the process of digestion of lipids in the small intestine. In many species, bile is stored in the gallbladder and upon eating is discharged into the duodenum. Bile is a composition of the following materials: Water (85%), bile salts (10%), mucus and pigments (3%), fats (1%), inorganic salts (0.7%) and cholesterin (0.3%).

In the medical theories prevalent in the West from Classical Antiquity up to the Middle Ages, the body's health depended on the equilibrium between four "humors" or vital fluids: blood, phlegm, "yellow bile" (or ichor) and "black bile". Excesses of the last two humors were supposed to produce aggression and depression, respectively; and the Greek names for them gave rise to the English words "cholera" and "melancholia". Those same theories explain the derivation of the English word "bilious" from "bile", and the meaning of "gall" in English as "exasperation" or "impudence".

Contents

Production

Bile is produced by hepatocytes, draining through the many bile ducts that penetrate the liver. During this process, the epithelial cells add a watery solution that is rich in bicarbonates that dilutes and increases alkalinity of the solution. Bile then flows into the common hepatic duct, which joins with the cystic duct from the gallbladder to form the common bile duct. The common bile duct in turn joins with the pancreatic duct to empty into the duodenum. If the sphincter of Oddi is closed, bile is prevented from draining into the intestine and instead flows into the gallbladder, where it is stored and concentrated to up to five times its original potency between meals. This concentration occurs through the absorption of water and small electrolytes, while retaining all the original organic molecules. Cholesterol is also released with the bile, dissolved in the acids and fats found in the concentrated solution. When food is released by the stomach into the duodenum in the form of chyme, the duodenum releases cholecystokinin, which causes the gallbladder to release the concentrated bile to complete digestion.

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