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What Causes a Bile Taste in the Mouth?

By S. Reynolds
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The common causes of a bile taste in the mouth include bile reflux disease, dysgeusia, and various liver disorders. Bile is a greenish-yellow fluid that is produced in a person's liver to help break down fats inside food. If a person experiences an unpleasant taste of bile in his or her mouth, there are several reasons why this might occur, most of which involve problems in the stomach or liver.

One common cause of a bile taste in the mouth is something called bile reflux disease. It is similar to acid reflux in that it causes acid to flow up the esophagus and into the back of the throat, but the pain is different. Bile reflux causes stomach pain in the upper abdominal area, and there also may be a burning feeling in one's throat or chest in addition to the sour bile taste. Nausea or vomiting may accompany the pain as well. If vomiting occurs frequently, then weight loss or throat pain can become a problem.

Another cause of an unpleasant taste is acid reflux, which occurs when gastric acid travels up the esophagus. The pain of acid reflux is often localized to the chest and throat of a suffering individual. Gastritis, which is a disorder of the gastric passageways, can cause a bile taste in the mouth as well.

Untreated bile problems can lead to a condition called Barrett's Esophagus, or Barrett's syndrome. It is characterized by abnormal cellular changes in the esophagus. If someone suspects that he or she may have a bile problem, it is best to consult a physician as soon as possible, as a bile taste in the mouth may be indicative of a liver problem or malfunctioning bile duct.

Less commonly, a bile aftertaste may indicate a condition called dysgeusia, which is a distortion of the taste sense. For example, a person may eat a favorite piece of food and find that the taste is different or suddenly unpleasant. Zinc deficiency and chemotherapy sometimes cause this condition as well.

Peptic ulcers or complications arising from gallbladder surgery can also cause bile tastes to occur in a person's mouth. Ulcers are usually caused by bacteria in the gastric tract or are side effects of prescribed drugs. They usually can be alleviated by avoiding certain foods and taking medication.

Treating bile reflux includes changing one's diet. Removing onions, mint, spicy foods, fattening foods, and caffeine seems to help many people reduce the symptoms. The best course of action is for one to see a doctor regarding diagnosis and treatment, however.

How To Get Rid of Bile Taste in Mouth

The taste of bile does not always indicate a serious condition, but it is unpleasant and a nuisance. Fortunately, there are many ways to address the problem, both immediately and in the long term.

Treat the Underlying Condition

Tasting bile is usually a symptom of a larger issue, such as gastritis, liver disease, acid reflux or bile reflux. The only way to prevent recurrence is to treat the condition. Consult your doctor to get a proper diagnosis, form a treatment plan and avoid further complications. In the meantime, however, home remedies may alleviate symptoms.

Suck on Sweets

Sweet candy, mints or frozen treats can temporarily relieve the bitterness of bile. Chewing gum can also help by increasing saliva production. However, it's important to be cautious, as overuse can have the opposite effect. Popular candy ingredients like citrus and mint can trigger acid reflux, and too much sugar may upset the stomach. It's best to use these remedies in moderation and stop if the problem worsens.

Take an Antacid

If acid reflux is to blame, over-the-counter heartburn medicine may provide relief. You can also mix half a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water for similar results. This remedy works for acid reflux because it neutralizes stomach acid. On the other hand, bile is alkaline, so if bile reflux is the diagnosis, an antacid probably won't help. Use caution if you take any medications, as antacids can interfere with medication absorption.

Eat Smaller Meals

Indulging in a large meal increases stomach acid production and puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, causing stomach fluids to escape. If you have gastritis, overeating can increase inflammation and worsen your symptoms. Instead of having two or three large meals a day, try eating smaller, more frequent meals.

Avoid Trigger Foods

Managing a gastrointestinal condition often requires diet modifications. First, you must determine what foods are triggering the symptoms. Try keeping a food journal and recording symptoms when they occur. Bring the journal with you to your doctor's appointment; it will help you and your doctor identify patterns and trigger foods.

Let Gravity Help

Lying down right after eating makes it easier for acid and bile to escape into the esophagus. Remaining standing or sitting up for a couple of hours after eating can help the stomach empty properly. This may require modifying your schedule to avoid late meals or snacks right before bedtime.

Sleep With Your Head Elevated

Sleeping with your head raised may prevent the unpleasant taste and discomfort associated with reflux. However, you shouldn't just add extra pillows. This can cause neck or back pain, and it can even make reflux worse. Instead, try a wedge-shaped pillow or mattress pad. You can also lift the head of the bed with blocks or risers. Make sure the raised bed is stable before lying down on it.

Avoid Cigarettes and Alcohol

There are many reasons to quit smoking. One is that smoking increases stomach acid production, which can exacerbate gastrointestinal problems. Quitting is difficult, but it can drastically improve your health and quality of life. Avoiding alcohol may also keep the bile taste out of your mouth. Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, letting fluids pass into the esophagus more easily. If you are struggling to quit cigarettes or alcohol, your doctor can provide helpful resources.

What Does Bile Taste Like?

The taste of bile can quickly ruin your appetite. It is sour or bitter and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain or heartburn. Bile's purpose is to dissolve fats, so it is a caustic substance. In addition to tasting awful, it can burn and irritate the throat.

Can You Taste Bile in Your Mouth?

Several conditions can cause you to taste bile in your mouth, including acid reflux, bile reflux and gastritis. Other conditions can produce a bitterness resembling that of bile:

  • Medication side effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Gum disease
  • Liver disease
  • Respiratory infections

Never ignore an unexplained bad taste in your mouth, especially when it comes with other symptoms. Home remedies should not be used as a substitute for medical attention. Only your doctor can properly diagnose and treat the problem.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon990421 — On Apr 21, 2015

I have been suffering from this problem for the last four months. When I get up in the morning or even after having food, I feel like bile is coming up in my mouth with eructation and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and when I spit, it comes out in light yellow color or sometimes white.

I have been taking medicines for a long time for this but still it does not work so well. I have gained some control over it by changing my food habits. I have left fatty, oily and spicy food but despite that I am not able to control it thoroughly. Please can anyone suggest to me what should I do?

By candyquilt — On Aug 27, 2013

@ZipLine-- Is he going to have his gallbladder removed?

I hope the taste of bile disappears after that. In my case, it was just the opposite. I developed the bile taste in my mouth after my gallbladder removal surgery. My doctor said that the bile taste will slowly go away and it did. So if your dad continues to have this issue for a while after the surgery, don't be surprised. Chewing gum helps get rid of the taste.

By ZipLine — On Aug 27, 2013

The taste of bile was the main symptom my dad had before he was diagnosed with gallbladder disease. He's due to have surgery for it next week.

By fBoyle — On Aug 26, 2013

I used to have a taste of bile in my mouth frequently when I had acid reflux due to a stomach bug. I was infected with a stomach bug called helicobacter pylori which causes chronic acid reflux. The bile in my stomach would frequently come up into my mouth. It was very gross. Anti-acids helped, but only for a short time

I was treated with antibiotics which killed the bacteria and my acid reflux disappeared. I haven't experienced the bile taste since.

By anon330996 — On Apr 20, 2013

Does too much bile affect sexual activity?

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