Which part of alimentary canal receives bile from the liver?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 12 December 2023
Which part of alimentary canal receives bile from the liver?

The alimentary canal basically refers to your gut. It consists of the following organs Mouth, Oesophagus (which is also known as the food pipe) , Stomach , Small Intestine, Large Intestine, and Anus.

Apart from the gut, several other vital organs help digestion and absorption of the food you consume. For example, the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, etc. These organs release certain enzymes and hormones that directly or indirectly act on the alimentary canal, thus playing a major role in the digestion and absorption of food. 

What is Bile?

Bile gets its name from the Latin word 'Bilis'. It is a greenish-yellow fluid that is continuously produced by the liver.

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What are the constituents of Bile?

Bile mainly consists of: 

  1. Cholesterol 
  2. Bile salts
  3. Bile acids
  4. Bilirubin (a pigment formed after the breakdown of red blood cells)
  5. Salts like sodium and potassium ions
  6. Water

What is the role of Bile in the body?

There are three main functions of bile in the body: 

  1. Digestion of fats: After consuming a fatty meal, your hormones will send a signal to the gallbladder to release bile. Bile breaks down fats into fatty acids during a process called emulsification. The larger fat globules are broken down into smaller fat droplets, making it easier for lipase enzymes to act on them. The small intestine then takes up the emulsified fat. 
  2. Absorption of Fat-soluble Vitamins: Two types of vitamins exist – fat-soluble and fat insoluble. Fat insoluble vitamins are readily absorbed from your intestines, whereas fat-soluble vitamins need bile salts to be taken up by your gut. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. 
  3. Excretion of waste products from the body: Bile also helps eliminate toxins from the body through faeces. Bile is essential for the removal of bilirubin, excess cholesterol, xenobiotics, and trace metals like copper, arsenic, selenium, and zinc. Failure to remove toxins can result in their build-up.

Where is the Bile stored?

The bile is stored in a pear-shaped, sac-like organ called the gallbladder. It sits directly under the liver in the upper right area of your abdomen. The gallbladder's primary function is to concentrate and store the bile for future use.

Anatomy of the Liver and Bile Ducts

  1. The liver weighs around 1.5 kgs, making it the heaviest organ in the body. It is situated in the upper right area of the abdomen, right below the rib cage and lungs. The liver, along with bile ducts and the gallbladder together, constitutes the biliary apparatus.
  2. The liver is made up of hexagonal cells called hepatocytes. These cells are placed such that they have small ductules (tubes) around them through which the bile is collected. 
  3. These small ducts join together and form two bigger ducts – The right and left Hepatic ducts. These two Hepatic ducts combine to form the Common Hepatic Duct.
  4. The Common Hepatic Duct then unites with the Cystic Duct, which originates from the gallbladder, to finally form the Common Bile Duct. 
  5. The Common Bile Duct ultimately leads to the duodenum (part of the small intestine), where it joins with the pancreatic duct, also known as the Ampulla of Vater and opens at the duodenum through the sphincter of Oddi. This sphincter regulates the flow of bile from the ducts into the duodenum.

Mechanism of Bile production

The liver is made up of cells called hepatocytes, and it is these cells that make the bile. The gallbladder cells are responsible for concentrating this bile and releasing it in the alimentary canal.

The hepatocytes produce bile by secreting conjugated bilirubin, cholesterol, bile salts, phospholipids, proteins, ions, and water into the canaliculi. (6) The canaliculi are small ductules which eventually join together to form the bile ducts. 

Initially, conjugated bilirubin and bile salts are secreted into the canaliculi using energy. Because of this, an osmotic and electrochemical gradient develops inside the canaliculi. This gradient leads to the flow of water and ions into the canaliculi, resulting in bile formation.

Types of Bile Salts

  1. Primary Bile Salts: All bile salts are essentially Primary Bile Salts. These salts are bile acids that are derived from cholesterol and are bound to sodium or potassium. Some of these bile salts travel unaltered to the alimentary canal and thus remain as primary bile salts. 
  2. Secondary Bile Salts: Secondary Bile salts are created from modifying primary bile salts. This is done by the bacteria that are present inside the gut. 

Now that you know how bile is produced keep reading to find out how it's transported from the liver to the alimentary canal!

The Journey of Bile: From Liver to the Alimentary Canal

After being synthesised in the liver, the bile is transported across the biliary system through a series of steps:

  1. Step 1: The bile produced by the hepatocytes is collected via the small ductules widely distributed across the liver. 
  2. Step 2: Through these ductules, it enters the right and left hepatic ducts and then the Common Hepatic Duct.
  3. Step 3: From the Common Hepatic duct, the bile has two routes. It'll either go and get stored in the gallbladder for future use or traverse through the Common Bile duct and get released in the alimentary canal. Which route the bile takes depends upon the intake of fatty food.
    1. Step 3a: During Rest: When there is no food intake, the bile will travel from the Common Hepatic duct into the cystic duct and get stored in the gallbladder.
    2. Step 3b: During Digestion: When there's fatty food in the intestine, the bile enters the Common Bile duct from both the Common Hepatic and Cystic ducts to get released into the duodenum.

What if bile is not released in the alimentary canal?

Bile plays a crucial role in the digestion and breakdown of fatty acids. Without bile, fats won't be absorbed in the duodenum and may result in complications when reaching the large intestine. 

Bile gives stools its yellowish-brown colour. This happens due to the conversion of conjugated bilirubin, a component of bile, into stercobilin which is a brown pigment found in stools. If there's not enough bile or some obstruction in the pathway, as seen in gallstones, you will notice clay-coloured stools. 

If bile is not released into the duodenum, you may notice the following symptoms: 

  1. Diarrhoea
  2. Foul smelling gas
  3. Abdominal pain
  4. Pale coloured stools
  5. Abnormal bowel movement
  6. Weight loss


The bile is formed by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It traverses through the complex network of bile ducts and is released into the second part of the duodenum through the sphincter of Oddi. If you encounter any of the signs and symptoms of a bile salt deficiency, you must visit your doctor right away!

Frequently Asked Questions

What stores bile from the liver?

The gallbladder stores the bile that is produced from the liver.

Which organ receives bile from the gallbladder?

The small intestine receives bile from the gallbladder.

Which part of the small intestine receives bile from the gallbladder and liver?

The second part of the duodenum receives bile from the gallbladder and liver.

How does bile get from the liver to the gallbladder?

The bile is collected from the ductules present all across the liver. These ductules join to form the right and left hepatic ducts. After being collected from the right and left hepatic ducts, the bile enters the common hepatic duct which then leads to the cystic duct and the common bile duct. During rest, the bile travels through the cystic duct into the gallbladder.

Which duct carries bile from the liver to the gallbladder?

The liver's right and left hepatic ducts join together to form the common hepatic duct, which further unites with the cystic duct that finally leads to the gallbladder.

Where does bile go after leaving the liver?

After leaving the liver, the bile can go to either the gallbladder or it can go to the small intestine. After intake of fatty food, the bile goes to the small intestine to aid in digestion. During the time of rest, when there is no food intake, it goes to the gallbladder where it gets stored and concentrated.

Where does bile go if there is no gallbladder?

In the absence of the gallbladder, the bile will go to the duodenum.

Does bile go into the pancreas?

Yes, but only for a short course. Bile travels from the common bile duct that joins with the pancreatic duct, both of which open together at the sphincter of Oddi.

Is bile secreted by the liver?

Bile is formed by the liver but can be secreted by both the liver and the gallbladder.

How does the liver produce bile?

The liver produces bile by secreting conjugated bilirubin, excess cholesterol, bile salts and other constituents into the canaliculi due to which an osmotic and electrochemical gradient develops, drawing in water and ions, thus leading to bile juice formation.

How is bile transferred to the small intestine?

The bile is made in the canaliculi, which forms the right and left hepatic duct. The right and left hepatic duct combine to form the common hepatic duct, which further joins with the cystic duct to form the common bile duct. After travelling through the common bile duct, it enters the duodenum after uniting with the pancreatic duct.

Where are the liver and gallbladder located?

The liver and the gallbladder are located in the right upper area of the abdomen, below the ribs and lungs.

What is the pH of bile?

The pH of bile is 8.2, making it alkaline.

Are the gallbladder and liver connected?

Yes, they are connected through the common hepatic duct and cystic duct.

Can you live without a liver?

You can't live without a liver. If your liver stops working, you may need a transplant.

Updated on : 12 December 2023


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


About Authors

HexaHealth Care Team

HexaHealth Care Team brings you medical content covering many important conditions, procedures falling under different medical specialities. The content published is thoroughly reviewed by our panel of qualified doctors for its accuracy and relevance.

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