TUDCA is a new star in the functional medicine world, quickly advancing as a front-runner amongst supplements due to its many potential benefits, including brain health, liver health, mitochondria and cellular support, and more.
What is TUDCA?
Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, or TUDCA, is a bile acid derivative that occurs naturally in the body. It’s been used therapeutically in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia, for hepatic and biliary disorders. We only make small amounts of this health-giving compound in our body, but this bile salt actually influences many bodily functions, from the brain to the kidneys to eye health and more.
Traditional Chinese medical practitioners have known about the benefits of TUDCA for ages, prescribing it to help detoxify the liver, treat “heat illness” such as fever, spasms, and vision problems, and improve many other conditions. But it’s only just recently come under the scientific spotlight, becoming the subject of recent clinical studies as scientists examine its many potential health benefits.
What’s the Scoop on Bile?
Bile represents a complex fluid made of water, acids, electrolytes, and other organic molecules. Bile acids, the most functional component of bile, help us digest and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Bile also breaks down foods, cholesterol, and can destroy harmful bacteria.
Bile helps the body eliminate waste, excrete cholesterol, and regulate metabolism. Bile acids convert and eliminate around 500 mg of cholesterol from the body every day. This process is called hepatic synthesis. The liver produces bile, which is concentrated and stored in the gallbladder, then secreted into the digestive system via the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine beyond the stomach).
What is the Role of TUDCA in the Body?
Like many compounds in your body, TUDCA is made through a microbial process.
Firstly, bile salts are released into your intestines through the liver bile duct. Microbes in your large intestine then metabolize the bile salts into ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). Next, it gets conjugated to a taurine molecule in order to create TUDCA. This whole process happens naturally in your body and is supported when you have a healthy amount of bile salts.
A healthy person produces very small amounts of TUDCA, recycling some 95% of their bile salts via enterohepatic circulation––when bile is absorbed through the intestines and returned to the liver via the hepatic portal vein. However, poor diet, decreased liver function, and certain medications can impair this process.
What’s the Difference Between UDCA and TUDCA Bile Salts?
Primary bile acids are made in the liver, using cholesterol as the base. As bile acids circulate (via enterohepatic circulation), UDCA is returned to the liver and conjugated with taurine to form TUDCA. Besides mitigating endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, this process also prevents cell death (aka apoptosis).
TUDCA stands for tauroursodeoxycholic acid while UDCA stands for ursodeoxycholic acid. They are both bile salts, but UDCA is a more common form. When the intestinal microbiota (the gut flora) produces the “secondary bile acids,” they make UDCA first. When UDCA metabolizes in the lower intestine, it binds to taurine to become TUDCA .
The Benefits of TUDCA
Nootropics have skyrocketed in popularity recently. If you’re looking at optimizing your cognitive functioning, improving your memory, and supporting your defenses against neurological disease, TUDCA may be the perfect fit.* TUDCA crosses the blood-brain barrier and has become a promising subject in the scientific community for its protective effects on the brain.
TUDCA is classified into a group of molecules known as chemical chaperones. These can be described as compounds that restore the correct destination of incorrectly localized or aggregated proteins by stabilizing their structure and facilitating the folding process.
Research studies show that TUDCA improves apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) macrophage function, a protein associated with the liver, central nervous system, adrenals and other tissues.* It also acts as a mitochondrial stabilizer and anti-apoptotic (anti-cell death) agent in several models of neurological disease.* TUDCA provides neuroprotective support.
Supports Insulin Sensitivity*
Stress to the cell’s endoplasmic reticulum (ER) may cause many conditions that seem unrelated, as in diabetes. In lab animals given chemically-induced high blood sugar, for example, one study found a 43% reduction in blood glucose when treated with TUDCA.
It’s well known that bile acids are critically important for the digestive process, but they also act as signaling molecules in many tissues. One of these many tissues is the pancreas, which expresses specific receptors that regulate several cell functions.
Studies carried out with obese, overfed mice show that TUDCA not only improved glucose tolerance but also improved insulin sensitivity.* Many studies also show that TUDCA lowers endoplasmic reticulum stress, thus supporting insulin sensitivity.*
TUDCA is believed to increase energy burned at the cellular level, potentially affecting how the body regulates insulin. High blood sugar levels due to poor insulin use (high glucose levels) can actually damage endothelial cells––the cells lining blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and organs. Under oxidative stress, TUDCA has been found to help support endothelial cells when too much glucose (sugar) is present.
Mitochondria and Cellular Support
Every single one of your cells has little power plants inside them called mitochondria. These tiny organelles generate roughly 90 percent of our body’s energy. When our mitochondria aren’t functioning properly, we aren’t able to make adequate amounts of ATP, our energetic building blocks.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is often at the root of many chronic illnesses, and TUDCA has been shown to support mitochondrial health and improve energy output by producing more antioxidants and mitigating reactive oxygen species (free radicals).* Rather than triggering cell death, they did the exact opposite, with TUDCA sparking them to make more mitochondria . Prevention of cell death may affect us in many unexpected ways, reaching cells in the lining of organs such as the brain, heart, liver, and colon, as well as blood vessels and more .
The process of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is a natural response to stress caused by viruses, free radicals, and cellular mutations. Apoptosis typically helps weed out old and defective cells through cellular disintegration. Sometimes, though, the wrong cells begin apoptosis, or the correct cells start apoptosis at the wrong time. Additionally, too many cells may enter apoptosis at once, or too few. When too few enter, it’s called excessive inhibited apoptosis, a condition associated with several diseases and conditions. TUDCA may help regulate and stabilize apoptosis to occur in the right cells at the right time.*
Supports Genetic Expression
Amazingly, TUDCA may even impact your gene expression and DNA in certain ways. By reducing oxidative damage, stimulating mitochondrial function, and regulating apoptosis, TUDCA can protect your DNA from damage.*
In vitro studies have shown that TUDCA inhibited DNA fragmentation in neuronal cells, increasing rates of cell survival .
TUDCA supports overall liver health. A study was conducted on a group of people suffering from liver cirrhosis and high liver enzymes, who were given 750 milligrams (mg) of TUDCA for six months. TUDCA lowered one hundred percent of the participants’ liver enzymes. As a bonus, supplementing with this bile acid was very well tolerated amongst the study participants. Not even one of the people enrolled complained of any side effects.
Supports a Healthy Gut Microbiome
The lining of your intestines has a thin layer of cells that create gates called tight junctions. These are the gatekeepers that determine what gets in and out of the gut. When our tight junctions lose integrity or spread out too far, they allow things that shouldn’t be in the bloodstream to pass through our intestinal lining. This condition is called leaky gut.
Protein messengers in your gut regulate tight junctions, and these messengers signal the junctions to open or close, just like a gate. TUDCA helps these messengers to perform at their optimal levels, helping to maintain gut integrity and health.* TUDCA has also been shown to support microbiome health by promoting the growth of healthy gut bugs (probiotics) and weeding out pathogenic bugs that are related to inflammation and obesity.
Mineral imbalances and excessive sodium in our diets are very common problems in our society. Soil mineral depletion combined with processed food consumption creates a recipe for poor kidney health. Supplementing with TUDCA is a wise choice if you want to protect your valuable kidneys from chronic stress that can lead to kidney disease.* Studies show that TUDCA supports a healthy inflammation response in the kidneys.
TUDCA has been shown in studies to have some antiviral effects, including affecting how specific viruses may replicate and multiply.
Could TUDCA be a potent protector of eye health? According to a number of research studies, the answer is yes! TUDCA supports eye health against a number of eye health complications and reduces the number of dysfunctional eye cells.* If you’re looking to maintain peak eye health until you’re a centenarian, TUDCA may be just the support you’re looking for.
TUDCA has been shown to increase bile flow by as much as 250 percent! Not only does the research show that individuals who supplement with TUDCA experienced an increase in bile, but the composition of their bile also changed. It morphed into bile that contained higher amounts of compounds that positively assist digestion.
How to Increase TUDCA levels
We mentioned earlier that the body naturally produces TUDCA, but only in very small amounts as most of your bile salts are recycled and recirculated through the digestive system. Your natural TUDCA production can be further slowed down by:
- Microbiome dysbiosis caused by parasites, harmful bacteria, or yeast overgrowth
- Stress on the liver, such as excess free radicals and not enough antioxidants
- Systemic inflammation
- Nervous system dysregulation due to chronic stress
- Gallbladder function issues
- Chronic disease, especially concentrated in the areas where TUDCA is needed, like the liver, kidneys, brain, and intestines.
When the liver is struggling to produce adequate bile salts, or you want to introduce fresh bile salts to support digestion and detoxification, TUDCA supplementation can be helpful.
You may want to consider supplementing TUDCA for:
- Digestive support, especially fat digestion
- Detoxification and liver support
- Supporting insulin sensitivity
- Eye health
- Neuroprotective health
- Maintenance of key cellular processes, including apoptosis
- Microbiome support.
Our TUDCA is formulated without unnecessary fillers or additives and it is not sourced from animal bile of any kind, ensuring a high-quality product you can trust. Our TUDCA is prescribed and shared by functional and integrative medicine practitioners and patients worldwide.
There isn’t a standardized dosage for TUDCA, but research on TUDCA has shown it to be effective in adults using doses between 300-1500 mg.
TUDCA Side Effects
TUDCA supplements are generally considered safe when taken within the recommended amounts. When exceeding 1500 mg daily, some people have reported experiencing diarrhea. Aside from that one complication, there are no other reported side effects for TUDCA.
Given the limited research on TUDCA supplementation during pregnancy and nursing, it’s advised that pregnant or nursing women avoid it. Anyone with underlying medical conditions should speak to a doctor before using TUDCA as it may interact with other medications.
As we always recommend, consult with your health care provider to determine whether TUDCA is the right choice for you.
Support Your Cellular Health with TUDCA
TUDCA has many potential benefits across multiple systems in the body. There is good research that TUDCA supplementation may support digestion, mitochondrial function, and neurological health. It also works on a cellular level to support protein synthesis, maintain DNA structure, and ensure cell survival.