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Autoimmune Cholangitis

Normal Liver Lobule. Courtesy almostadoctor.com

Figure 1: Normal Liver Lobule. Courtesy almostadoctor.com

What Is Autoimmune Cholangitis?

Autoimmune cholangitis is a rare inflammatory self-targeted disease of the biliary tract produced by high levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies and antinuclear antibodies (ANA).

Autoimmune cholangitis is characterized by progressive inflammation and scarring that leads to narrowing and destruction of the bile ducts and development of biliary cirrhosis of the liver.

Autoimmune cholangitis is also termed anti-mitochondrial antibody-negative primary biliary cirrhosis because there is no production of anti-mitochondrial antibodies.

Q: What happens when bile ducts can no longer transport bile out of the liver?

A: Bile that cannot be removed from the liver by the biliary tract backs up and damages the liver, causing cirrhosis. In Figure 1, bile back up would directly damage the hepatic (liver) cells seen here as grey “blocks.” 

Bile is a greenish brown liquid continually made by the liver cells (hepatocytes) from phospholipids salt, cholesterol, and aging blood cells that it removes from circulation. 

Bile also carries away waste products produced by normal metabolism and toxic substances that are removed by the liver for eventual elimination in stool. As such, bile must continually flow out of the liver to prevent build-up in the liver. 

Bile from the hepatic cells drains into small tubes called canniculi and then into larger bile ducts to be carried out of the liver to the gall bladder for storage until needed to aid in the digestion and absorption of fat from the small intestine.   Bile emulsifies fat eaten in the diet so that the pancreatic enzyme called lypase can break it down into its fatty acid and glycerol components. 

Unfortunately, autoimmune cholangitis is difficult to diagnose because it mimics many other diseases such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, sarcoidosis, cancer and lymphoma.

What Is Autoimmune Cholangitis In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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