Dr. Doni gives an overview of bone broth, a trendy food that can be helpful in healing Leaky Gut; what is in it and how to get the benefits.
Part 13 of Dr. Doni’s Series on Leaky Gut
Over the past few months, we have been looking at Leaky Gut and how to manage, heal, and prevent it. We’ve covered everything from IBS to depression, weight gain, Hashimoto’s and many other health issues. If you’ve missed any of the series, you can read all the articles by clicking here.
This week we are going to talk about the latest health food trend–bone broth. Bone broth has become popular recently with the interest in the Paleo diet, which emphasizes foods that our ancestors ate while eliminating modern processed foods, sugars, and grains. Diets that were developed to help address digestive issues and/or autoimmunity—FODMAP, GAPS, Specific Carbohydrate, and Autoimmune Protocol—all include the use of bone broth as well. You’ll also see bone broth promoted as a way to slow aging, prevent wrinkles, and improve memory. No wonder more and more, patients ask me:
Can bone broth really help heal Leaky Gut?
In this article we’ll look at how it can help and some thoughts on whether or not it’s the right remedy for you.
Does Bone Broth Work?
Yes, we are now finding that bone broth helps heal Leaky Gut, as well as arthritis and autoimmunity because it contains nutrients that help heal intestinal cells and support healthy skin and joints as well.1 Have you ever wondered why homemade chicken soup is thought to be such a great way to help you recover from a cold or flu? Well, one reason could be that the broth is made with chicken bones that contain these nutrients some of which also support immune function and decrease inflammation and oxidative stress.2 Bone broth is truly a ‘superfood’ that brings lots of advantages for our health—including healing Leaky Gut. Let’s look at why this is.
Why Is Bone Broth Such A ‘Superfood’?
As with all ‘superfoods’, bone broth contains a huge number of nutrients that are beneficial to health. Here’s how some of these nutrients work to heal Leaky Gut and more.
The protein in bones contain amino acids that are released into the broth during cooking.
Glutamine is the main nutrient used by small intestinal cells. When you are stressed, glutamine is depleted and the cells of the small intestinal suffer, leading to Leaky Gut. By consuming glutamine, your intestinal cells get the nutrients they need to be healthy, to absorb nutrients from your food, and to block pathogens from entering your body.3 You can read more about Leaky Gut here.
Glycine is calming to the nervous system and supports healthy stomach acid and bile production to help you digest your food. It is an important nutrient for the liver and is needed for your body to make the anti-oxidant glutathione. It is also known to be anti-inflammatory. All of these actions are known to help heal Leaky Gut as well as to decrease auto-immunity and oxidative stress.
Proline and arginine are also known to be anti-inflammatory, which helps the gut to heal and also to decrease inflammation in other areas of the body.
Cysteine helps thin out mucus during a cold. It is also, like glycine, used for the production of glutathione which helps to decrease oxidative stress.
Collagen and Gelatin
When the bones are cooked, the matrix called collagen is broken down and turns into gelatin—the same stuff you use to make jello. In fact, when bone broth is kept in the fridge it will congeal like jello due to the gelatin in it. Gelatin is healing for the intestinal lining because it supports the mucus (the slimy stuff) that protects your intestinal cells. Without this mucus, your intestinal lining is left vulnerable to unhealthy bacteria, which can cause Leaky Gut.4,5 Gelatin also decreases inflammation allowing your intestinal cells to heal. Once absorbed into your body, gelatin is thought to be used in other areas of your body including your hair, skin, and nails.
These are glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid that are often used to address joint pain and arthritis.6 When the cartilage in the bones and joints breaks down during cooking, these glycosaminoglycans dissolve into the broth so that, when you eat it, you get all the same nutrients you would get from taking a supplement along with many others, but from a food rather than from a tablet.
Bones contain minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, silica, and other trace minerals (fish bones also contain iodine), all of which are helpful as electrolytes to help keep you hydrated and for bone health. Electrolytes are important for cell function, including intestinal cells.
The marrow of the bones, and the bones themselves, are also thought to have nutritional value although an analysis has not been completed to explain exactly what they contain.
How to Make Bone Broth
It is not difficult to make bone broth, but it does take quite a long time—anywhere between 12 and 72 hours.
First of all, you need to buy your bones, preferably bones from grass-fed animals. You may need to find a butcher or try an Asian market to find chicken necks, oxtails and soup bones that work best for bone broth. You can use beef, chicken, lamb, and/or fish bones to make bone broth.
Put the bones into a large pan and cover them with water. It is important to add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar because it pulls the nutrients from the bones. You can also add your favorite herbs and vegetables such as onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and parsley. Then you’ll need to boil those bones for at least 1.5 hours (for those of you with a sensitive digestion), or more like 12 hours (best for fish bones), and optimally 24 to 72 hours. Using a crockpot can make it less messy.
Once the bones are soft, strain the broth and discard the bones (or save them and eat them if you like). Some people prefer to refrigerate and then skim the fat off the top of the bone broth, but that is only necessary if you don’t digest fats well or if you are concerned that the bones you used may have contained toxins. You can use the bone broth immediately in a soup or sauce, or freeze it for later.
Disadvantages of Bone Broth
One disadvantage to consider is that bone broth is not suitable for vegetarians. It is possible to make a vegetarian broth that increases the production of collagen in your body (instead of consuming collagen from bones) by using beets, kale, spinach, and seaweed. Find a recipe here: http://www.organicauthority.com/a-vegan-bone-broth-recipe/.
There are concerns that anytime you cook and concentrate nutrients from an animal or fish there may be toxins that are pulled out along with the beneficial nutrients. That is why it is so important to choose bones that are grass-fed, organic, and from a farm with low toxic exposure.
Also keep in mind that it is suggested you heat your bone broth over heat instead of in a microwave, as we don’t know how a microwave could affect the amino acids.
How to Get the Benefits of Bone Broth without the Hassle of Making It
Many stores and restaurants now have bone broth available for purchase, so that is one option if you are not able to make it yourself. In New York City, you could stop by Brodo for a cup of organic and grass-fed chicken or beef bone broth and choose your favorite add-in. Another option is to order 100% organic and grass-fed bone broth online: http://www.bonebroths.com and www.barebonesbroth.com.
You could also take supplements* that contain some of the main ingredients in bone broth and take them in water or in a protein shake. Glutamine and Glycine, for example, are both available as powders or capsules that can be used instead of going through the process of making bone broth. You can buy both these products (and many more) in my online store by clicking on the product names below:
- Glutamine powder
- Glutamine plus other Leaky Gut healing ingredients in powder form or in a capsule
- Glycine capsules
- Electrolyte powders can be a quick and convenient way to take in minerals and stay hydrated
- Collagen and gelatin products are also becoming available
The Bottom Line
Whether bone broth is the right treatment for you is really a matter of preference and lifestyle. If you enjoy getting your nutrients from foods and are able to shop for bones and cook them, bone broth may be the perfect solution. And even if you don’t cook, it may be a great option if you can get hold of ready-made, high-quality bone broth on a regular basis. However, it is obviously not a solution if you are vegan or vegetarian (although you could make a vegetarian broth instead).
There is some research as to the potential benefits of bone broth, but it’s not extensive. Most of the support for the use of bone broth is theoretical and anecdotal—people who eat it love it and feel that it has made a difference in their health.
Healing Leaky Gut is a process that can take months (or even years in more severe cases) so anything that could speed things up is welcome. I often tell patients that I wish there was a way to get Leaky Gut to heal faster, and perhaps bone broth is just that magic ingredient. At this point I think it is worth trying as long as you choose organic, grass-fed bones, organic veggies, and filtered water.
I don’t think, however, that eating bone broth outweighs the benefits of changing your diet, supporting healthy digestive function, balancing the healthy bacteria living in your intestines, and making sure you take time to de-stress. It is a whole approach that ensures you the best chances of healing Leaky Gut and preventing it from returning. You can read about my approach to healing Leaky Gut here.
For help finding out if Leaky Gut is underlying your health issues and advice on the steps you can take to improve your health, you may want to consider my comprehensive Leaky Gut and Digestive Solutions Package which includes one-on-one consultations with me, testing to help individualize your plan, and support along the way.
Next week, I’ll be going into detail about the supplements, herbs, and nutrients that can help heal Leaky Gut. To make sure you receive that article, you can sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you have any thoughts, experiences, recipes, or tips you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments box below.
29th October 2015
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.
- Trentham DE1, Dynesius-Trentham RA, Orav EJ, Combitchi D, Lorenzo C, Sewell KL, Hafler DA, Weiner HL. Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science. 1993 Sep 24;261(5129):1727-30.
- Lopetuso LR, Scaldaferri F, Bruno G, Petito V, Franceschi F, Gasbarrini A. The therapeutic management of gut barrier leaking: the emerging role for mucosal barrier protectors. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(6):1068-76.
- Wang B, Wu G, Zhou Z, Dai Z, Sun Y, Ji Y, Li W, Wang W, Liu C, Han F, Wu Z. Glutamine and intestinal barrier function. Amino Acids. 2015 Oct;47(10):2143-54.
- Scaldaferri F1, Pizzoferrato M, Gerardi V, Lopetuso L, Gasbarrini A. The gut barrier: new acquisitions and therapeutic approaches. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;46 Suppl:S12-7.
- Karnjanapratum S, O’Callaghan YC, Benjakul S, O’Brien N. Antioxidant, immunomodulatory and antiproliferative effects of gelatin hydrolysate from unicorn leatherjacket skin. J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Oct 23.
- Fransen M, Agaliotis M, Nairn L, Votrubec M, Bridgett L, Su S, Jan S, March L, Edmonds J, Norton R, Woodward M, Day R; LEGS study collaborative group. Glucosamine and chondroitin for knee osteoarthritis: a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluating single and combination regimens. Ann Rheum Dis. 2015 May;74(5):851-8.