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This article was written by Sylvia North, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutritionist from New Zealand. You can find out more about Sylvia at Fearless Nutrition or follow her on Facebook!

There is a South American proverb which claims a good broth will raise the dead. While few may be totally convinced bone broth has resurrection properties, many of us intuitively connect with the idea of chicken soup for the soul.

Every now and then, we come across health trends which are hardly new concepts at all. Bone broth sits alongside sauerkraut as one sexy superfood that may have existed in your great grandmother’s kitchen. When we simmer it down to look closely at broth’s nutritional value, the evidence is beginning to hold true to this claim. Let’s talk about why bone broth is an ultimate gut building tool for inflammatory conditions including arthritis, autoimmune disease.

Bone Broth Through The Ages

We know throughout history that broth exists as an integral component in many traditional diets. This is still found today in many traditional Chinese restaurants which include a clear soup or meat tea on their menu. Recipes for nourishing broths are found in many old cookbooks, often referenced as healing foods for the unwell.

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Broth was also popularised by Julia Child in her famous cookery books which familiarised traditional French cooking with Northern America. Today, medicinal broth has suddenly re-emerged after being a central component in popular book titles such Nourishing Traditions and featured by various writers supporting the paleo movement.

What Is Bone Broth?

Bone broth is slow cooked meat stock from bones boiled long enough to allow the connective tissue and marrow to dissolve into a liquid.

Technically for the greatest nutrient density, a good broth should jiggle when cold because of the natural gelatin which is plentiful in connective tissue-rich cuts such as chicken feet, pig’s hoof, joint cuts such as knees, or chicken frames. When simmered down, the nutrients in these cuts dissolve to form liquid gelatin providing the main nutritional benefits of broth.

The Nutritional Benefits of Bone Broth

The unique qualities which come from gelatin in broth are owed to a handful of unique amino acids called proline, glycine, and glutamine. They function as the building blocks of protein as well as forming neurotransmitters and important enzymes. These nutrients are generally lacking in most people’s diets, especially low-fat diets, high carb diets, and vegan diets can be almost totally devoid of these nutrients.

There are certain times in our lives that call for more food sources of these nutrients to support vital enzyme and neurotransmitter pathways. At times of increased inflammation, illness, exposure to drugs or toxins, vitamin deficiencies, sports, and pregnancy, our day-to-day needs for glutamine can dramatically increase. If we’re not getting enough in the diet there’s greater risk of developing an acquired deficiency. Bone broth is one food source of these nutrients at times of high needs.

Bone Broth and Gut Health

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It is now more widely accepted that gut distress is a common thread in many health conditions today. The gut lining functions as an incredibly complex interface between our insides and the outside world. Approximately 70% of our immune tissue resides in the gut and its role is to bare the important duties of regulating the friendly and not-so-friendly passengers.

When the gut barrier is not working so well, compromised digestive and immune systems are thought to play a key role in various forms of autoimmune disease and digestive distress. Changes in immune activity at the level of the gut appears to be a key driver in systemic inflammation seen in celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, and other autoimmune conditions .

The potential role of bone broth in these conditions works at the level of improving the health and function of gut lining. A jiggly gelatin-rich broth is a naturally high source of nutrients that are known for strengthening the delicate villi which pave our intestinal lining. As we use aloe vera gel on sunburn, there is emerging research suggesting the potential role of gelatin for healing intestinal gut barrier damage, common in coeliac disease, IBD, and IBS.

Bone broth is also a plentiful source of glutamine with plays an important role in looking after our gut lining’s health. It boosts the immune system and encourages scar tissue healing. Some studies have shown that it supports the growth of finger-like villi which are typically damaged and flattened among people with celiac disease or intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

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Finally, there’s glycine, another major star provided in bone broth also functioning as an anti-inflammatory aid. It has been shown to protect the intestinal lining from nasty bacterial invaders during sepsis .

Bone Broth and Joint Pain

As well as being a potent cooler of inflammation for autoimmune-mediated joint issues such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, bone broth also has its place in supporting the alleviation of joint pain.

Through the process of using animal joints, some bone broths may contain glycosaminoglycans including glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid, which support collagen formation and therefore healthy cartilage. This connection may explain why collagen has shown to be effective in reducing pain and inflammation in collagen-induced arthritis in mice.

Bone broth also provides amino acids for building connective tissue and healing injuries. Proline, in particular, is used largely for making collagen in the body. We don’t only need collagen for youthful looking skin. Consuming nutrients to support collagen synthesis may also help encouraging bone healing from fractures and bone loss through the lifecycle.

How To Start Using Bone Broth

While broth isn’t a cure-all superfood and certainly isn’t going to raise the dead, there’s a good amount of scientific reasoning to suggest that adding in these nutrients may have a role to play in healing gut damage.  

Two to three cups of broth a day may be a powerful addition to one’s diet to promote gut healing and reduce inflammation. It doesn’t have to be complicated, bone broth really is a nutritious fast food that many of us can benefit from by incorporating as from general use in stews, casseroles, and soups.

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Sylvia North
Health Expert
Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutritionist
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