It seems that #guthealth has become popular in the wellness space over the past year or so. With more awareness of IBS, Leaky Gut, SIBO, and many other bacteria imbalances in the gut being displayed through the media, there has been an increase in remedies that are bound to “fix” all gut issues. I am an advocate for taking preventive, healing measures to get to the root cause and work towards better overall health - not necessarily relying only on medication. However, these so-called remedies are not a “cure-all.” While diet plays SUCH a significant role in gut health, but there are far too many factors that contribute to overall gut health that are often overlooked. In terms of IBD, chronic inflammation is exactly what it sounds like – chronic. Those who are facing this issue often try several things to help tame inflammation and improve their health, but there is not one “cure” that will work for everyone. Many things can trigger inflammation, and those are different for each person. Common examples include: food sensitivities / intolerance, stress, hormone imbalances, and mental strain. All of which can cause added irritation and stress to our system which results in inflammation and often the inability to turn off our “fight” mode.
While stress is a main component of a suppressed immune system there are plenty of other factors that influence the lining of the gut itself - factors such as prolonged exposure to antibiotics, inflammatory foods, toxins, etc. Eventually, if the impact of these factors pile up, the lining of the gut can suffer and result in permeability issues that may cause excessive inflammation due to malabsorption of food and minerals.
One thing I am currently working on in terms of my Crohn’s Disease is repairing the lining of the gut. Due to years of antibiotic treatment, inflammatory foods, and chronic stress, the lining of my gut has taken a toll and is not as impermeable as it should be. I am planning on writing a separate post about my current protocol, as well as the lifestyle changes I am implementing, but for now, I would like to talk about two things I have added into my routine and their role in digestive healing.
There is a chance that either in your research, scrolling through social media wellness accounts, or talking with your doctors, you have heard about bone broth. Many healing diets such as GAPS and the Specific Carbohydrate include this as part of the beginning protocol, and for a great reason! Nutrients and minerals in bone broth are essential to improve and heal the lining of the gut. These nutrients help decrease inflammation, balance good / bad bacteria ratios, and increase the immune response. Bone broth is nutrient-dense, easy to digest, rich in flavor and boosts healing within the entire body – what’s not to love!
What exactly is Bone broth?
You may think of broth that your mom used to have you sip when you were sick as a kid, typically what is used in homemade soups. However, bone broth is much different – it is nutrient-dense, thicker, and in my opinion, SO much better. Bone broth is the result of steeping the entire bone remains of the animal (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, etc.); including the bone, marrow, tendons, ligaments, etc. By including all of these components, the amount of nutrients found in this broth is significantly high compared to regular broths. Simmering using the “nose to tail” method of the animal protein source enables the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine, and glutamine that are transformative for your health (1). Bone broths contain minerals and essential amino acids in forms that are easy for our body to absorb. Some of the minerals included are; calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfate – all of which are often sold as pricey supplements and used to reduce inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis.
It is important to be mindful of the kind of bone broth you are consuming. Meaning, not all store-bought broth is created equal. If you’re not going to make your bone broth at home (from scratch), it is crucial to check the ingredients of what you are purchasing in the store! Like many other products, manufacturers like to sneak in monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is recognized as a meat flavor but is actually a neurotoxin – and as mentioned earlier, toxins affect the gut! When looking at the ingredients list, you should seek out whole, organic ingredients such as the bone broth (filtered water and animal bones), organic vegetables, and minimal spices. Try to stay away from added preservatives because to reap the full benefits of bone broth it is best to consume it in its most natural form – as our ancestors would have prepared it!
Overall, bone broth is a great place to find all of the valuable amino acids, collagen, gelatin, and trace minerals. There are dozens of different nutrients found within bone broth, many of which can’t be obtained easily from other commonly eaten foods! I am a firm believer in using food as medicine and consuming as much nutrient-dense food as possible. Broth is one of the easiest ways to check those nutrient boxes off without having to consume a massive pile of veggies in one sitting! By regularly drinking bone broth, or using it in recipes, you can promote healthy gut integrity while reducing inflammation and permeability. Now let’s dive into some other benefits from regularly consuming bone broth, shall we?
1. Protects Joints
I’ve already mentioned the anti-inflammatory properties that broth has due to the nutrients. But one of the BEST components found in this broth? Collagen. Bone broth is one of the world’s best sources of natural collagen – a protein found in vertebrae animals; in their bones, skin, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bone marrow. Collagen is very beneficial for the growth of hair, skin, nails, and bone health (2).
As we get older, our joints naturally experience depletion resulting in loss of flexibility. Supplementing with collagen matters because as we age, cartilage diminishes. As the broth simmers, animal parts release collagen and it becomes readily absorbable to help restore cartilage.
Another valuable component in the stock is gelatin. Gelatin acts like a soft cushion between bones that helps them move smoothly without friction. It provides the building blocks that are necessary to form and maintain strong bones. Significant amounts of both collagen and gelatin form and reform connective tissue to help take the pressure off of aging joints and supports healthy bone mineral density. It’s never too early to start taking preventive measures to make joint pain less problematic as you get older!
2. Boosts Detoxification
As I have previously mentioned, in our Western World, the average person is exposed to a variety of environmental toxins, pesticides, artificial ingredients and chemicals. The human body is amazing in terms of having its own means of detoxification from heaving metals and other toxins. However, it has a hard time keeping up when it is flooded with large amounts of chemicals. Much like if you were to procrastinate and become swamped with homework, you’re suddenly overwhelmed and may not perform your best on the task at hand. Bone broth is considered a powerful agent in detoxification because it helps the digestive system expel waste and promotes the liver’s ability to remove toxins. It also helps to maintain tissue integrity and improves the body’s use of antioxidants.
Stock contains potassium and glycine – both of which support cellular and liver detoxification. By supplying sulfur (especially with added vegetables, garlic, and herbs) and glutathione, an agent that lowers oxidative stress, detoxification is boosted. Glutathione helps with the elimination of fat-soluble compounds, especially heavy metals such as mercury and lead. It also aids in the use of antioxidants, the absorption of various nutrients, and with liver-cleansing functions! With the increased intake of essential minerals that bone broth stimulates, the minerals act to remove toxins by stopping heavy metals from attaching to mineral receptor sites. If they can’t bind, they can’t mess with our systems!
3. Supports Immune System Function
I have briefly mentioned at various times the permeability of the gut lining, inflammation, and a suppressed immune system. All of which contribute to multiple issues with what would generally be a healthy inflammation response.
Leaky gut syndrome occurs when undigested particles from foods seep through tiny openings in the weakened intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream. The immune system detects these invaders and becomes hyperactive to regulate the body. The hyperactivity increases inflammation and leads to dysfunctions all over, not just in the gut where the primary issue lies. The immune system releases high levels of antibodies that cause an autoimmune–like response and begins to attack healthy tissue. Individuals that already have a compromised autoimmune system, such as IBD patients, may suffer considerably more damage from a response because the system believes the particles in the bloodstream to be much more of an invader than a conventional system may.
Bone broth is observed to be one of the most beneficial foods to consume to restore gut health and therefore support immune system function and healthy inflammatory response. Collagen, gelatin, and the amino acids proline, glutamine, and arginine help seal the openings in the lining and support what is known as “gut integrity” – the intactness of the lining of the intestine to maintain its structure and function.
The amino acids and anti-inflammatory benefits create a perfect atmosphere for powerful immune-boosting to occur!
4. Good for the Gut
Bone broth stock is easily digested and soothing to the digestive system, unlike many other foods, which can be challenging to break down. Those with food sensitivities and intolerance (such as wheat or dairy) already have a hard time consuming many foods that may be considered “inflammatory.” Therefore, it is essential to look after the integrity of the gut, so vital nutrients are absorbed to support other bodily functions and overall health. After all, food is only useful if we have the means of absorbing its nutrients.
Bone broth has also been found to help heal the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Critical components for digestion support that are found in bone broth include - collagen (proline / glycine), gelatin, and glutamine. Although there are many other beneficial minerals contained, these are most helpful to many IBD patients that have difficulty successfully digesting and passing bowel movements.
A healthy digestive tract consists of a single, tight layer of epithelial cells, a thick mucus layer, and a diverse group of microbes (bacteria in the gut). Gelatin is a significant component when it comes to the lining of the digestive tract because it supports a healthy lining of mucus within the system. The water is absorbed within to help maintain the layer of mucus that blocks gut microbes from the intestinal barriers. By drawing fluid into the intestine, the motility of the gut is improved, and healthy bowel movements are supported.
Collagen is another important component because it contains two essential amino acids: proline and glycine. Proline is necessary for the formation of collagen, and glycine works to improve digestion by increasing gastric acid secretion. Studies are currently being conducted and have shown that individuals with IBD, mainly Crohn's, are more likely to suffer from low stomach acid (3). Because the proper pH of the stomach signals the continuum of the digestive cascade, many people with low stomach acid face difficulty processing meals efficiently.
I know that was a lot of information, some of which may not have processed the first time reading it through - but that’s perfectly okay! Luckily you don’t need to know the names of all the essential amino acids found in bone broth to reap the benefits. I included this information because I know when I am learning about a new “supplement” that can improve my health, I’d like to know exactly how it works and why it is good. Many others like me enjoy doing their research to learn more, but others enjoy knowing the benefits, plain and simple!
So, another run down. When taken consistently, bone broth is exceptionally nutritious and works diligently to repair multiple components of your digestive tract. In addition to this, benefits are often seen through support in joint and bone health, hair / skin / nails, and detoxification processes of other organs within the body. It truly is impressive how functional this food is - hence, the nickname “nature’s multivitamin!”
I highly recommend giving this a try, whether you buy it from the store or experiment with making your own. I believe it’s wonderful! I drink mine first thing every morning, and it’s become something I look forward to - some people drink coffee, I drink bone broth (with an added scoop of collagen)! I hope you found this article informative and it piqued your interest to try something new, or reintroduce something back into your routine!