Gut Dysfunction Nutritional Therapies
Bone Broth: 5 Health Benefits
November 29, 2019
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Image Credit: Jules

What are the benefits of bone broth?

Chances are you’ve heard about the bone broth craze by now, whether it’s from influencers you follow online or friends at work, yoga, book club (you name it!) who have tried this curious new trend.

But what is the bottom line when it comes to proven benefits?? Can you really skip all of that expensive cream and get better skin by drinking a cup of broth every day? Will a strict regimen of this liquid really heal your leaky gut as you have heard?

After digging into the research, it turns out there are some pretty positive results to this savory brew! Read on for more details on 5 key benefits you can find by adding bone broth into your diet.

Why Drink Bone Broth?

Another trend you’ve likely come across recently is that of “collagen supplements”. While they can come in pills, creams, powders, and more, tracing collagen back to its original source will lead you right to bones.  That’s right, especially bones that have a lot of connective tissue because they are great sources of collagen, gelatin, minerals, and amino acids, all of which are needed nutrients for the body. There isn’t enough research yet to say which type of supplement is most effective, or whether you’d be better off scooping powder into your protein shake every morning vs. drinking a mug of broth, but I’ve found that getting nutrients from whole foods is always best, so when possible, that’s typically the direction I lean.

Bone Broth Benefits

Collagen is arguably the most commonly studied and most talked about nutrient that people are after when consuming bone broth or other related products – and for good reason! For one, studies have shown great improvements in terms of skin appearances after subjects took collagen orally. (1)

Amino acids such as glycine or arginine are less well known, but still play a critical role in health, and certainly, have a growing presence on the “wellness scene”. Gelatin and some of these amino acids found in bones have also been linked to improved digestion. With the rising incidence of intestinal permeability, or what is more commonly referred to as “leaky gut”, finding dietary methods to address this issue could be really valuable for those suffering. So, what bone broth benefits do the research specifically show?

  1. Improved skin: One study found improved skin elasticity after just 8 weeks of collagen use, and another actually found reduced cellulite after both 3 and 6 months of continuous use. (2) For women with BMIs <25, this cellulite score actually decreased by 9% in just 6 months!
  2. Relief in join pain: Collagen has also been shown to be effective against joint pain. One study specifically looked at osteoarthritis of the knee and found those taking collagen supplements reduced their pain during daily activities and improved their quality of life. (3)
  3. Reduced inflammation: Amino acids are anti-inflammatory, (4) and help to reduce those free-radicals floating around, which generally keeps your body in a healthier state.
  4. Better sleep and less fatigue: Amino acids such as glycine can also improve sleep and help fight fatigue! Those who took glycine supplements were able to fall asleep faster, were less drowsy during the day and had an increased “pep in their step”. (5) (6)
  5. Improved digestion and gut health: In animal studies, gelatin has protected against mucosal damage (7), and human studies have shown that the amino acid glutamine supplementation has increased intestinal barrier function in malnourished children. (8) Experimental studies with amino acids like glutamine in patients with inflammatory bowel disease are also promising. (9)

Sourcing High-Quality Bone Broth

So, I’ll admit, this part can be daunting if you’re interested in going the DIY route. But once you do it a few times and get the hang of it, making a batch can easily last a few weeks if you freeze some. Usually, a mix of different bones is best, larger ones like femurs will have lots of great nutrients but can be harder to saw up and fit into a crockpot for those of us with normal kitchen tools. This is where a nice relationship with your local butcher comes in handy! Knuckles, joints, and feet are also good to use. If you are starting with raw bones, the flavor will definitely improve by blanching or roasting the bones for 20-30 minutes before simmering.

What is most crucial though, is that no matter how you get your broth, is that it is made from high quality, organic, grass-fed and grass-finished bones, along with some good organic vegetables. After simmering for 20+ hours, whatever pesticides or toxins were in the bones, to begin with, will definitely find their way into the broth and right into your body, so starting as “clean” as possible is critical.

If you aren’t up for the DIY method, there are several high-quality brands that have come on the market lately and are worth trying out: Kettle & Fire, Bonafide Provisions, and Thrive Market are a few examples. Check out your local farmers market too, as there are some smaller regional brands popping up that work with local organic farms for bones, which is ideal! But don’t be fooled by the numerous shelf-stable boxes at your local supermarket labeled “bone broth” or “bone stock” – chances are these have not gone through the exhaustive 20+ hour process (A good test is whether it gels at all once it’s cold and refrigerated. If not, there is very little collagen in it). So, it is worth doing your research to make sure the broth you are buying really does have the touted benefits. Otherwise, you’re just getting some stock that may have been simmered for a couple of hours – more flavorful than water for sure, but not giving you the same health benefits we’re all after!

How Do People Drink This Stuff?

Do you need to have a mug of it every morning? Absolutely not. If you already have a favorite morning beverage routine, don’t fret about having to swap it out for this new one. There are plenty of ways to work bone broth into your diet, feel free to get creative!

You can cook with it in soups and stews (though, the jury is out on whether you get all of the benefits this way since some nutrients might cook-off). This pumpkin sausage soup and this homemade chicken soup are both great options! You can pour some into your morning smoothie for a bit of savory flavor, or have a hot mug of some at night with a little coconut oil to help you wind down from a busy day. If the flavor isn’t your favorite, try different spice combinations to jazz it up too – salt, pepper, garlic, turmeric, ginger, butter, hot sauce – changing it up can help keep things interesting if you are doing this daily. But it’s definitely a craze worth testing out – try to incorporate it regularly for a month or two and see if you notice any of the benefits of bone broth!

References

  1. Proksch, E. et al. Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Has Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2014. 27: 47- 55.
  2. Schunck, M. et al. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2015. 18 (12): 1340 – 1348.
  3. Crowley, D.C. et al. Safety and efficacy of undenatured type II collagen in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a clinical trial. International Journal of Medical Sciences. 2009. 6(6): 312 – 321.
  4. Zhong, Z. et al. L-Glycine: a novel antiinflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2003. 6(2):229-40.
  5. Yamadera, W. et al. Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms. 2007. 5(2): 126 – 131.
  6. Inagawa, K. et al. Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality. Sleep and Biological Rhythms. 2006. 4(1): 75 – 77.
  7. Samonina, G. et al. Protection of gastric mucosal integrity by gelatin and simple proline-containing peptides. Pathophysiology. 2000. 7(1): 69-73.
  8. Rapin, J.R. and Wiernsberger, N. Possible links between intestinal permeablity and food processing: a potential therapeutic niche for glutamine. Clinics. 2010;65(6):635-43.
  9. Coeffier, M. et al. Potential for amino acids supplementation during inflammatory bowel diseases. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. 2010. 16(3):518-524.
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About author

Heather Cooan

Heather is a marketing executive turned nutrition counselor, consultant, and educator. Heather is currently a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and Nutrition Therapy Practitioner candidate and advocates for informed consent, bodily autonomy, and self-directed healthcare. She speaks and writes on nutrition and lifestyle interventions for improved health and wellness. Heather successfully avoided radiation and chemotherapy and healed her body of vulvar cancer utilizing a food-as-medicine approach combined with conventional interventions such as surgery. Heather has also put two autoimmune diseases into remission (Hashimotos and Lichen Sclerosus) and reversed estrogen dominance, insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and fatty liver through diet and lifestyle change.

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