Bone Broth: What Is the Hype?

I originally wrote this for the Potsdam Food Co-op's August 2016 Newsletter.

Jar one: bones soaking in apple cider vinegar Jar two: finished bone broth

Jar one: bones soaking in apple cider vinegar

Jar two: finished bone broth

Perhaps you remember your mom or grandma feeding you chicken soup when you were ill. Most chicken soup, stock, was made with the bones, cartilage, and the hunks of attacked chicken meat. (If you are vegetarian or vegan… don’t bail on me just yet. I have plant based gut healing suggestions as well. Bare with me on this bones thing.)

Animal bone broths have been used for hundreds of years, thousands really, for their nourishment and healing benefits. People inherently knew the healing benefits of the daily food and life choices they made. Modern living somehow now requires scientific proof that what we are doing is worthwhile. Research into the benefits of bone broth is available and plenty to satisfy the scientifically inclined.

After the long soak and simmer to make bone broth (recipe to follow), the resultant gelatinous and slightly fatty liquid contains valuable minerals and nutrients in a form your body can easily absorb, circulate in your bloodstream, and be taken in and used by your body cells. These nutrients include amino acids, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, collagen, and a variety of trace minerals and other nutrients.  The gelatin in bone broth supports gut lining health, gut lining healing, and proper digestion.

Bone broth has been proven to help with infection fighting (why Mom and Gram gave you chicken soup when you were sick with the cold and flu). Bone broth contains amino acids that easily nourish the body on the cellular level. L-arginine and L-glutamine are two nourishing amino acids present in bone broth that decrease inflammation in the gut (and whole body inflammation) assisting the immune system in its never ending job of fighting infections and inflammation.  L-glutamine is known for its gut health enhancing properties. L-glutamine helps to heal and seal the lining of the digestive tract, your gut. More L-glutamine information coming up.

Many issues of modern living (antibiotics, hand sanitizers, modern wheat-gluten and dairy, chlorine and fluoride in drinking water, household chemicals, cosmetic chemicals, glyphosphate and other industrial agricultural chemicals… the list is never ending) create inflammation in the gut. An inflamed gut lining creates problems that allow undigested particles of food, chemicals, microbes, etc. to directly enter into the blood stream. This happens because the gut inflammation creates a diseased small intestinal condition medically named increased intestinal permeability.

This dis-ease of the body’s small intestine is more commonly known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. The small intestine has junctions that are very tightly packed together. These tight junctions serve a wonderful purpose by keeping unwanted particles (chemicals, bacteria, viruses…) in the digestive tract to be dealt with and passed out in solid waste OR food digested down to the smallest particles* to be absorbed, circulated, and used for cellular nutrition.

·         *Carbohydrates to simple sugars

·         *Proteins to amino acids

·         *Fats to fatty acids

The issues of modern living, mentioned above, create inflammation that irritates and erodes away at the gut and loosens these tight junctions. When these junctions are loosened all hell breaks loose in the body. The above mentioned substances pass through the now loose junctions directly into the bloodstream. This is not meant to be. The substances are meant to be digested first, cleaned up by the liver, and/or pooped right out of the body. When they slip into the circulation because the junctures are no longer tight to keep them where they belong… your immune system goes postal on them. Antibodies are created to combat these substances that are seen as foreign invaders, antigens. The next time you eat or take in one of these substances, the substance moves into the bloodstream through the loose junctures setting off the immune system (The immune response to this now problem food or substance actually happens before the food even reaches the intestines). This time the immune system has the antibodies ready and war is waged on the substance, the assumed antigen. Over time the body wears down from this cycle of inflammation, gut juncture loosening, seepage of the unwanteds into the blood stream, and a result can be that the body starts attacking itself (auto-immune issues).

Above 2 photos used with permission of Tracy Harrison –  Photo #1 shows tight junctures and loose junctures in a simplistic drawing.  Photo #2 inside of small intestine showing a very blown up view of the thousands of villi covered by millions of micro-villi. These villi are where the junctures exist.

My gut story is a very simplistic explanation meant to assist in the understanding of what in the body is going awry.  An inflamed gut lining contributes to leaky gut syndrome and the resultant food sensitivities and allergies, auto-immune conditions, and many other inflammatory body issues leading to a host of dis-ease. (Dis-Ease being a lack of ease in the body; lack of health.)

L-Glutamine, contained in bone broth, is a gut junction healer. It helps to soothe the inflamed gut and heal the loose junctions back to their tight junctions. Tight junctions are immune and whole body health enhancing.

Now you know some substances and habits that can contribute to leaky gut issues and how bone broth plays a crucial role in the healing of this condition. It is time to tighten up junctions everyone; time to learn how to make bone broth. (Again, I have added vegetarian and vegan suggestions to mimic, as closely as possible, bone broths healing benefits to your gut and body’s health.)

Making Bone Broth: 

By the way… bone broth Cafés are now quite popular in metropolitan areas.

Bone broths are made with fish, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, and lamb bones in water. Different animal bones and tissues have different nutrients and benefits. (Buffalo, venison, rabbit, wild bird bones are fine as well.) Use only bones, cartilage, feet, tails, etc. from pasture raised or wild animals. Never use bones from commercially raised animals (factory farm animals) that are given anti-biotics, hormones, and/or fed genetically modified feed (corn, soy…).  You are what you eat and animals are what they eat. If unhealthy substances were used in the raising of the animals, those substances will be concentrated in the animal bones and body tissues, and therefore concentrated in your finished bone broth.

1.  Put slightly meaty bones, cartilage, feet, tails, etc. (they do not have to be stripped clean of meat) in a sauce pan or big soup pot (if you have a lot of bones) and cover with water, just enough to cover bones well. I break up the bones as best I can and squish them down into the soup pot bottom.

2.  Add a generous tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) and cover the pot.  If you are doing a big pot of bone broth use more of the ACV. For estimation purposes I use a heaping tablespoon of ACV for a whole chicken’s pot of bones.

3.  I soak the bones in the vinegar water for at least an overnight and then…

4.  I slow simmer the bones for hours the next day. I gently bring the bone filled pot to a simmer on the stove top.

5.  I then place the pot o’ bones in a pre-heated 220 F oven and leave for 5-6 hours if chicken or fish bones and longer if the harder bones of pork or beef (at least 6-8 hours).  Yes, a crock pot works well.  You could simmer for hours on the stovetop but I find the oven temp is easier to regulate and keep the simmer from boiling away the broth. Cool fall and cold winter days make for extra warmth in the kitchen with the oven going. Slow roast something for dinner to get extra bang for your buck using the oven for so long.

6.  After simmering, I remove the bones with a large slotted spoon.  Use the broth as a soup stock or eat the broth as it is, drink it like a morning or evening cup of tea.  I add a bit of unrefined sea salt to taste.

7.  If making soup, I sauté the veggies and other soup ingredients before adding them to the hot bone broth. This avoids further simmering of the broth.

8.  Toward the end of bone broth simmering you can add herbs** that contribute to the anti-inflammatory effects: turmeric & ginger root, rosemary, thyme, oregano… allow the herbs to gently simmer (that 220 degree oven is hot enough) for an hour if a leaf/flower and simmer for 2 hours if a bark/root/seed.  (Similar information is the making of herbal tea infusions: )

9.  When I re-warm the broth for sipping I will sometimes add small amounts of marshmallow root powder, slippery elm bark powder, and/or licorice root powder. These herbs are anti-inflammatory and also contribute to the soothing effect; the heal and seal for the gut lining.

10.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove the bones from your finished broth.  

Now what to do with it?

  • Put into glass canning jars and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Drink one or two cups daily, gently warmed up, like a tea.
  • Use it as soup stock.
  • Freeze to use later as bone broth tea or soup stock.

I often keep my bones soaking in the vinegar solution for days or weeks. I keep the bones in a wide mouth canning jar in the fridge. I add bones to this jar until I have enough to justify making bone broth and/or the outside temperature is cool enough to be ok with my long oven usage. With fall and winter just around the corner, sorry dear Co-op friends, it is a good time of the year for long cooking of bone broth.

Enjoy making and sipping bone broth.

**This is part of my vegetarian and vegan friendly information for enhancing your gut health through plant based choices…

Thanks for hanging in there and continuing this read. As a vegetarian or vegan you can cook up vegetable broths that are enhanced with the above herbs.

· Slippery elm, marshmallow, and licorice root have coating and soothing effects on the gut lining. I use them in many ways as bonus gut health foods – teas or the powdered herbs mixed into plain/full fat yogurt with added L-glutamine powder.

·Add red cabbage to your soup as it is a plant based source of L-glutamine. Red Cabbage is considered the densest vegetable form of L-glutamine. Making red cabbage sauerkraut is another great way to use cabbage and create a highly bio-available form of l-glutamine.

·Other sources of L-glutamine to help tighten up those junctions: the highest levels found in grass-fed beef, bison, chicken, and free range eggs. Raw dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats are also very high in L-glutamine.

·Plant sources: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts and peanut butter are all good sources (peanuts can be disturbing to gut health in people with pre-existing gut issues). Dried lentils, peas, and beans contribute L-glutamine as well. Other vegetables sources include spinach, parsley, and beets.

·It is best if these vegetables are consumed raw or fermented in order to maximize their glutamine content and increase bioavailability. Cooking heat, especially high heat, breaks down the L-glutamine.

·A recipe for using raw, red cabbage in fresh slaws:

·Making sauerkraut with red cabbage:

Conveniently made for you bone broth in Canton-Potsdam area: 

  • Potsdam Food Co-op in Potsdam carries Pacific Organic bone broths, in aseptic packages, on the grocery shelf.
  • Nature's Storehouse in Canton carries Bonafide organic beef broth in their meat freezer.

2 websites for further learning about bone broth and healing the gut lining (type "bone broth" or "leaky gut syndrome" into the website's search bar):