Your gut is responsible for much more than digestion and nutrient absorption. When the health of your gut is compromised, other conditions and unwanted symptoms may arise.
A key component of functional medicine
is using a food first approach. This means we may “prescribe” certain foods or recipes for different health conditions. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and uses of making bone broth for gut health.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a liquid made by slowly simmering animal bones, typically from poultry, pork, or cows. This broth is nutrient dense and used in soups, sauces, or sipped as a warm drink during the cold months.
Benefits of Bone Broth
While bone broth made a comeback due to the popular paleo diet movement, its use dates back centuries to hunter-gatherer times. These ancestors used every part of the animal with very little waste. Bone broth has many suggested benefits for various conditions. Let’s review a few main advantages of using bone broth for gut health.
Bone broth is a great source of collagen, a protein essential for the structure and function of skin, bones, muscles, and connective tissue. In fact, collagen makes up about 30 percent of the total protein in your body. Our bodies gradually make less collagen with age; however, lower collagen production can also occur due to smoking, excessive alcohol intake, poor sleep, and inactivity. Collagen is integral to gut health as it provides many essential amino acids required to strengthen and protect your gut lining. While research on collagen is limited, one smaller study found that daily collagen intake may reduce bloating and other mild digestive symptoms (1
When the collagen in bone broth is slowly simmered, gelatin is produced. This is why you see a Jell-O consistency when bone broth is chilled. Gelatin may help protect the mucus barrier in your gut. Your gut mucosa is a thick layer of mucus that acts as a protective barrier against harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
Using bone broth for gut health also supplies you with a key amino acid called glutamine.
Your intestinal cells use glutamine as a key nutrient to strengthen your intestinal barrier and lower inflammation in the gut (2
). These two benefits are essential for maintaining the integrity of your gut lining. When the integrity of your gut lining is compromised, larger food proteins or harmful bacteria may enter into the bloodstream. This is known as a “leaky gut.” A leaky gut may cause an unnatural immune response that causes food sensitivities and can even trigger autoimmune disease.
The bones of animals are rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium
, and zinc
. When you simmer a pot of bones, many of these minerals leach into the broth making it a much more nutrient-dense option than store-bought broth or stock. Many of these minerals, especially zinc, are particularly beneficial for gut health. For example, zinc is required to maintain the strength and function of your intestinal cells and magnesium can encourage regular bowel movements (3
How to Make Homemade Bone Broth
Fortunately, you do not need an exact recipe for bone broth. However, there are a few ways to increase the flavor and more effectively extract the benefits from the bones into the broth. The slow cooker method is the most common way to make bone broth at home because the broth requires about 24 hours of simmering time.
You will need the following ingredients to make your bone broth:
Beef, poultry, or pork bones
Mirepoix (chunks of carrots, celery, garlic cloves, onions)
Herbs (fresh sage, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley are great)
½ teaspoon of sea salt or more to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar)
10-12 cups of water
Local ranchers and farmer’s markets are great places to purchase high-quality bones for your broth. However, you can also ask your local butcher if they have bones available. For optimal flavor, consider roasting the bones and vegetables for about 30 minutes at 450 degrees before transferring all ingredients to the slow cooker on low heat. You may need to skim excess fat from the top of the liquid every couple of hours during the simmering process. Add one or more cups of water if the water level looks low throughout cooking. Once at least 24 hours have passed, use a fine mesh strainer to drain the broth into your desired storage container.
Storing Bone Broth
Homemade bone broth stays for up to five days in the refrigerator. There are also various ways to freeze your bone broth if desired. Many people freeze bone broth in muffin tins, silicone baking molds, or ice cube trays and then consolidate into a freezer bag for later use. These methods are helpful if you only need to pull out a small portion of broth. Another way to freeze bone broth for gut health is to use a glass mason jar. However, make sure to completely cool the broth before pouring into the jar and leave plenty of room at the top to prevent the glass from cracking during the freezing process.
Key Takeaways: Bone Broth for Gut Health
Bone broth is a healing beverage known to contain collagen, gelatin, glutamine, and various minerals. When combined, these components may benefit gut health by lowering inflammation
and strengthening the gut barrier to protect against harmful pathogens.