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Bone Broth for Gut Health - How Might It Help?

Hi everybody and welcome to this topic about bone broth and whether it could help to heal your gut.

If you don't recognize me, I'm Ashley Oswald. I am a registered dietitian and founded Oswald Digestive Clinic. And I get to present this information to you today.

So let's just go ahead and dive right in.

What is bone broth?

  • Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals for one to two days,

  • It can be used in soups and sauces or on its own as a health drink.

  • Popular among chefs, holistic practitioners, and athletes for its potential healing properties.

I'm going to help to break down the science for you today. I put out this image here of Brodo, which is a newer restaurant in New York City. That is mostly at the time I was looking at it, it was just selling bone broths.

They might have expanded on to soups and things, but it just kind of goes to show how popular bone broth has gotten over the past few years. I actually have a personal story growing up.

My mom would use gelatin to strengthen her nails, and we're going to talk about what's the difference between collagen and gelatin and, all that, but it actually is and was effective. So it's pretty cool when you see those instant changes as far as food and medicine go.

Bone Broth as a Cultural Staple

So bone broth, it's been a cultural staple for some time for its healing immune-boosting properties throughout history.

  • Thai Noodle Soup

  • Vietnamese Pho

  • Japanese miso soup which they've always said is kind of boosting the immune system, helping to fight off cold.

  • Caribbean cow foot soup - We'll discuss a cow's feet in particular to see what potential advantages there may be, and in Chinese medicine it's been said to help with building blood cells and bone, strengthening the kidneys, supporting the digestive system, and recovering from stress.

  • Russian Borscht uses bone broth.

Fun Fact:

An interesting little story in 18th century Paris, travelers stayed the night at Inns and guest houses, and they were served something called restorative which is basically hot broths. And this is, was the first dish on the menu in early restaurants in France. And it kind of led to that word restaurant.

So really this hot broth, this bone broth is the root of where that term restaurant came from. So we don't have any really big double-blinded placebo-controlled randomized trials to see whether bone broth helps with chronic disease states. But if you also think about how it, how would we do a great study that way on bone broth?

It's a challenging study to implement because you'd have to have one group doing a regular amount of bone broth, maybe a few times a day for many months, and then the other group not, but then we'd have to just see how the diseases progress and the kicker is, you have to have all the other variables the same.

The bone broth has to be different in the two groups. To have a good randomized control trial. You can't really hide bone broth, the group taking the bone broth, they're going to know they're taking the bone broth.

Why nutrition research is challenging?

A. Discredit generations of anecdotal evidence from cultures around the globe.

B. We have research supporting some of the health benefits of the individual components of bone broth.

That's what I want to talk to you about today. So I want to kind of lay some this foundation so that you have a better understanding of what this is because I think a lot of people are confused about it. So I want to talk about collagen versus gelatin.

Collagen versus gelatin

Both collagen and gelatin are in bone broth.



​ A degraded cooked-down form of collagen.

​The most abundant protein in the body. You can think of it as that glue that holds everything together. Found in the bones, the skin, the joints, the ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, and the gut.

So they're almost one and the same, basically, gelatin is made from collagen, which is why both of them are found in bone broth. And so about a quarter of the protein in the body is collagen. It starts to decline when people are in their thirties, like age, thirties, and then in the forties, you start to see some wrinkles, sagging skin, weaker bones, stiff joints, and maybe bad eyesight can all come about from decreasing collagen.

So this is a common additive to like anti-wrinkle face creams and things, but it's mostly marketing because can skin can't absorb the large molecules that get added to skin creams and things. So we really should be getting it from our, our foods.

And so the gelatin, it can kind of congeal in the fridge if you've ever had Jell-O as a kid, which is made from gelatin, you can see how it congeals and can make more of a solid and it's not a complete protein, but it does have non-essential amino acids that the body might have a higher demand for in times of surgery, infection, and healing. So it can help the body heal fast.

And on the next topic, I want to talk about some of these amino acids. I also want to add that it's collagen and gelatin. They're not well-rounded protein. It's not gonna meet all your kind of amino acid needs, which again, protein is broken down into amino acids, which then the body uses.

And so further, you have to have a healthy gut to properly break down proteins into amino acids. So that's part of why bone broth is being promoted for people with gut issues because it's thought that someone with poor gut health is going to have a better chance of absorbing some of these amino acids from the broth better.

What's not being talked about, is that broth isn't a comprehensive amino acid.

If someone's just trying to get their amino acids or these parts of the proteins from just bone broth, they're going to be missing out on really important essential amino acids.

So the collagen research it's largely around arthritis and skin health. So it's been shown to have positive benefits for osteoarthritis. And then also for skin health, it was shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity in older individuals and could help reduce skin wrinkles.

It could be helpful for hair growth and strong nails. And then it can help to promote kind of the strength of hair as well.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

  1. Essential - which cannot be made by the body and must come from food

  2. Non-essential - which can be made by the body

So bone broth contains a lot of non-essential amino acids, but why it could still be helpful is that during times of illness and stress like with chronic diseases, for example, the non-essential amino acids might become conditionally essential, which basically means your body has a higher demand and the body can't keep up with the demand for the non-essential amino acids.

So what are the ones that are in bone broth here?

Non-Essential Amino Acids in bone broth



​​The most abundant amino acid in bone broth. Helps make glutathione.

Glycine helps to make this thing which is an important antioxidant it's known as the mother of antioxidants, which basically helps prevent protect your cells from damage

Glutathione is really supportive for detoxification, this natural detox in the body. And it also interestingly can help to make bile salts, which you might know is important for helping to break down and digest fats, which fats if you're eating the right types, the anti-inflammatory types like we talked about in the core course, that's going to be really important and necessary for your body to get that in and into your cells to be properly used. Can help to calm the mood.

So broth can help give some anti-anxiety benefits, some calming benefits.

Now, if broth makes you anxious, it could be instead that you're reacting and having a buildup of glutamate from the broth or you're sensitive to histamines, and then you'd want to talk with a functional nutrition dietitian or functional medicine doctor to kind of explore why you're having that reaction a little bit further because if you're histamine intolerant, you'll want to try to find the root cause to why you're being, having a sensitive reaction to histamine.

See our YouTube Video about "What is histamine intolerance"?

Just wanted to make sure you have an idea of what we are discussing right now.



​Can help to thin the mucus from the lungs so that the mucus can be expelled more easily. So basically it makes that lung mucus less sticky and could help to improve breathing.

​The preferred fuel source for gut cells. And if you are having gut issues, maybe you have Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, or some other issue in your gut. It might be that your body has a higher demand for this glutamine to help heal the gut because it is the preferred fuel source.



​Helps to support the immune system.

​​Helps to repair proteins.


Some other nutrients in bone broth include these things called GAGs. GAGs or Glycosaminoglycans ​are basically the things that are most notable for helping arthritis.

If in your broth, you or whoever made it used cartilage-rich bones, which would be like chicken feet and feet. So I'm coming back to that or beef knuckles, you can get more of these GAGs or Glycosaminoglycans.

Examples of GAGs:

  • Hyaluronic acid - has been used for years to help treat race horses with osteoarthritis

  • Glucosamine - is a precursor to GAGs, and this is notable to help with the growth and repair of cartilage. Can help to reduce arthritis pain. It's one of the best-known joint health supplements

And you can get these GAGs that can do the same thing from bone broth and then, healthy bodies, they make enough GAGs, but if your body has a higher demand, again, you might get some added support from using the broth to help meet that higher demand that like conditionally essential demand.

And then there are a couple of other GAGs that can help with gut and soft tissue healing that can from the bone broth. But again, it's from the cartilage, which is a smooth plastic-like white substance that wraps around the bones and the cartilage-rich ones are like the chicken feet or beef knuckles.

And then bone broth can also provide some minerals, which might be better absorbed, but it's not a significant amount compared to other foods. What some might say is that somebody with a lot of inflammation in the gut might be able to better pull the minerals from the bon