Guide to Bone Broth for Gut Health and Digestion
Your gut is the cornerstone of immunity, health and wellness. There are huge long and short term health benefits to drinking bone broth for gut health.
But was is the best bone broth for gut health? Read on to find out.
Does bone broth really heal the gut?
Here’s what we know about bone broth and gut health. A healthy gut does the following:
- Protects us from disease and infection
- Aids in digestion and absorption of food
- Regulates metabolism
- Produces hormones
- And much more!
You might be asking: what makes a healthy gut? And how does bone broth heal the gut? Well, that is a loaded question my friend. But I have good news for you.
While genetics play a role in your gut health, you can directly change your gut flora through lifestyle choices like diet and eating gut healing foods like bone broth.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is an ancient beverage made from cooking beef and chicken bones (typically) meat and cartilage for a long time. 12-48 hours.
The long, slow simmer is needed to extract the collagen protein, amino acids and other gut healing compounds from the bones.
This article explains why bone broth is the ultimate beverage for your gut health. I'll explain exactly how much bone broth you need to drink for gut health and how to drink bone broth for your gut. You’ll also find which bone broth brand is best for gut health.
What is a Healthy Gut?
Research shows us that a healthy gut consists of a diverse range of bacteria or gut flora.
Think of your gut as a garden. You have to constantly nourish it with the right gut healing foods like bone broth to ensure your gut stays happy.
Our gut naturally changes to adapt to the environment we place it in. So as we age, travel to new places or take drugs, the compositions of our gut changes.
Here are a few things that destroy your gut health:
- NSAIDs: aspirin, ibuprofen (think advil), acetaminophen and naproxen
- Antibiotics, birth control, antacids, steroids
- Stress leading to chronic inflammation or infection
- Eating foods you may be allergic to, and perhaps not know it. This includes dairy, gluten, alcohol, among others
- Eating processed foods high in hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates
- A lack of fermentable (plant) fibers in your diet
How Your Gut Health Gets Compromised
Stress, particularly from a lifestyle dominated by work, food sensitivities and excessive exercise causes our gut lining to break down and become permeable. This is bad!
Your gut becomes porous which leads to partially digested proteins leaking through your small intestine into your bloodstream.
Now, your immune system freaks out because it sees these proteins in your blood as foreign. Your immune system mounts an inflammatory immune response attacking these foreign proteins.
This is referred to as Leaky Gut Syndrome.
In the long term, this immune response can lead to autoimmune conditions:
- celiac disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- type 1/2 diabetes
If you leave your body in a chronically inflamed state then autoimmunity may result. Focus on the word ‘may.’
So far we’ve talked about issues pertaining to gut function or lack thereof, but it’s important to point out that your gut health affects so much more.
Gut health issues are related to many chronic diseases:
- Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis
- Heart disease
Bone Broth for Gut Health: The Ingredients
Bone broth for gut health typically consists of 5-10 ingredients. There are 2 ingredients responsible for the gut healing benefits of bone broth: water and bones.
Other ingredients in bone broth are aromatics, vegetables, herbs and spices. These ingredients are for taste only and do not directly help your gut health.
A word of caution: be careful of bone broth brands listing buzzworthy foods and ingredients at the end of their ingredient list.
This is called ‘ingredient stuffing’ and is used to boost the supposed health benefits of a food product. In reality the ingredient is in such low quantities that there are no gut health benefits of bone broth in these products.
Nutrients in Gut Healing Bone Broth
Bone broth made from a traditional recipe should be at least 90% collagen / gelatin. I include gelatin because gelatin is a cooked version of collagen.
Not every bone broth will be > 90% collagen and gelatin. You must follow a specific recipe to make bone broth for gut health.
You need at least 8 grams of protein per cup of bone broth to get the gut healing compounds. Anything less and the bone broth will not heal your gut.
Here are the components in a traditionally made gut healing bone broth.
- Glycine - a healing amino acid found in bone broth that specifically helps to heal your gut.
- Gelatin - a cooked version of collagen that assists in digestion and absorption of food.
- Glutamine - an amino acid that acts as a fuel source for your gut and intestinal cells (1).
- Proline - an amino acid that helps heal wounds to promote gut health (2).
- Hydroxyproline - a non-essential amino acid found in bone broth that promotes gut health.
- Collagen - nourishes your intestinal walls and decreases gut inflammation.
- Electrolytes - to hydrate your gut and whole body.
Bone broth for Gut Health: Is it Glycine or the Bones?
Bone broth made from a traditional recipe is full of glycine. Glycine is a unique amino acid because of it’s gut healing properties.
Glycine is one of the most potent anti-inflammatories for your gut health: including your stomach and intestines (3).
Why are anti-inflammatories important for gut health?
Inflammation occurs in our guts when tiny food particles work their way outside of your digestive system into our bloodstream.
Food should not get outside your digestive system. It literally seeps through your gut into the rest of your body.
This kicks off an inflammatory ruckus in our bodies, causing long-term health issues like Crohn's ,IBD or ulcerative colitis.
Gelatinous bone broth is made up of approximately 1/3rd glycine.
Glycine fights inflammation by building new connective tissue in our gut. This new tissue ensures that no foreign toxins or food particles can leak through our gut.
Glycine is so potent that doctors are using it to manage Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis and IBD (4).
You can find 3 g of glycine in one cup of bone broth for gut health.
Gelatin for Your Digestive System
Most of the gut healing protein in bone broth is due to gelatin. Gelatin is a type of protein that is similar to collagen.
For all intents and purposes, gelatin and collagen have the same health benefits. Why? Because gelatin and collagen share an identical amino acid profile.
Meaning, they both have glycine (great for gut health), proline, glucosamine and glutamine in identical amounts.
So what’s the difference? Gelatin is a cooked form of collagen. And since bone broth for gut health is simmered or cooked for a long time, the collagen turns into gelatin in the finished bone broth.
Gelatin does two things for your gut health.
1. Gelatin helps your body digest food
Gelatin in bone broth helps your gut by attracting digestive enzymes to the food when it’s in your gut. This helps your gut efficiently break down the fat, carbs and protein.
These digestive enzymes also help to build up the mucus layer of your gut to ensure that it functions properly (5).
2. Gelatin satisfies hunger
One of the overlooked benefits of bone broth for gut health is how it makes you feel full (6). Bone broth satisfies your hunger due to the gelatin protein in it. If you ever wonder why bone broth ‘gels’ in your fridge, it is because of the gelatin.
You can read about common mistakes why your bone broth does not gel.
What does feeling full have to do with gut health?
Our digestive systems need time to rest and digest. If you are constantly snacking or feeding throughout the day, your gut may not have time to digest food properly. Things get overloaded and you get indigestion.
Bone broth for gut health satisfies your hunger which helps to restore proper hormone function in your gut.
Hormones are what control your hunger and full signals. Once these are working properly, your gut can properly rest and digest between meals (7).
Glutamine for Gut Health
Glutamine doesn’t get a ton of attention from bone broth enthusiasts. But it should. Glutamine is an important component in bone broth for gut health. The cells in your gut rely on glutamine as a primary fuel source.
Specifically, the villi in your gut need glutamine to prevent bacteria from entering the small intestine (8).
Glutamine has been used to treat the following chronic diseases:
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Short bowel disease
- Celiac disease
You can get a natural source of glutamine to help maintain gut health by drinking bone broth.
Proline’s Role in Healing Your Gut Lining
Proline is a fascinating amino acid. It helps form new collagen, regenerates cartilage, repairs wounds and skin damage, repairs joints and heals your gut lining.
For the sake of an article on gut health, let’s stick to the gut healing properties of proline.
Proline helps to strengthen the tissues in your gut. This helps you absorb nutrients and prevents autoimmune responses to food.
Proline specifically helps maintain the integrity of the cells in your small and large intestine.
Proline in bone broth protects your health by:
- Reducing inflammatory cytokines in your gut
- Growing beneficial gut bacteria (9)
- Improving T-lymphocyte numbers
- Regulating secretion of IgA cells (10)
Hydration and Your Digestive System
Being hydrated with a good balance of naturally occurring electrolytes is also necessary for your gut health.
Poor gut health is a risk factor for low electrolyte levels and low electrolyte levels stop your stomach acid from killing bad bacteria (11).
As you can see, hydration plays a role in gut health. Why do I bring this up? Bone broth is the ultimate whole food source of electrolytes for the health of your gut.
Chicken bone broth is full of potassium, magnesium, chloride and phosphorus to provide you with endless hydration to ensure your gut functions properly.
What’s the most healing bone broth for gut health?
Beef bone broth is the best bone broth gut health provided that you are drinking real bone broth from a traditional recipe.
Your beef bone broth must have at least 8 grams of protein per 250ml serving to have gut healing benefits.
Why is beef bone broth better for gut health? Glycine. Yes, that same amino acid I keep harping on. Beef bone broth has more glycine than chicken bone broth because of the type III in beef bone broth.
Glycine fights gut inflammation by rebuilding the connective tissue that lines your gut.
Which brand of bone broth is best for gut health?
Bluebird Provisions makes bone broth following a traditional recipe which specifically isolates gelatin, glycine and amino acids for gut health.
Their bone broth has 8-12 grams of protein per serving -- more than enough to get the gut healing compounds like glycine, gelatin, glutamine and proline.
Bluebird Provisions bone broth also has more hydrating electrolytes than other bone broth.
How much bone broth should I drink to heal my gut?
To heal your gut, try drinking one cup of bone broth first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Do this for three days, then take stock of how you feel. Is your digestion better? Are you less bloated?
From here you can adjust your bone broth intake to suit the specific needs of your gut and digestion.
Try drinking a small cup of bone broth before / with every meal to heal your gut. Many bone broth experts swear by it.
How do you drink bone broth for your gut?
It is best to drink your bone broth plain for gut health. Here are a few helpful steps to drinking bone broth got gut health:
- Heat your bone broth in a pot on the stove (or microwave in a mug) until simmering.
- Pour into your mug or cup of choice
- Sprinkle a bit of salt to taste or add in other bone broth add ins (ginger is great for gut health).
- Enjoy your gut healing bone broth
How long does it take to see results from bone broth?
You’ll notice results from bone broth within the first 7 days if you drink bone broth daily. Many of our guests first notice that they ‘feel better’ and they have more energy first.
Gradually they will notice their gut health improve between 7-14 days.
The skin healing benefits of bone broth take shape at 6-8 weeks of regular bone broth drinking.
What are the side effects of drinking bone broth?
There are no reported side effects of drinking bone broth. There is no upper limit to how much bone broth you can drink for gut health. Just be logical and do not overdo your consumption. Start with one cup per day, then you can gradually increase to one cup per meal for gut health.
If you are looking for a natural gut health remedy, then bone broth is a great choice. There is no downside and the unique proteins found in bone broth are shown to increase gut health in the following ways:
- Bone broth is full of glycine to decrease inflammation in your gut and improve the tissues that line your gut.
- Bone broth contains gut healing gelatin. Gelatin helps you digest food by increasing hormones and gastric juices in your gut.
- Bone broth is full of glutamine and proline. These two amino acids work in tandem as a primary fuel source for the cells in your gut.
- Hydration is an important component of your gut health. You can cover your electrolyte and hydration needs using bone broth for gut health.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the CFIA or FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Image via: Science Direct
If your bone broth gels at fridge temperature, you know it has enough gut healing amino acids. Hope this helps!
Thank you for the informative article , really great tips .
I live in a country which does not sell any of those listed bone broth brands , can I make my own bone broth and how will I know whether it will have all the necessary qualities needed to actually heal my gut ?
Thanks for explaining and my apologies for stating as such. I was reading some research stating that autism should be treated (no characterized) as a chronic disease and I misspoke. I’ll edit the article now.
Autism isn’t a chronic disease.- Your friendly neighbourhood autistic.
Yes bone broth is the best natural source of collagen you can find. Stick to a high quality version and try to get one cup or so per day.
I have Scleroderma, is bone broth good to take since it has collagen. Collagen is one of the major factors of this disease.
I’m so sorry to hear about these complications with your gut :( My goodness that sounds awful.
I’m really reluctant to say if it will help or not. We have guests who say bone broth helps them get through flare ups like you are having, however, it is so individual and up to the rest of their diet as well.
It should help with 1-3 cups per day. But be careful with all the foods you eat as your gut is so sensitive right now. It will get better!
I just got back from a trip to Mexico and after taking probably too much ibuprofen for a bad headache while there, I got a horrible case of diarrhea and now have “infectious colitis”. My stomach is ruined. I am on abx for the infection. So basically all the things that ruin your gut! My bowel movements are almost complete blood. I’m barely eating and my stomach is very swollen and painful. Will taking bone broth help at this time? I feel like I’m going to die! 😭
In your case I would recommend drinking it 2 times per week to keep things at bay.
If you drink it every day for the 7-10 days and you feel better, then how often should you drink it after feeling like it’s healed your gut?
Hi Sherrin, glad it is working for you!
Great article— I am enjoying mine. Thanks.
Woops! That is a big typo. Thanks for letting me know. I will get that changed today.
“Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the CFIA or FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your [veterinarian] before trying anything mentioned in this article.”
What if I don’t have a pet? ;)