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Is bone broth beneficial for gut health?

Is bone broth beneficial for gut health? Naturopath Kirily Thomas

To bone broth, or not to bone broth – that is a good question! “Is bone broth beneficial for gut health?” is a question that I commonly get asked. If you followed a lot of what’s written in the current and past blogosphere, you’d probably answer yes without hesitation.

However, the answer to that question is not so simple, as it could be either no, maybe or perhaps a yes. And really, whether the regular use of bone broth will be a good support for the health of your gut is completely dependent on the balance of your own gut microbiota (flora).

This is why I don’t like the blanket statements bandied around such as bone broths are good for “everyone”.

Of course, bone broths, like a lovely chicken noodle soup, can be helpful in the short-term when people are recovering from acute illness, or sick with the ‘flu, some other nasty respiratory infection or recovering from a nasty bout of gastro. Slow-cooked bone broths or stocks do have an abundance of easily assimilated protein, minerals and other nutrients, which provide nourishment to both the digestive system and the immune system.

Bone broth can also provide building blocks for the joints and other body tissues, as it naturally contains protein from gelatine/collagen, natural glucosamine and chondroitin, and other joint building blocks such as proline and hyaluronic acid.  

Should you drink bone broth daily?

The reason why I don’t recommend bone broths that much for daily use to my patients with gut issues or inflammatory conditions, is that some compounds found in bone broths can also potentially feed bacteria in the gut that are inflammatory themselves. This includes bugs like Desulfovibrio spp., which is a hydrogen sulphide (H2S) producer and other inflammatory bugs from the Proteobacteria family that produce inflammatory endotoxins such as LPS (lipopolysaccharides). These bugs love “eating” (putrifying) animal protein, saturated fat and the extra bile that’s often produced when we eat these kinds of things. 

Sometimes people may have felt better, initially, because when inflammatory bacteria ferment protein, they don’t produce any gases, so you don’t get any uncomfortable bloating or abdominal distension a lot of the time. I’d be highly suspicious that someone may have higher populations of inflammatory gut bacteria, if they present to me with worsening gut symptoms, joint pain or other inflammatory signs after drinking regular bone broth for a few months, and even more so if they also started following the GAPS diet (which is not suitable for all gut issues), or a keto-type diet or a very low carbohydrate diet, all of which often contain lots of animal protein, and felt like things became worse in the end. Feeding inflammatory bugs in our gut may be particularly problematic in certain gut conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

Does this mean that no-one should drink bone broth?

Not at all – some people will be fine with semi-regular bone broths, as they don’t have issues with large populations of inflammatory bacteria, and, as I said, broth can be a nutritious intervention during/after illness in the short-term. However, as nutritious as it can be, I certainly don’t agree that it’s something we need daily long-term, and nor is it a gut “panacea” that will heal everyone’s gut issues – our gut microbiomes are too individual for that to be the case. 

In these circumstances, I will always find it best to order a good quality microbiome test (one that utilises shotgun metagenomics is ideal), so I can individually assess a patient’s gut microbiome first, enabling me to make the best possible choices to support their gut health, using interventions that are tailored to their particular microbiome balance and clinical presentation. 

Need help with your gut health? Book in for an appointment and we can take a look at what is going on.

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