What is leaky gut?
Before we dive into bone broth for leaky gut let’s clear any confusion around what exactly leaky gut is. Leaky gut is a very hot topic in the gut health world and you may have wondered if this is real or just a fad. Leaky gut is real and the scientific name for leaky gut is intestinal permeability. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is describing a gap (that is normally not present) between the cells that line our gut. Usually, to prevent large substances from crossing our gut barrier, or leaking through, are cells are close together forming what is called a tight junction.
Another way to think about leaky gut and tight junctions is to imagine you have a set of building blocks and you want to build a wall. As an adult, you would take your blocks and neatly place each one right next to the other so that there isn’t any space between them. Those blocks each represent a cell lining our gut and them being neatly placed right next to each other would be a tight junction.
Now imagine the preschool version of you building a wall. You would grab the blocks and haphazardly place them next to each other with gaps in between them. If those blocks are cells in our gut then the preschool version of a block wall would be a leaky gut.
To be completely honest, we are all a little bit leaky. There is no such thing as a perfect gut at all times and that is ok and normal. It is when our gut is constantly inflamed and leaky that someone could start to experience a variety of digestive symptoms.
What is bone broth?
Bone broth is made when you simmer bones with water and vinegar over a long period of time. This process allows the nutrients from the bones to be pulled out and into the water making it a nutrient-rich broth. You can make bone broth with your leftover rotisserie chicken or beef or pork bones.
Making bone broth is really easy but it just takes time. I like this bone broth recipe used by Minimalist Baker but you could also cut down the time by making bone broth in your Instant Pot.
What are the benefits of bone broth for leaky gut?
If you google leaky gut chances are one of the top results that you will see to help with leaky gut is bone broth. Bone broth does have it’s benefits and I think it’s part of the reason why chicken soup is so good for us when we are sick.
The nutrients that get pulled from the bones when making broth are amino acids (amino acids are the building blocks of protein), vitamins, and collagen (a protein that helps make our connective tissues like skin and cells). Also, bone broth is very easily digested because of the simple components that make it up.
Theoretically, it is all of these nutrients and its simple nature that helps to repair the tight junctions and nourish our gut. But the more you dive into the research the more those claims aren’t found to be totally confirmed. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t true but that science hasn’t completely confirmed or denied them.
I do like bone broth for a couple of reasons.
Despite the lack of confirmed research on bone broth benefits, I think the nutrients in bone broth could be helpful for the gut. Sipping on some bone broth when you are feeling crummy could help your tummy. Because bone broth is a simple food it can be helpful for someone who wants to get in some nutrition when they aren’t feeling very good (maybe when their gut symptoms are flaring). In fact, I prefer eating bone broth as part of a soup. It adds extra nutrition and gives your soup more flavor.
Bone broth can be a nice option if you like the ritual of a hot beverage to sip as you go about your morning. Now I am not saying this can replace coffee but if you like something hot to sip on but don’t want the caffeine then this might be a good option.
So things to watch out for in your bone broth.
There are many readily available bone broths on the market shelves making it very convenient. But, when you purchase pre-packaged bone broth you don’t have any control over the other ingredients added. Ingredients you may have a food sensitivity to could trigger gut symptoms.
Bone broth is a food that naturally contains histamine, this is due to the long process required to make the broth. So, someone who has a histamine intolerance might not tolerate bone broth well. If you find this is the case for you then reducing the amount of bone broth you drink could be helpful and/or discontinuing bone broth and discussing this with your doctor or dietitian.
One of the other substances that could potentially get pulled from the bones when making the broth is lead. This is another area where research can get a little unclear but so far it seems that lead (and other toxic metals) aren’t too big, if at all, a concern. The reason I wanted to mention this is because I think it highlights the importance of using good quality bones. Dr. Kara Fitzgerald did a great report on testing bone broth for lead and nutrient value that which you can check out here.
Should you incorporate bone broth for your gut health?
Unless you have concerns about histamine then I think bone broth can be a nice addition to your gut health diet.
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.