Gut Health: A Brief Overview
Hippocrates told us more than 2000 years ago that the gut, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or microbiome is “ground zero” for our body’s health when he proclaimed that “All disease begins in the gut”. The gut is your body’s first line of defense against illness, the fuel tank for your immune system, and a perpetual battlefield where billions of good and bad bacteria duke it out to the bitter end. So, what happens when your gut health is compromised?
Your gut contains millions of tight junctions, or small gaps, which allow nutrients and water to pass from your gut and into your bloodstream. As bad gut bacteria batter away at your gut lining, those junctions loosen. As a result, foreign and hostile particles are able enter your bloodstream and lead to serious health issues, kind of like a trojan horse behind enemy lines. This condition has been informally dubbed “leaky gut syndrome”.
The extent of a leaky gut’s negative effect on the human body is an ongoing topic of debate in the medical community. Though it has yet to be formally labeled as a clinical syndrome, leaky gut has become the starting point for many doctors in treating myriad problems including allergies, skin conditions, migraines, brain fog, asthma, and autoimmune disease.
What Causes Poor Gut Health?
Lifestyle factors such as alcohol, smoking, and lack of sleep are prevalent causes of gut damage. Additionally, certain foods are known to cause serious inflammation in the body. That inflammation starts in the gut, irritating and breaking down stomach and intestinal tissue, and causing a leaky gut. Some of the most common offenders are:
- Refined sugar and carbohydrates
- Highly processed vegetable oil (canola, peanut, etc.)
- Preservatives and additives commonly used in processed foods
If you’ve ever done an elimination diet, such as Whole30 or Paleo, you may have noticed that this list has a lot in common with the Whole30 list of “no” foods. If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it’s a 30-day elimination program wherein you remove inflammatory foods from your diet entirely, and systematically re-introduce them to identify the things that irritate your body. Read more about Whole30 and
How Bone Broth Can Help
Just as the inflammatory foods listed above can cause gut damage, certain nutritious foods are useful in helping to repair gut damage. Foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt, apple cider vinegar, kimchi and sauerkraut are great for boosting healthy bacteria, while prebiotics such as onion, garlic, asparagus, bananas, and chicory root fiber provide food for the existing healthy bacteria. But if your stomach lining is already compromised, you’ll also need to start eating foods that can help sooth and tighten up those junctions that have been harmed by the bad bacteria.
Bone broth, when made properly, contains copious amounts of gelatin – an essential type of protein with 4 specific amino acids that your body needs to repair a leaky gut:
- Glutamine – helps to repair your intestinal lining, all the while boosting immune cell activity.
- Glycine – Glycine is anti-inflammatory, important for a healthy nervous system and cellular health, and supports overall well-being.
- Arginine – stimulates production of human growth hormone, an obvious necessity when your body is working to repair a wound. It also boosts your metabolism and assists in proper kidney function.
- Proline – helps strengthen gut wall tissue, improves skin elasticity and supports joint health.
This cocktail of amino acids is found naturally in a quality bone broth, making it the ideal tool for working to repair your gut.
How to Know the Best Bone Broth
The best way to ensure you’re getting the best bone broth is to make it yourself. If you’re like most of us, you either don’t have the time, or you don’t want a pot of bones simmering in your home for 18+ hours every week. Then there’s the cleanup. But if you buy bone broth, how do you know it’s rich in collagen, gelatin and amino acids necessary to sooth and repair your gut?
As a trained chef who takes his nutrition and fitness very seriously, I co-founded Bare Bones in 2013 because I could not find a packaged bone broth made to my standards. Any chef will tell you that a good broth will gel when cold – from a culinary standpoint, this gelatin is required for making traditional sauces. From a nutritional standpoint, the presence of gelatin is a must for providing a truly healing and nourishing bone broth.
At Bare Bones, we start with collagen-rich bones and connective tissues from pastured, responsibly raised animals and slow simmer them at a low temperature for 18+ hours along with organic vegetables, herbs and spices. This crucial low and slow simmer gives the collagen ample time to transfer from the bones into the broth, creating a rich, delicious, and nutrient-dense superfood.
Below is my go-to list for what to look for when buying bone broth.
Protein Content. The protein content in bone broth is a dead giveaway. If the nutrition facts show the broth contains 1-2 grams of protein per serving, it is not what you’re looking for. This is a sign that the broth has been diluted to the point where there is no nutritional benefit. You want to look for broth with at least 8+ grams of protein per serving.
Quality Sourcing. Don’t rely solely on the protein content alone. All protein is not created equal. If you’re looking for bone broth to help repair your gut, it matters where the protein came from. The best bone broth is made with bones of grass-fed, pastured animals. This makes all the difference in the quality of the collagen and amino acids, not to mention the nutritional benefits and environmental responsibility that come from consuming healthy meat products. If the broth comes from animals who ate junk, where do you think that junk ends up in the
Got Gelatin? Does the broth gel when chilled? This is the only tangible way to determine if a bone broth was made properly and contains all the good collagen and amino acids needed to truly help repair your gut lining.
Sill have questions? Check out our in-depth bone broth buying guide.