If there’s one thing on everybody’s minds right now, it’s our immune systems: how to protect them; how to strengthen them; how to nourish them. Self-care is important right now for so many reasons. Not only do we need to worry about protecting ourselves and our loved ones from illness, but we need to take time to also protect ourselves from the consequences of the worrying that we will all likely be doing for the foreseeable future. Uncertainty breeds stress and fear, both of which wreak havoc on even the strongest constitutions. It’s important to keep both your body and your mind nourished to maintain a strong and resilient immune system.
In these uncertain times, perhaps the absolute best thing we can be doing is nourishing our bodies and boosting our immunity with age-old, tried and true natural remedies – remedies that may not be sold over the counter, but have been passed down through generations. Generations that have faced illness and uncertainty before, without a definite answer on how to combat it, much like our society is facing today. One natural remedy that has stood the test of time and has recently begun standing the test of science, is bone broth. Once thought of as an ancestral cure, bone broth is now being scientifically studied, and its effects on gut health and immunity are becoming more and more widely recognized.
Bone Broth and Immunity
To understand how bone broth contributes to a strengthened immune system, it’s important to recognize its gut healing health benefits. Increased intestinal permeability, colloquially referred to as “leaky gut”, is a condition in which the intestinal wall has weakened, and bacteria and toxins are able to permeate this barrier and enter your bloodstream. This can often lead to an inflammatory response and a possible immune reaction, as your body understandably tries to fight these “invaders.”
Leaky gut can be problematic for a few reasons. First and foremost, the ability of toxins and bacteria to enter your bloodstream and cause inflammation can wreak havoc on your digestive system as well as your immune system. Leaky gut can leave you feeling bloated, fatigued, and in severe cases, can cause chronic discomfort and digestive tract upsets which affect your daily life. At the same time, the permeability of your gut can weaken your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, which can cause deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals. No matter how healthy your diet, if you suffer from leaky gut, your body may not be able to make proper use of the nutritious food you consume.
So, how do you boost your immune system with bone broth? When it comes to the immune-destroying implications of leaky gut, bone broth can be something of a magic bullet. This is due to several factors:
- Bone broth is anti-inflammatory
- Bone broth contains collagen, which helps to “heal and seal” the gut and decrease intestinal permeability
- The ingredients in bone broth are nutrient-dense and promote gut health
- Let’s examine these factors in a bit more detail.
Anti-inflammatory properties of bone broth
Once relegated to the natural health community, the diagnosis of “inflammation” is becoming more and more recognized by mainstream medicine as a precursor to many chronic health issues. While you still won’t hear the term bandied around many doctors’ offices, several scientific studies are uncovering a link between inflammation and diseases such as hypertension, auto-immune disorders, and even sleep apnea, to name just a few.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of bone broth lie in the amino acids it contains. Amino acids such as arginine and glycine have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory effects, and glycine aids in the digestion of food by stimulating the production of stomach acids. Another amino acid found in bone broth, l-glutamine, aids in gut health because the tissues found in the gut require l-glutamine to properly function. L-glutamine helps to heal and seal the gut, reducing the propensity of toxins and bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause an inflammatory response.
The role of collagen in gut health
Collagen is an important protein, responsible for providing the building blocks for connective tissue, ligaments, skin, and bones. It’s due to the buildup of this important protein in the tissue, skin, and bones of animals that collagen is such a vital component of bone broth. As you might expect, this essential nutrient is also an important building block of much of the human body, including the gut. As your bone broth is slowly simmered, collagen is transferred from the ingredients you use into your broth, where it becomes easily digestible in liquid form. Collagen contains several amino acids, and as we’ve discussed, these amino acids are essential for building a strong intestinal wall, which helps to seal nutrients in the gut and allows them to be digested and absorbed by the body. Healing and sealing the gut also keeps toxins and bacteria out of your bloodstream and reduces the likelihood of an inflammatory immune response.
If you’ve ever heard of the benefits of collagen for your skin, the same principles apply to your gut. Ours guts are composed of the amino acids present in collagen, so consuming these amino acids can stimulate cell growth and healing in our intestinal lining. Bone broth is an especially efficient way to obtain these essential amino acids, because the liquid form is easily digested by the body. Your digestive system has to work very hard to digest meat, but bone broth provides all of the essential nutrients of meat in a way that is much easier for your body to break down.
Delicious and nutritious
Another quality of bone broth that makes it such a fantastic way to boost your immune system is that unlike many immune boosting supplements, it is a whole food product that nourishes and heals your body at the same time. If you’ve ever tasted warm, nutrient-dense bone broth, you know what we’re talking about. You almost can’t believe how good it is for you because it tastes like a rich, comforting soup. In fact, not to downplay the actual scientific benefits of bone broth, because there are many, but the nourishing comfort that bone broth provides is arguably as big a benefit as the actual nutrition. It’s the culinary equivalent of a warm hug.
There are many ways to make bone broth. Almost any type of bones can be used (chicken bone, beef bone, lamb bone, pork bone, turkey bone, etc.), but they should always be pasture-raised and organic. The slow simmering required to make a proper batch of bone broth ensures that an abundance of nutrients are leached from the bones and into your broth – the healthier the animal, the healthier the resulting broth will be. Where people like to get creative is with the other additions to their broth – it’s pretty standard to use a selection of fresh herbs and apple cider vinegar when making bone broth, along with mirepoix veggies such as leeks, kale, carrots, and onions. But you can also add other immune boosting foods such as cloves garlic, fresh ginger or turmeric root – these make the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits of bone broth even stronger, and can either be added during the simmering process, or after the broth has been made. Some people like to make a large batch of a simple bone broth, and then choose to simmer individual servings with garlic or other spices.
When to Boost Your Immunity with Bone Broth
There is no wrong time to drink bone broth. Especially if you’re using bone broth for its healing properties, you may wish to consume it several times per day. When using bone broth to boost your immunity, a comforting cup of bone broth in the evening can be a perfect way to end your day. Not only does bone broth contribute to a more restful sleep, which is healing in and of itself, but allowing your body to rest after consuming the bone broth really lets the immune boosting and detoxification functions of the broth get to work. When your body is resting rather than attempting to multitask during a busy day, your body is able to focus its energy on healing, not to mention absorbing all of the beneficial nutrients in the broth.
So if you’re looking to keep your immune system strengthened during the common cold or flu season, we recommend making bone broth a part of your daily diet. You can boost your immunity with bone broth, and settling in to enjoy a warm cup of nutritious bone broth is also a comforting, relaxing way to unwind and try to quiet your mind.
For instances of acute illness, when you may not feel like eating much of anything, bone broth is an amazing way to keep your body sustained with essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, while not taxing your already overworked system with the task of digesting a heavy meal. Drinking several cups of wholesome bone broth when your body needs extra nourishment is an invaluable way to support your immune system.