Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride taught me that mental health depends upon the health of our immune system, and the health of the immune system depends upon the health of the gut. All of the strategies she suggests in the GAPS Healing Protocol are designed to enhance immunity, which fundamentally is achieved by promoting gut health. One of the staples of the GAPS immune supportive approach is the regular consumption of broth and stock made from the bones and meat of animals. This nourishing traditional slow food has virtually disappeared from our modern convenience oriented diet. The loss of the valuable nutrients in regularly consumed broth has contributed to the general erosion of the health of so many in our culture.
Broth contains four vital amino acids, proline, glycine, glutamine and alanine. All of them are considered non-essential amino acids, meaning that unlike essential amino acids, our body can produce them without getting them from food. But in order to enjoy vibrant health, or to support recovery from illness, it is necessary to get an additional quantity of these four amino acids from diet.
Proline is a key ingredient in the formation of collagen and cartilage. Glycine is essential for the synthesis of hemoglobin, for the digestion of fats and it reduces inflammation. It is one of the key ingredients in powdered gelatin, about which I wrote a blog post a few years ago, and which remains one of the most popular posts. I recommend the comments section following the post, as it contains numerous fascinating accounts from readers about their experiences with gelatin. Glutamine supports cell proliferation, which is helpful in the repair of the enterocytes lining the wall of the gut. It stimulates the immune system and supports detoxification. Alanine plays a role in liver function, glycolysis and gluconeogenesis and is thus often used as a supplement by athletes to enhance endurance and build muscle mass.
The longer meat and bones are cooked, the richer in amino acids the broth becomes. When meat and bones are cooked for a long period of time, histamine forms, and thus long cooked broth is not recommended for those with histamine intolerance. In addition, there are unfortunately many individuals, including many autistic children, who cannot metabolize glutamine properly. Glutamine is changed to glutamate, and those who are sensitive to MSG, also sometimes react adversely to the glutamine in bone broth. In those cases, as well as for those with histamine intolerance, lightly cooked broth is better tolerated. As gut healing progresses, longer cooked broth which contains greater quantities of amino acids can be introduced.
In my psychiatry practice, in addition to recommending nutrients to rebalance brain biochemistry according to the approach of Dr. William Walsh, I recommend the strategies I learned from Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride to support the immune system via supporting the health of the gut. I regularly suggest that my patients eat fermented foods to supply beneficial microflora and to drink broth daily to promote the integrity of the lining of the gut wall. Both of these nutrient dense foods can be purchased, but they also can be made at home. Fermented vegetables are simple to prepare, but broth can be more daunting. time consuming and messy.
Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A Price Foundation has written a new book called Nourishing Broth. It contains a wealth of information about the health benefits of broth as well as many recipes. One of my favorites is a slow cooker recipe for chicken broth on page 176, that is really easy, and provides a constant ready source of nutritious healing broth. With this method, there is always freshly made broth on hand. No more excuses.
Here is the recipe.
Continuous Slow Cooker Broth
by Jenny McGruther, Nourished Kitchen blog, Crested Butte, Colorado
1 whole chicken (or the carcass and bones of a roasted chicken)
2 chicken feet and 1 chicken head if available
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Any vegetable scraps you have on hand
Cold filtered water
Place the whole chicken or the carcass of a roasted chicken and optional head and feet into your slow cooker, add the bay leaves, black peppercorns, vinegar, and any vegetable scraps you have on hand (if using carrots, peel them before adding). Add enough cold filtered water to cover the bones, cover, and cook on low for 1 week (this process is safe as long as there is plenty of liquid in the slow cooker), checking occasionally to ensure that the ingredients remain covered with water and adding more water as needed.
After 24 hours, you may begin using the broth. Simply dip a ladle or measuring cup into the slow cooker to remove the amount of broth you need. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer or a reusable coffee filter to remove any solids. Replace the broth that you remove from the slow cooker with an equivalent amount of filtered water. If you’re using a whole fresh chicken, you may also remove chicken meat from the slow cooker to use in stir-fries and other dishes, soups or salads.
At the end of the week, strain off any remaining broth. Wash the liner of your slow cooker and start again.