Broth made from chicken’s feet and knuckle bones may sound more like witch’s potion than a healing superfood. In reality, bone broth provides a wealth of nutrients such as minerals, amino acids, gelatin, and collagen. This wonderful combination has been shown to heal digestive disorders, reduce symptoms of autoimmune conditions, and support skin, hair, and joint health. However, less commonly discussed are the benefits of bone broth for body detoxification.
You see, bone broth contains an amino acid called glycine, which is found abundantly in gelatin, connective tissue, and bones (1). One of the roles of glycine is to help the body produce collagen, but it also helps the liver detoxify from a specific nutrient that can cause serious health problems when it builds up in the blood: methionine (2)(3).
What is Methionine?
Methionine is an essential amino acid, which means our bodies can’t produce it, and therefore, we must get it from our diets. For the average person, methionine isn’t hard to get. It’s found in most animal products, such as egg whites, chicken, fish, and beef, with muscle meats such as chicken breast being the richest sources.
Now, methionine has many functions in the body. It helps us metabolize the food we eat, and acts as a powerful antioxidant to help our liver detoxify free radicals (toxins), and prevent them from damaging our cells (4). Methionine is also needed to help the body produce the amino acid, cysteine, which gets converted to glutathione (5)(6). Glutathione is nicknamed the “master of all antioxidants” because of how powerful it is for supporting the liver’s natural detoxification process. As you can see, methionine is essential for our overall health.
When it comes to methionine, the saying “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” rings true.
In other words, methionine is only beneficial for us in the right amounts. When our methionine levels get too high, depleting our glycine levels, methionine can build up in our blood and cause serious health problems (7).
The Problem With Methionine Build Up
There’s no shortage of animal products in our diets today, which is why methionine build-up is becoming more common. There are a few serious health problems and symptoms that can arise when excess methionine accumulates in your system, such as:
Elevated Homocysteine Levels
When methionine is metabolized, it produces an amino acid byproduct, called homocysteine (8). Studies have shown that elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are a sign of B vitamin deficiencies (9).In particular, homocysteine has been shown to deplete B6 and B12, which are needed for cognitive function. This may explain why elevated homocysteine levels are also linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (10).Elevated homocysteine levels are also shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke (11).
Homocysteine is an inflammatory marker, which means excess methionine is also linked to systemic inflammation (12). Systemic inflammation is yet another underlying cause of many chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders and neurological disorders (13).Excess methionine has also been linked to oxidative stress, which essentially means your body can’t keep up with the amount of free radicals that need to be detoxified (14). This results in cellular damage, which is a primary cause of premature aging and neurodegenerative diseases (15).
Excess methionine has been shown to lower blood pH, which contributes to a condition called acidosis— sometimes referred to as “the kiss of death” (16). Perhaps you’ve heard before that an acidic body is the perfect environment for diseases such as cancer, to thrive in. While there’s limited research to back up this claim, it’s been shown that acidic blood reduces the overall amount of oxygen flowing through your body (17). Research has shown that cancer cells have difficulty surviving in an oxygen-rich environment, which is why it’s believed an acidic body leaves you more susceptible to illness and disease (18).
A build up of methionine in your blood is a condition called hypermethioninemia.Symptoms of hypermethioninemia include fatigue, sluggishness, neurological problems, learning disabilities, muscle weakness, and changes in breath, urine, and body odors (likened to the smell of boiled cabbage) (19). People who consume excessive amounts of animal protein are at the greatest risk for developing hypermethioninemia.
As mentioned above, the amino acid glycine works closely with methionine to prevent it from taking a toll on your health. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between glycine and methionine, and how drinking bone broth can help reduce symptoms of methionine build up.
The Relationship Between Bone Broth, Glycine and Methionine
Glycine and methionine have something of a catch-22 relationship: methionine depletes glycine, but glycine is needed to help the body detoxify excess methionine.
As mentioned above, glycine is found abundantly in food sources such as gelatin, which is made from bones and connective tissue. But it’s safe to say that we chow down on muscle meat far more than we eat bones and ligaments. This is why our glycine levels are depleted, and we’re at a greater risk for methionine accumulating in our blood.
Luckily, bone broth isn’t just a pretty face. As one of the richest dietary sources of gelatin, it makes it possible for us to get more glycine in our diet, and improve our glycine to methionine ratios. This is one of the reasons why bone broth is commonly recommended on diets that regularly include muscle meats, such as the Paleo diet.
How to Make Bone Broth
Bone broth is incredibly easy and low maintenance to make. All you need are bones (any kind will do: beef bones, chicken bones, feet, knuckles, wings, necks, and tails), 2 tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar to help draw minerals out from the bones, and your favorite vegetables, herbs, and seasonings.
Simply throw your bones and vinegar into a large pot or slow-cooker, cover with water and bring it to a boil. Then, add your veggies, herbs, and seasonings and allow it to simmer for 12-48 hours. The longer your bone broth simmers, the more concentrated in healing nutrients such as collagen and amino acid it will be.
You can use leftover bones from your meals to make bone broth, or purchase them at your local butcher. Many health food stores also have bags of grass-fed bones for sale for less than $5.00. We recommend using bones from grass-fed meat whenever possible, to avoid the growth hormones and antibiotics used to raise factory farmed meat.
How to Add Bone Broth to Your Diet
There are few things better than sipping on a warm mug of bone broth on a cold day (or any time of year, for that matter). In fact, you may get enough energy from the nutrients in bone broth that you’ll start craving it in place of your morning cuppa.
You can also use bone broth as a base for soups and stews, and to add extra flavor to various dishes. For example, you can cook quinoa (or any grain) in bone broth instead of water.
Don’t forget, you can also feed bone broth to your pets. Just be sure to avoid adding onions, garlic and other ingredients that are toxic to animals. Since animals can also suffer from methionine imbalance, you can help improve your pet’s health by feeding him bone broth a few times each week, too.
Other Health Benefits of Bone Broth
As mentioned above, the collagen found in bone broth can help improve the appearance of skin, joint health, and heal digestive conditions such as leaky gut (also known as intestinal permeability).
Research suggests that by improving gut health, the collagen found in bone broth can also promote relief from allergies, which are often linked to leaky gut syndrome (20). And while leaky gut isn’t fully understood at present time, it’s starting to become recognized as an underlying cause of many Western diseases and autoimmune conditions (21).
And while this may be stating the obvious, bone broth is also good for your bones because it’s rich in several essential minerals— such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus— which your body can easily absorb. Bone broth also contains a nutrient called glucosamine, which is commonly taken as a nutritional supplement to help “cushion” joints, and prevent symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as joint pain and inflammation (22).
Many people also report immediate health benefits after drinking bone broth, such as increased energy and mental focus. While this may be linked to the bioavailable vitamins and minerals, it could also be the detoxification action of glycine at work.
As you can see, bone broth is healing on many levels, with detoxification being just one of the benefits. Not only is bone broth cheap and easy to make, but it’s the quickest way to begin improving your health from the inside out.
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and the creator of Feel Best Naked, a health blog for women who want to clear up their skin, lose the muffin top and make the bloat disappear. After years of experiencing (and then healing) her own unbalanced hormones, she’s now obsessed with helping other women feel spectacular in their own skin with natural remedies for hormone balance.