Meat and bone broths can be amazingly healing foods for the digestive tract. If made properly, they contain many essential electrolytes to keep you well hydrated and important components that help soothe, nourish and heal the cells of the intestinal lining (see this comprehensive article for details). Chicken soup made with the whole carcass is the basis for wonderful gut healing diets (such as GAPS or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet) that inform much of the dietary work I do. That said, I find that while some people experience great relief and healing from broths made from cartilage-containing bones, many people with digestive issues can actually be aggravated by cartilage at first (this is because cartilage is actually a pretty highly fermentable prebiotic which can feed bacteria that are overgrowing and/or growing in the wrong place). For this reason I recommend starting an elimination diet by easing into meat stock and broth made from marrow bones before moving on to the whole carcass, joint bones, feet etc. Natasha Campbell McBride - author of the GAPS diet - also recommends starting with meat stock in the intro phase of her healing protocol (see this article by GAPS practitioner Kim Schuette). The meat stock recipe offered in the GAPS book, however, mostly works with the cooking time (shorter) and still uses cartilaginous bones. I suggest starting a healing-focused elimination diet without broth at first ( you can get in touch to talk healing diets!). After a week or two I then have people test a meat stock (following the recipe below) paying attention to how it makes them feel. If the meat stock goes well (and for many it does) they slowly move on to more traditional cartilage containing bone broths.
Most traditional recipes for bone broth add vinegar or lemon juice at the beginning of cooking to help draw minerals from the bones. While the principal is sound (and can be trialed as you go), this acidity can break glutamic acid (an amino acid naturally found as part of the whole meat protein) away from the overall protein structure of the meat leading to the presence of increased free glutamates in the broth. Glutamate in this form, acts on the excitatory pathway of the nervous system and can cause reactions in sensitive people and/or contribute to an overall inflammatory state. This Mission Heirloom review offers an extensive description of what free glutamates are and how they can negatively affect health. While I do think live vinegars are delicious and can be part of many healthy diets, I think it is best to remove vinegar from broth at first to limit exposure to free glutamates, reducing the potential for a sensitivity reaction and maximizing the healing potential. If vinegar free broth feels good for your body go ahead and experiment with adding vinegars in order to create a stronger electrolyte solution.
Recipe for Meat Stock
In a slow cooker or stock pot place:
2 lbs meaty marrow bones (not joints or feet) and/or
1 lb stew meat (lamb,beef and venison work well)
1 bunch green onion tops (tops only :))
fresh/dried herbs (sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano all good options)
1/2 tsp sea salt
a few carrots can also be added for sweetness
Cover all ingredients with water and turn pot on high, bringing contents to a boil.
As soon as the stock reaches a boil, skim off any foam that has risen to the top.
Turn heat down to low so that the stock remains at just a simmer.
Let simmer for 2-3 hours. Remove meat (delicious!) and strain stock through a metal strainer into glass jars.
Note* As you heal you can try removing any meat after 2-3 hours and then continuing to simmer bones for several more hours (try 6) before removing stock. This will result in an even more mineral rich broth that, if well tolerated, is highly nutritious. After several more weeks of this marrow-bone broth try a chicken soup using the whole carcass and see how you feel!