Growing up in New England, as soon as the leaves began to change, and the air started smelling like winter, my mother would put up a big pot of chicken soup. I have fond memories of her standing in line at the butcher ordering split chicken breasts with the bone in as she swore that was the secret to getting a good broth and the desirable liquid gold color. Even now the smell of chicken soup brings me back to those days.
Now, in my mid-twenties, I drink a homemade cup of bone broth two to three times a week, and I prepare a much simpler version to feed to my dog as well to support her immune system and joint health. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but what if a cup of bone broth could do the same?
Most cultures consider broth a staple and instrumental in curing illness such as the flu or healing body disorders rooted in gut dysfunction. Research is backing up the health benefits a simple homemade bowl of broth offers—and it backs it up with about several trillion microscopic agents. These “agents” are the bacteria that make up our gut microbiota, or “micro-life” that run a managerial post inside our intestinal tract. Although the gut is only one organ in a system of many, it exerts a great influence on the body. This is supported by the innumerable quantity of immune cells within the system. In fact, the gut represents almost 70% of our entire immune system.
So how exactly does this impact our health? Are allergies and colds, both dependent on the immune system, affected by our gut? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. Scientists have found that the life (those agents we mentioned earlier) in our intestines regulates the body’s main antioxidant, glutathione, which protects the body against a host of diseases!
In addition to its defensive role, the gut—perhaps more obviously—breaks down and absorbs nutrients from the foods we consume. When the digestive tract is clogged by impurities, the nutrients can’t be properly absorbed and so even if we end up consuming healthy meals, our body is not able to reap the full extent of the food’s benefits. Another issue with the impediment of our defense systems is that they can become leaky and allow toxins into our bloodstream. This is why serving bone broth to both people and animals who have leaky gut is so beneficial!
Toxins that leak into your bloodstream can negatively affect your brain and mess with hormone levels that regulate mood, so on top of having physical effects, the gut influences the emotional arena, too. Pretty impressive, right? At face value, the fact that our gut can influence our mood and emotional outlook seems far-fetched. But it’s true! The reason is due to that fact that some bacteria in the gut produce chemicals that directly impact mood, appetite, and sleep. These include norepinephrine, a calming hormone; dopamine, the famed reward hormone; and serotonin, a mood-regulating hormone with an array of other benefits, 90% of which is produced by your gut.
Unbalance in the microbiota is linked to many modern diseases as food grows more factory-like, more processed, and less wholesome. While this means that unhealthy food and drink choices can have long term consequences, it also means that choosing wholesome produce, minimally processed meals, and consuming bone broth can have long term positive consequences across your whole physical and mental health!
This is where my momma’s chicken soup comes to mind! That warm bowl of goodness that crushed many a cold in my childhood is equally important in maintaining a healthy life as an adult. Her reason for only buying chicken breasts with the bone in makes total sense now. Our gut’s role in the immune system is directly bettered by our good dietary choices, and broths contain special properties infused into the liquid by the low and slow cooking of bones. Yes, bones. The gelatin released during the simmering process heals abnormalities that might be causing leakages in the intestinal lining.
So now that we know why bone broth is important, stay tuned for our next blog on how to easily prepare nutritious broth at home!
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For many, food is the largest source of anxiety when planning a long-distance backpacking trip. Read our resupply guide for more information on successfully planning your food for the PCT.
As a fellow backpacker, athlete, or active outdoorsy person, you know how vital the right food is to your success — especially when you’re on the trail or on the go.
The problem is finding time to source, cook, and pack food that’s lightweight, tastes great and is actually good for your body (the holy trinity of backpacking food!)