When Bone Broth Is Bad For You

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With the explosion of the bone broth craze in recent years millions have learned about their health benefits. But what if bone broth is bad for you too?

With the explosion of the bone broth craze in recent years millions of people have learned about their health benefits. But what if bone broth is bad for your health too? Thankfully, the benefits far outweigh any potential downsides.

However, contrary to popular belief, there is one downside.

In my recent presentation about Asian bone broths at the annual Nutritional Therapy Association conference in Portland, Oregon, I started out by discussing this little known health issue.  I wanted my fellow Nutritional Therapy Practitioners (NTPs) to be aware of this as its something I’ve only come to understand myself in recent years.

I started out with a slide summarizing the benefits.
With the explosion of the bone broth craze in recent years millions have learned about their health benefits. But what if bone broth is bad for you too?

The minerals of course come from the bones.  And the collagen comes from animal parts that are rich in connective tissue such as feet, necks, back, heads, wings, tails and even internal organs.  Traditionally, cultures used all parts of animals in bone broths for this very reason.

Many people now buy pricey collagen-derived supplements that help with a variety of inflammatory issues without realizing a simple homemade bone broth has all the same nutrients at a fraction of the cost.  And those nutrients are in their whole, natural form in a bone broth.

The longer you simmer the bones and animal parts the more mineral and collagen-rich the broth becomes.

With the explosion of the bone broth craze in recent years millions have learned about their health benefits. But what if bone broth is bad for you too?

As you can see from the above slide the amino acid content increases with the increased simmering time. I took that info from a study performed by Kim Schuette, Certified Nutritionist, of Biodynamic Wellness.

Schuette hired a lab to test the amino acid content in both a short-cooked and a long-cooked organic chicken broth.

You can see her full list of results here.

Not surprisingly, the amino acid content increased over time, as would be expected.

And that sounds good, right?  I mean who wouldn’t want MORE nutrients in their food as opposed to less?

Most of us simmer bone broths for an extended period exactly for that reason – to extract more nutrients. A good sign you’ve done a good job of this is if the broth gels.  Upon cooling, the broth should jiggle like Jello-O. That means you’ve extracted the gelatin (which is basically cooked collagen) from the bones and animal parts.

Unfortunately, this is where bone broth is bad for some folks.

In some people, especially kids, it can exacerbate a sensitivity to glutamates.

With the explosion of the bone broth craze in recent years millions have learned about their health benefits. But what if bone broth is bad for you too?

Glutamates come from glutamine, the second most abundant amino acid in bone broth according to Kim Schuette’s lab test.

And though glutamine has tons of health benefits the last bullet point on the slide above is where problems can occur.

When Bone Broth is Bad: Excess Glutamates

One of glutamine’s many roles in the body is to convert to two neurotransmitters essential for good mental health – glutamate and GABA.  These play balancing but opposite effects on brain chemistry.

In particular, glutamate is stimulating and GABA is calming.  In a healthy person, the two are kept in a delicate but balanced ratio.

Problems can develop when there’s excessive glutamate in the brain which can lead to the following symptoms.

With the explosion of the bone broth craze in recent years millions have learned about their health benefits. But what if bone broth is bad for you too?

This can be exacerbated by a diet high in both synthetic and naturally occuring glutamates.

The primary culprit is of course, monosodium glutamate (MSG), a synthetic form of glutamate and an excitotoxin that is known to overly stimulate nerve cells and cause neurological issues, among other health problems.

But synthetic glutamates exist in myriad forms in hundreds of processed foods beyond just MSG such as yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, natural flavors and other types of flavorings.  These chemicals all give processed foods a meaty taste.  They are prevalent in all commercial canned broths and soups including most organic ones too.

Unfortunately, glutamates exist naturally in healthy foods too.  Though not as concentrated as in processed foods and not problematic in a healthy person, those who are sensitive need to avoid even healthy sources.

And unfortunately, that includes a long-cooked bone broth.

After I gave my presentation, someone came up to me and said, “You know I’ve never understood why after I drank bone broth I’d get migraines. I think I understand now.”

As a Nutritional Therapist, I’ve seen this in many clients as well.

A Simple Solution

Luckily, the solution is simple. It doesn’t mean all bone broth is bad for you.  It just means you need to reduce the simmer time and consume shorter cooked bone broths.  It may not be as nutrient-dense but its easily digestible, gut soothing qualities still remain.

For poultry, a good simmer time is 1-3 hours.  For beef, lamb and bison, shoot for 2-4 hours.  And for fish, well, you should never simmer fish broth for longer than an hour anyway, so fish broth is never a problem!

When you do this in conjunction with eliminating processed foods and incorporating a good gut-healing protocol, over time you should be able to tolerate longer cooked bone broths (and other natural sources of glutamates).

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With the explosion of the bone broth craze in recent years millions have learned about their health benefits. But what if bone broth is bad for you too?

Sources:

Chris Kresser, Beyond MSG

Dr. Amy Yasko, Neuroprovokers

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Kim Schuette, Stock vs. Broth

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Comments

  1. I generally leave my bone broth on the stove for 3-4 days and then feed it to my dog. He can’t seem to get enough… Unfortunately or maybe fortunately my broth isn’t gelatinous as it’s tough to find chicken feet or pigs feet in Denver (weird!) and I’ve never been able to achieve gelatin w/o them. This information goes against other info I’ve read, but makes sense. Thanks for posting. Horrible to know I could be poisoning my dog!

    • Hi Karen, just to be clear, I don’t think you’re poisoning your dog. I give broth to my dog all the time, even the long cooked stuff.

      • Kortney Wilson says:

        Is it dangerous to consume bone broth that is from a store bought rotisserie? Meaning non grass fed, non organic, who knows what they were fed type of chicken.
        I make it all the time, freeze it, then just sip it. Mine is always gelatinous and fast free, because i remove the fat after it’s cooled/separated.

  2. Diane McBride says:

    What about broth made in a pressure cooker?

    • Hi Diane, I don’t know the degree to which a pressure cooker increases glutamine content vs. the stove top. I doubt any study has been done on that. I’d guess the principle is similar though – the longer it cooks in the pressure cooker the more the nutrient content increases.

  3. I used to make mine in a slow cooker and let it simmer for 48 hours. I now use my pressure cooker and to get the really dark, rich color, I need to keep it on high pressure for 5 hours or so. What would you recommend the highest cooking time in a pressure cooker be? Most of the time, anything less still has a very light, hardly tasteful result.

    • Hi Kara, I’ve only recently started using a pressure cooker for bone broth and I don’t love it for exactly the reason you described. I don’t know how a pressure cooker compares to a stove top as far as glutamine content goes.

  4. Christy says:

    I have had this problem with bone broth from time to time. I also couldn’t tolerate L-Glutamine supplements that were suggested for helping to heal leaky gut. I wonder if this points to the fact that I need to work on increasing GABA to get the glutamate and GABA in balance?

    • Hi Christy, sometimes L-glutamine supplements can exacerbate glutamate sensitivities so it doesn’t surprise me to hear this. I think GABA could help but I still think the deeper issue would be avoiding other foods with naturally occurring glutamates (see the links at the bottom of the article) while working on a gut healing protocol.

  5. I can’t even have bone cooking in my house, or I get nauseous, and even vomit. It can make me sick for 3-4 days. It took me a while to figure out what was causing it, but did not even think about glutamine. Is this what could be causing me to be sick? Should I be avoiding other glut amines? I avoid MSG like crazy, as it give me incapacitating migraines.

    • Hi Kat, if MSG causes severe symptoms and bone broth causes you to get that sick then I would definitely avoid even naturally occurring sources of glutamates. See the links at the end of for a more in depth protocol.

  6. I’m wondering if bone broth could cause hives?

  7. I often cook one broth over night from chicken bones, strain it and cook another round with the same bones. Wouldnt that start the levels from scratch in the new batch? The second batch is darker and bolder in taste than the first yellow batch.

    • Hi Tina, the glutamine content will come from the gelatinous parts more so from the bones so if you’re not refreshing those parts I’d guess that the glutamine content wouldn’t be as high the second time around. That’s a guess though so I can’t say for sure.

  8. Hi Craig,
    Great post! I’ve just started making bone broth. Can you just clarify for me- only certain individuals have a glutamate sensitivity, correct? So if we tolerate long-cooked bone broth and other natural sources of MSG (I see items like broccoli and walnuts on the list, which I eat every day without apparent problems), we shouldn’t have to worry about limiting consumption or switch to a slow-cooked broth? Are there other notable symptoms of MSG sensitivity besides headaches? I avoid processed foods and any food that has MSG (or any of its other known names).

  9. ami parikh says:

    What about taking collagen supplements – ie hydrolyzed gelatin powder in juice 2x a day, would that also contribute to this glutamate poisoning

    • Hi Ami, it depends on how much glutamine is in the hydrolyzed gelatin powder. Some companies have more than others. Generally speaking though, a hydrolyzed gelatin powder will contain a good amount of glutamine. Please understand though that glutamate isn’t inherently a poison and that this issue with glutmate sensitivity does not affect the majority of people.

  10. Elisabeth says:

    Should I automatically make a shorter cook time for 1 and 2 year old? And if doing so in a Crock-Pot how high ? 3hrs on high or low?

    • Hi Elisabeth, I’m not an expert when it comes to feeding babies and toddlers so I really can’t comment on that. I’d hate to give you the wrong advice when it comes to feeding your little child. As for making a short-cooked bone broth in a crock pot, 3 hours on the low setting would be better.

      • Elisabeth says:

        Thanks! I will start with the 3hrs and see how that goes.

      • Roxanne Rodriguez says:

        Hi my son has autism and I was always told that bone broth is the best for him with leaky gut but I see by your article it can cause neurological issues this is very confusing to me in a little upsetting being that I give it to him every day. I have seen good results from him as far as being more verbal which is amazing considering he is completely nonverbal but I also noticed he’s very emotional and hyper active and moody .should I stop giving him bone broth for a while?

        Thank you
        Roxanne

        • Hi Roxanne, I might try reducing the simmer time for awhile as I mentioned at the end of the post. Have you been working with the GAPS diet? A GAPS practitioner may be able to guide you more carefully through this process. You can find a list of them at http://www.gaps.me

  11. Hi Craig, Thank you so much for clearing up a mystery that has been plaguing me for weeks. I have been getting both veal and chicken bone broths made fresh daily from a local health food restaurant. I was consuming roughly 16 oz a day, and wound up with horrid headaches every time. The restaurant simmers theirs 24+ hours, which must be why I’m getting headaches. Guessing now I’ll have to start making it myself, or cut down on the amount I drink. Thanks, again, for the info. That answers that!

  12. This is intriguing! I just started bone bRoth this week. I drink 8oz for breakfast. I started bc I have been diagnosed with RA, Sm intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) Leaky Gut, as well as a so far unknown auto immune disease. All that to say I have felt extremely bloated all week & cant seem to eat anything without feeling stuffed & like I’m on the verge of needing to vomit. To the point I could hardly drink 6oz today. It has seemed like I feel less miserable & bloated by the evening. I’m wondering if it’s the cause & not a flu bug which is what I had been dismissing it as. Would that make sense for it to cause this?
    Thank you so much for any help!

  13. Hi, I made bone broth using Oxtail. I left it on the stove for about 9 hours. I had it yesterday morning and today as well but for some reason I feel very dehydrated. I drank way more water than usual (about 5L). I was wondering if this could be due to over-cooking my bone broth?
    Cheers!

    • Hi Ximena, sorry for the slow reply. It doesn’t sound like it’s due to overcooking the broth. Did you perhaps add a lot of salt? That’s the only thing I can think of.

  14. I am just now starting to use a “bone broth protein” from grass fed beef bones and I am getting “flu like symptoms” Coughing, sinus problems, body aches, and even severe diarhhea… I thought it was the regular flu, but as soon as I took my next dose of protein powder I instantly started coughing again. Is it possible I just didn’t blend it good enough? I used a shaker bottle (with steel blender ball) because I don’t have access to a regular blender. Is there such thing as a “bad batch” or sick cows?

  15. Thanks for this article, Craig! I was looking specifically for this info after hearing a Chris Kresser podcast that touched on it.

  16. I just started bone broth since I’ve been using it I’ve had chest pains headaches moodiness is it possible it could be from the bone broth

  17. I started bone broth and noticed two days straight of a tension type headache with one kicking over to a migraine. My daughter had a break through seizure. She is on medication and has not had one for 5 months until 2 days ago so…. thinking it may be the bone broth. I have a bunch as I did two pots. one beef bone and the other chichen. Cooked for 2 plus days. What it I used it in much smaller portions or watered down, would that be equivalent to shorter cooked bone?

  18. Hi, this is the only article I’ve found to show a comparison of nutrients between short and long cook. Thank you. However, there is no indication of what is considered a short simmer, versus what is a long simmer: how many hours are we talking about? And was the testing done at hourly intervals, to identify a ‘peak’ time? How do we know if nutrients (having peaked) become depleted by continuing to heat them over a long period of time? My broth always gels, by the way. I have been making it for over 35 years, using the same traditional Italian method: 1 carrot, 2 stalks of celery, 1 small onion, 2-3 bay leaves, a few peppercorns, coarse sea salt and 1 tbsp ACV, added to meat and bone (ox tail usually) and topped with water. Simmered for 1,5-2 hours (depending on size of pieces used) in a pressure cooker over low heat. Thank you to anyone who can enlighten me!

  19. How long should I cook chicken in a slow cooker for? I have an autistic son and I don’t want to muck this up!

Trackbacks

  1. […] 4. Fearless Eating – When Bone Broth is Bad for You […]

  2. […] lighter broths can actually be easier on the body’s digestive system.  A previous post I wrote, When Bone Broth is Bad for You, will explain this in more […]

  3. […] we can extract. But there are people who are sensitive to glutamates which can cause headaches (https://fearlesseating.net/when-bone-broth-is-bad-for-you/). A report by Time, however, points out that bone broth benefits may have been overstated  and […]

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