Bone broth. You’ve heard it’s good for everything from your gut health and the balance of bacteria in your microbiome to far-fetched claims on managing heart disease. Maybe you’ve even tried it. There are dozens of varieties on store shelves, limitless methods for making it, and thousands of recipes with this liquid as the star ingredient.
With all the hype surrounding its impact, particularly on your gut, did you know that one of its biggest benefits may be to your joints? Read on to find out why I drink bone broth every day and suggest you do, too.
What is Bone Broth?
What we in the health industry call bone broth is called stock in the food industry. In their world, broth is a thin, clear liquid that can be made in just a few hours. Stock — our bone broth — has a much richer color and texture. That’s because it’s made by simmering bones for up to 24 hours to get all the collagen-rich materials from the marrow.
Bone broth can be made from meat, poultry, or fish bones. It’s best to stick with a single type of bone, such as only beef bones or just chicken bones.
For best flavor in a beef bone broth, for example, collagen-rich bones such as short ribs or marrow bones are roasted first. Then the roasted bones are simmered just below the boiling point, usually with some seasonings. This can be done in a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or stock pot.
Sounds pretty ordinary, like something our grandmothers might have made. That makes it a good thing because our modern diet isn’t doing us any favors! As I saw time and again with patients in my clinic, so many people rely on packaged products and produce that is genetically modified and grown with pesticides. Even when we choose grass-fed and organic meats and poultry, we tend to skip the cuts our grandparents ate.
Soups and stews made from simmering bones, tough cuts of meat with connective tissue that had to be braised for a long time to be palatable, and organ meats were all part of a typical diet for previous generations. These are all excellent sources of collagen. Because these cuts are no longer a part of our modern diet, bone broth is a great way to get more collagen.
What is Collagen and Why is it Important?
Collagen is the glue that holds your entire body together. In fact, the word actually originates from the Greek word kolla, or glue. This little protein is stronger than steel, gram per gram.1
The most abundant protein in your body, collagen is actually a group of proteins (also called a peptide) made up of amino acids: glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.
Collagen peptides are the building blocks of your body. We commonly think of them in connection with hair, skin, and nails yet they provide structure to all your body’s tissues including connective tissue and bone.
This critical protein helps your cells renew and repair, and lends flexibility as well as strength to our tissues. That means it helps make your skin smooth and elastic, supports bone strength, and keeps your intestines, blood vessels, and organs firm yet flexible.
Unfortunately, as we age, our collagen production naturally decreases. You can learn more about why that happens in this article.
The 3 Critical Types of Collagen
Although there are many types of collagen in your body, between 80 and 90% of it consists of these three main types.
- Type I: This is the most abundant type in your body. It’s key to your skin’s elasticity and hydration. Perhaps most importantly, it lends strength to your bones.
- Type II: This type is found in cartilage, the connective tissue that links your bones and helps provide the structure for your body. It also supports the health of your spinal disks.
- Type III: This type is a key component of your intestines, muscles, and blood vessels. Type III collagen also forms the outermost layer of articular cartilage, which covers the ends of your bones.
What’s the Connection with Joint Health?
This is where things get interesting! Collagen is a key component of two important parts of your joints: bone and cartilage. As I mentioned above, Type I collagen is important for promoting bone strength. However, collagen really plays a starring role in cartilage formation.
Hyaline, or articular, cartilage is primarily composed of Type II collagen. Hyaline cartilage is the most abundant type of cartilage in your body. This smooth, transparent material coats the ends of your bones. It reduces friction in the joints and helps the bones move fluidly.
Types I and II cartilage play a big role in another type of cartilage called fibrocartilage. This is a flexible, elastic, yet tough form of cartilage that provides cushioning in the joints.
The meniscus, a piece of crescent-shaped cartilage in the knee joint, is an example of fibrocartilage. The meniscus absorbs approximately one-third of the impact on the knee joint.2 Thus, a tear or damage to the meniscus can make bending or putting weight on the knee very painful.
Unlike nearly all of the other types of tissue in your body, cartilage doesn’t contain blood vessels or nerves. Cartilage cells get their nutrients through diffusion from other cells, not directly from your bloodstream. Because of this, cartilage has a very limited supply of nutrients. Thus, it doesn’t grow quickly and can’t repair itself easily the way most other cells can.3
Cartilage tissues can be damaged by injury or overuse. Injury is often the culprit in damage to fibrocartilage. However, simple wear and tear is often at the root of damage to hyaline cartilage. While there are more than 100 types of arthritis, the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is usually the result of the deterioration of fibrocartilage over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common type, often leads to osteoarthritis.
What Happens When Articular Cartilage is Damaged?
Osteoarthritis occurs when the articular cartilage that covers the ends of your bones wears away. Although it can happen in any joint, it generally occurs in your hands, hips, knees, and spine. Osteoarthritis affects up to 30 million people in the US alone.4 Signs of osteoarthritis include:
- Joint pain
- Decreased range of motion
- Swelling and inflammation
There are limited treatments for arthritis, although there are some experimental treatments aimed at helping cartilage regrow. Most current approaches are limited to managing pain with medications and soothing inflammation with ice packs. Losing excess weight and physical therapy are other approaches. That’s why ensuring the health of your cartilage in the first place is so important!
Adding Bone Broth to Your Diet
I’ve found the simplest way to ensure I’m getting enough collagen in my diet is by sipping bone broth (chicken is my favorite!), or incorporating it into other recipes.
Of course, you can make your own bone broth at home which I have often done myself. When you have the bones on hand, it’s a wonderful way to get more value for your money by increasing the amount of protein you’re getting from the meat, fish, or poultry you’ve purchased.
However, it’s a very lengthy process. If you’re busy like I am, you just can’t spend all day every day cooking! And even though I generally have one or two cups of bone broth each day, I certainly don’t want my house smelling like Thanksgiving all the time!
That’s why I developed my new Bone Broth Collagen! It’s sourced from USDA-certified organic chicken and it’s just as delicious as the one I make at home. While it contains all three major types of collagen your body needs, I made sure that it’s packed with lots of the type II collagen your joints depend on to function optimally.
This handy powder dissolves instantly in warm water, making it an ideal drink for sipping throughout the day at home or in the office. You can also add the powder directly into soups, stews, or even chili for an added collagen boost. Just a single scoop contains 19 grams of protein!
My special, physician-formulated Bone Broth Collagen is produced through a patent-pending extraction process that ensures only the highest quality collagen protein is included. I went through many flavor variations to settle on this one, which I think is simply the most delicious (and easiest to incorporate into your diet!) bone broth available today. Try it and see!