It seems like everyone is talking about the benefits of bone broth…
- Instagram nutritionists rave that bone broth heals leaky gut and boosts metabolism
- Dr. Google says bone broth builds stronger bones, and healthier nails, hair and skin
- Your grandmother even makes her own homemade bone broth—claiming, “They don’t make it like they used to”
However, although bone broth is considered a “super food”, for some people, bone broth actually may do you more harm than good—especially your gut health.
Here’s why bone broth side effects, like gas, bloating, constipation and stomach pain, may happen to you after drinking bone broth…
Bone Broth Benefits: What’s the Big Deal?!
Bone broth is a “gut-loving” superfood known for its amazing immune boosting, gut healing benefits, including:
Benefits of Bone Broth
- Protects your joints & fights arthritis
- Strengthens your bones, nails and hair
- Clears up skin
- Supports a healthier immune system
- Reduces inflammation
- Aids in sleep
- Heals intestinal permeability (“leaky gut” tissue)
- Satiates you (protein to help fill you up)
- Bone broth is power-packed with nutrients
Top Bone Broth Nutrients
There are very few foods that contain as many vitamins and minerals as bone broth, with the top nutrients including:
- Collagen—a protein backbone of connective tissues like bones, skin, nails and hair (fact: , it is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up from 25% to 35% of the whole-body)
- Gelatin—the cooked form of collagen, and actually a better absorbable and more bioavailable way to ingest the amino acids in collagen; it is more “gel” like than collagen
- Glycine—an amino acid essential for liver detoxification, sleep and brain function
- Glutamine—an amino acid specifically for gut tissue healing
- Magnesium —responsible for over 300 metabolic functions, including exercise performance, blood pressure balance, preventing headaches, fighting anxiety and depression, reducing blood sugar imbalance and more
- Phosphorus —strengthens teeth, filters waste out of kidneys, repairs cells and tissues, produces DNA/RNA (your genes), maintains body balance (breathing, energy, weight)
- Silicon —strengthens bones, hair, skin health and gut tissue
- Sulfur —the third most abundant mineral in the human body; antibacterial effects against the bacteria that cause acne; sulfur is also needed for the synthesis of glutathione, which acts as a potent antioxidant, protecting your cells from damage.
- Calcium —to build and maintain strong bones; as well as support heart, muscle and nerve function
Is there anything that bone broth cannot do?!
Despite the amazing benefits of bone broth, however, if you struggle with histamine intolerance, drinking bone broth can actually make you feel worse—not better.
Why You Feel Worse Drinking Bone Broth: Histamine Intolerance
Histamine is a chemical in your body that causes an immediate inflammatory reaction in your immune system when your body is threatened by an outside invader (like allergens in the air, or foods you can’t digest). Histamine causes an immune reaction (a.k.a. “histamine response”), like swelling blood vessels, itchy eyes, headaches, brain fog, stomach pain, bloating, IBS, as it signals your white blood cells come to the rescue.
“May day, may day! I am stressed! I don’t know what to do with this food!” your body and immune system cry as histamine is released.
If you’ve ever been stung by a bee and experienced redness or swelling, or eaten a food that made you feel poorly (ex. peanuts closed your airway, cheese gave you loose stools or constipation, gluten gave you brain fog), that’s often histamine-related.
In an ideal world, your white blood cells sweep in to “save the day” and suppress the immune response—clearing out the histamine as fast as they can. However, if you have histamine intolerance, you DON’T clear histamine properly. Instead of “going away”, the histamine actually sticks around in your body, creating an inflammatory response.
Common Side Effects of Histamine Intolerance
Common side effects of histamine intolerance include:
- Arrhythmias/rapid heart rate
- Blood sugar imbalances (especially hypoglycemia)
- Brain fog
- Gut problems (IBS, bloating, constipation, gas)
- Hair loss
- Low blood pressure/high blood pressure
- Sinus congestion
- Skin breakouts, hives, rashes or itchy skin
- Throat or tongue swelling
Histamine is Not “Bad”
All people have histamine and histamine isn’t “bad” per say. (In fact, a “histamine response”is a normal biochemical response). Histamine is only bad when:
(a.) your body releases too much histamine, OR,
(b.) your body can’t break histamine down fast enough—resulting in too much histamine in the body.
Either of these two things results in the lingering or chronic histamine symptoms (a.k.a. “histamine intolerance”).
Bone broth is a high-histamine containing food due to the longer cooking times of bones in the pot over the course of 24 to 72 hours. The longer a food sits or cooks, the higher histamine it gets.
High Histamine Foods
Bone broth is not the only high histamine-containing or histamine-liberating food (ie. triggers your body to release histamine) out there. Other histamine rich foods include:
- Dried fruit
- Fermented foods
- Pickled foods
- Leftover meats (3+ days)
- Nightshade Vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants)
- Smoked meats and fish
- Soured food
- Vinegar (except apple cider vinegar)
- Histamine-liberating foods (bananas, nuts, pineapples, papaya, tomatoes, strawberries, beans, chocolate, citrus fruits)
- And…bone broth
If your body cannot clear histamine well and you eat histamine-rich foods frequently, then, voila, you have an explanation histamine rich bone broth makes you feel bloated, constipated, gassy or other side effects—like brain fog and fatigue.
What Causes Histamine Intolerance?
How do you get histamine intolerance in the first place? Answer: An unhealthy gut.
For one, many gut bacteria produce histamine themselves. If your gut itself contains a large amount of histamine-producing gut bacteria, then you may suffer negative symptoms from any extra histamine in the diet.
Additionally, 80% of your immune system is produced and housed in your gut—specifically your GALT (gut associated lymphatic tissue) (Wu & Wu, 2012). If you have a healthy gut, then your immune system is more balanced and able to both control the release of histamine as well as help clear it. If you have too many unhealthy gut bacteria or not enough healthy bacteria (dysbiosis), however, then you are also more at risk for an “immune response” in relation to higher histamine, immune stimulating foods—like bone broth.
Low digestive enzyme production, specifically DAO (diamine oxidase) and HNMT, also contributes to histamine intolerance. Both DAO and HNMT (histamine N-methyltransferase) aid in the break down of histamine in the body. Without adequate enzymes, histamine builds up.
Lastly, a leaky gut is another trigger for histamine intolerance, often going hand in hand with several gut imbalances previously mentioned—especially since your intestines are where most of your DAO enzymes are produced. When your gut is inflamed, your body may produce less DAO, thus leading to a build up of histamine.
In short: If your microbiome is producing too much histamine or histamine exceeds your gut’s ability to break histamine down, it has to go somewhere: Your bloodstream. Once it hits your bloodstream, histamine goes everywhere!
Ironically, although one of the top benefits of bone broth is “gut healing,” for some folks, they actually need to focus more on healing their gut in order to drink it in the first place.
The Solution (& How to Drink Bone Broth Again)
First and foremost, gut healing is essential to overcoming histamine intolerance (and drinking bone broth without symptoms). Steps may include: clinical gut testing (SIBO, stool analysis, food intolerance testing, organic acids testing, intestinal permeability screening, bloodwork), eating a gut loving diet, boosting digestive enzyme production and healing leaky gut.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to gut health, which is why working with a skilled healthcare professional—such as a nutritionist, naturopathic doctor or functional medicine practitioner who understands histamine intolerance and gut dysbiosis—can be extremely helpful for customizing a protocol that works for you.
In the meantime, a few “at home” bone broth drinking hacks you can try include:
Bone Broth Drinking Hacks (if you have histamine intolerance)
Hack #1: Drink Meat Broth
Unlike bone broth that simmers for 24 to 72 hours, meat broth takes 2 to 3 hours, inhibiting high histamine formation. In addition, as you heal your gut, figuring out what’s causing histamine intolerance in the first place is essential and addressing it appropriately (see recipe below)
Hack #2: Supplement with DAO Enzymes
Try taking 1-2 capsules of a DAO enzyme supplement before meals to help reduce the histamine load response from food at meal time.
Hack #3: Support a Healthy Gut Ecosystem with a Quality Symbiotic
A symbiotic is a probiotic-prebiotic blended supplement that aids in “seeding” healthy gut bacteria where they belong—in your colon—and balancing out a dysbiotic gut. Check out Seed.
Meat and Bone Broth Recipe
- Whole pastured chicken or boneless skin-less chicken thighs (2-3 pounds)
- Filtered water
- Place meat in a large stock pot and cover with filtered water.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer.
- Cook until the meat is cooked all the way through, up to 3 hours Strain the meat and bones out to yield a delicious and nourishing broth.
- Consume or store in glassware container or jars.
This article was scientifically reviewed by Dr. Lauryn, PhD. She is a Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Nutritionist, & Functional Medicine Practitioner with over 20 years of clinical and personal experience.