So you’ve just started to think about gut healing for yourself, for a loved one, or you have just come across the GAPS diet for the first time. You have started doing some reading online and see that every man, woman, and their dog is talking about bone broths as the number one key for gut healing. You decide that its time to get started with gut-healing ASAP and work out the rest of the details later. If your super keen, you may even race to the shops, buy every single bone you can get your hands on and then race home again to get your bone broth started. STOP RIGHT THERE!! If you are really new to gut-healing or have complex health issues STOCK rather than broth is actually a way better place to start. A bonus for your children is that it has a much milder taste than bone broths and can, therefore, be an easier way to get children started on broth. And as you will discover in the discussion below, starting with STOCK rather than broth can have a huge impact on whether or not you see healing quite quickly or whether you actually add to your woes. So if you have to put the brakes on, where the heck do you start?
If you are planning on following the GAPS protocol for gut healing then read on, if not and you are just looking to use broths to help with general gut-healing then you may want to jump down to Why meat stock and not bone broth?
The NUMBER ONE, most important first step to getting started on GAPS is to ORDER A COPY OF THE GAPS book. The second tip I would give you is to STOP reading things online even if they are about GAPS until you have devoured the GAPS book. There is lots of great information about GAPS online on websites run by experienced GAPS practitioners. However, there is also a lot of other, not so helpful and often incorrect information that will initially lead you down the garden path. If you just cannot help yourself, then the one website to go to at the point is DR Natasha’s official GAPS website http://www.gaps.me. There is lots of great information on this site and you know you can trust that information 100% as it is overseen by Dr Natasha herself.
When you do receive your book- tuck yourself up somewhere comfortable with a pen and highlighter in hand and get reading. I promise you will have lots of Aha moments and will be blown away by Dr Natasha’s insights into why you are suffering the way you are and then – how to go about not just managing your condition, but actually moving forward to a place of healing.
Once you have read the book, there are two other really helpful resources that are worth looking into. One is the Frequently Asked Questions section of the gaps.me website http://www.gaps.me/faqs.php. Here you will find answers to hundreds of questions on issues that are not specifically covered in the book. Again, these answers come straight from Dr Natasha herself so you can trust them 100%. The second resource, and this is great for those who are still having doubts and asking themselves ‘Yes thats all good and well, but will GAPS actually work for me or my children’? is GAPS Stories. This is a compilation of GAPS success stories that have been pulled together in one place. It is so encouraging to read of people finding healing from almost every condition under the sun by following the GAPS protocol. You realise quickly that GAPS is a very powerful tool that can have wide ranging health benefits for an array of conditions.
The second most important step in getting started on your GAPS/Gut healing journey is to start making MEAT STOCK and NOT! Bone broth.
Why meat stock and not bone broth?
If you have done any reading at all on gut health you will have come across many references to bone broth and its ‘essential place’ in the gut healing process. Whilst it is true that bone broth is a wonderfully nourishing food, with healing properties, it is, in most cases, not actually the best place to start. In fact, it may be the reason that many people struggle with unwanted and new symptoms when they start out on their gut healing journeys. It may also be the reason that many people do not progress in their healing as quickly as they would like. Below I will show you the reasons why bone broth is actually best introduced much later in the healing process and another much more powerful food used, to begin with. This more powerful, yet gentle food is meat stock. Another fantastic attribute to meat stock is that is usually has a milder taste than bone broth and is, therefore, easier to drink by the cupful which is a bonus when it comes to fussy little ones.
Differences in the preparation of meat stock vs bone broth
In terms of preparation, the main differences between meat stock and bone broth are the cuts of meat used and the cooking time. For meat stocks you want to use cuts of chicken, lamb, beef or fish (or other meat sources if needed) that have joints and bones in them but still have some of the meat, connective tissues and fats on the outside. In general aim for 70-80 % meat: 20-30% bones. For example with chicken you can use whole pieces of chicken such as drumsticks or wings. You then add water and other preferred or tolerated ingredients, bring to the boil, scrape off any scum and then simmer slowly with a lid on for 1.5 -3 hours. For bone broth you can use any bones without meat, skin or fat attached. In this case use 70-80 % bones: 20-30% meat. Again you add water and other preferred or tolerated ingredients but in this case, you can cook for anywhere up to days.
What is special about meat stock?
Meat and fish stocks aid digestion and provide the building blocks necessary for the rapidly growing cells of the gut lining. Stock is especially rich in gelatin and free amino acids, like proline and glycine. These amino acids and others such as proline, tyrosine, and methionine help to rebuild the gut lining or to use a phrase that you may be more familiar with ‘re-seal the gut’.
Stock also contains many vitamins and minerals that are are very bio-available and therefore easily absorbed.
Chicken stock is particularly gentle on the stomach and a great place to start. The gelatinous soft tissues around the bones and the bone marrow provide some of the best healing remedies for the gut lining and the immune system.
I suggest making your own mineral-rich stock every week. Do NOT use commercially available soup stock granules or bouillon cubes, as they are highly processed and full of detrimental ingredients, even if they are organic.
The stock can be used daily in soup, gravies, and sauces or even drunk on its own. Correctly prepared homemade stock is rich in micronutrients that may be missing in the average western diet. This stock keeps for up to a week in your fridge making it easy and quick to make nourishing meals daily.
Do not take the fat out of the stock and alternate between different meats to provide a broad spectrum of nourishment. Use organic, grass-fed, or free-range beef, lamb, pork, game, poultry, and wild-caught fish if possible. Ensure you use the bones and the joints in your stock as these are particularly important for enriching the stock with more than the meat alone can provide. The meat and bones can be used fresh or frozen and defrosting are not necessary.
From a gourmet perspective, good quality homemade stock adds subtle nuances of flavour to your dishes and charm that is lacking in the commercial foods bought from the supermarket.
What you don’t plan on using today or tomorrow can be frozen for future use. Minerals are not negatively affected by freezing.
How does bone broth differ and what are the potential issues when starting out your gut healing journey?
As noted above, bone broth is cooked for much longer than stock. It contains the same amino acids as meat stock, however generally in higher amounts. Some of these, such as glutamic acid can be problematic for those who are early on in their healing journeys (whose gut lining has not yet re-sealed) or who have other issues (such as genetic sensitivities) as the high glutamic acid can cause nervous system symptoms. Long cooked meat broths are also much higher in histamine, which can also be problematic for those who are particularly sensitive.
As noted above chicken is a lovely stock to start with. Below is a recipe for basic chicken stock. As you get the hang of making stock you can try some of the other meats and/or fish listed above.
Chicken stock – Basic Recipe
1 organic or free-range (not grain-fed) chicken, half, whole, or pieces such as drumsticks. You can also add chicken feet which help to produce more gelatin and therefore set when cooled.
Your choice of roughly chopped tolerated vegetables eg: onions (or failsafe vegetable like a leek), carrot (2 diced), celery (3 sticks diced), 2 whole cloves of garlic. 1 teaspoon of unbleached Celtic, Himalayan, or similar salt.
Use a large stock pot, your largest saucepan, crock-pot or slow cooker. Place the whole chicken or chicken pieces in the pot, cover with water (filtered if possible). Add vegetables and ensure all the ingredients are covered with water. Bring to the boil. Skim any scum from the surface and discard. Reduce heat to a very gently simmer for around 2 hours.
Consume by the cup or add to soups, stews, and stir-fries. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for later use.
Still feeling unsure?
If after following the above steps, you are still feeling unsure about how to adapt the GAPS protocol to you unique situation, then do yourself a massive favour and ENGAGE A GAPS PRACTITIONER. Depending on your circumstances, you may only need one or two consultations.
Before we started our GAPS journey I had one consultation with a lovely and very knowledgable GAPS practitioner. I talked through each of our specific situations and specific symptoms and she was able to give me targeting advice on how to proceed with the protocol for each person in my family of five. Most of the advice was around how long to stay on each stage of the Introduction Diet (colloquially known as ‘Intro’) and what specific probiotics or other supplements each of us needed. I then had another follow up appointment about a week or two into Intro to just check in with her and ask her about a few specific issues that had arisen. This was a huge confidence booster and helped me to push on with healing. All together this cost me $220 for the two appointments and I have to say that it was the best money we spent in our health journey up until that point. And lets face it, I had spent a lot of money on Drs, specialists and therapists.
You can find a list of accredited GAPS practitioners here http://www.gaps.me/find-a-gaps-practitioner.php