Thousands of years ago Greek physician, Hippocrates, said that all diseases begins in the gut. Today the term “leaky gut” is so commonly spoken about, but exactly what is a leaky gut?
Think of the gut like lots of little lego bricks, in a healthy gut the little bricks should be stacked nice and closely together, like a wall. When we say someone has a “leaky gut”, it means that the little lego bricks that make up the gut separate and the tight junctions become loose. As a result of inflammation, the gut wall becomes leaky and this means that particles bigger than what can usually get through, now have free rein.
What causes this damage? There are a number of theories as to what exactly causes this gut damage. This will vary for every single one of us, but the main things that are likely to cause a leaky gut are stress, toxins, undigested food particles, medicines, bacteria and pathogens. We live surrounded by stress of every sort and unfortunately many foods we are exposed to are processed and high in sugars, preservatives, additives and more. The body views these foods, especially ones that aren’t natural, as foreign and these go on to cause inflammation.
The effect of this inflammation and the leaky gut that ensues is that large particles can get through the gut lining. Usually the tight junctions that are found in the gut wall stop these large particles getting through, but when we have a leaky gut undigested food particles and toxins can leak straight through the gut wall, directly into the blood stream. As these particles end up on the wrong side of the wall, the immune system is triggered, like bouncers trying to get trouble makers out of a club.
Lucky enough for all of us, the gut can be healed, our tight junctions repaired and our lego brick wall brought back together. One way to do this is using a protein called glutamine, which helps repair the gut wall and can be found in our bowl du jour: the mighty bone broth. Think of bone broth in similar terms to a green juice, a concentrated source of all the amino acids found in meat, but this time it’s going to help heal your gut and in turn calm and strengthen your immune system. Bone broth is delicious and warming, perfect for these winter days – either just drink it on its own or use it as a base for a soup or stew. Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley (AKA Hemsley & Hemsley) made bone broth cool in their first book, Good & Simple and we’ve been hooked since!
To make bone broth, all you really need are some bones to boil. The best way to do it is in a slow cooker, and most butchers will give away bones for free or for very little (go to a good butcher to get good quality bones). Depending on your preference, you can use beef, lamb or chicken bones, all three work well. Here’s how the Hemsley sisters do bone broth!
1. Place the bones and any additional ingredients into a large stainless steel cooking pot and cover with cold water. The water level should cover the bones by 5 cm whilst still leaving room at the top of the pan.
2. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, lid on, for at least 6 hours for chicken and 12 for beef or lamb, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. The longer the bones simmer, the more nutrients are released. We like to boil the chicken carcass for up to 12 hours until the bones begin to crumble and keep beef bones going for 24 hours until they look as if they were washed up on a beach.
3. Fresh chicken carcasses from the butcher usually have a fair amount of meat on them. We tend to poach the carcasses for 20 minutes, then pull off the meat (and save it for another meal like a chicken salad or chicken pho) before returning the carcasses to the pot and continuing to simmer to make broth.
4. Strain the liquid, using a fine mesh strainer for poultry. Use immediately or leave to cool before storing (preferably in glass/ceramic rather than plastic). Bone broth will keep in the fridge for several days or up to a week if you leave it undisturbed, as a layer of fat will form on the surface and keep it sealed from the air.
You can also make Bone Broth using a slow-cooker. Just turn to high and cook for 12 hours or more.
Broth will happily keep in the fridge for up to a week. Divide your batch between 2 containers. This will allow you to use up one jar over the first few days while the second forms a fat layer which will keep it good for the second half of the week.
Small portions of Bone Broth are great for cooking up quinoa or braising vegetables and larger containers are great for making batches of soups, curries and stews.
Beef Bones produce a lot of nutritious fat – (skim some of it and save it for roasting vegetables). Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to three days or freeze the stock in a glass container.
Visit hemsleyandhemsley.com for more info and to buy their best-selling cook books!
Words by Rachel Cruickshank