In this episode, we discuss:
- The history behind the partnership between Kara and Jill and the Better Broths and Healing Tonics cookbook
- Their exhaustive pilot study into whether bones harbor lead and other toxic metals
- Nutrients found in broth, including potassium, selenium, glycine, and arginine
- The design of the cookbook and the recipes
- Considerations for those with histamine intolerance or on specialized diets
- The impact of using a variety of methylation adaptogens, epinutrients, and other health‑supportive ingredients
- Better Broths and Healing Tonics: 75 Bone Broth and Vegetarian Broth-Based Recipes for Everyone by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald and Jill Sheppard Davenport
- Dr. Fitzgerald’s Younger You diet and lifestyle program
- Learn more about Dr. Kara Fitzgerald
- Learn more about Jill Sheppard Davenport
- Learn more about the Adapt Naturals Core Plus bundle or take our quiz to see which individual products best suit your needs
- If you’d like to ask a question for Chris to answer in a future episode, submit it here
- Follow Chris on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook
Hey, everybody, Chris Kresser here. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. If you’ve been following my work for any length of time, you know I’ve been a huge advocate of bone broth for many years. It’s been a part of traditional diets all over the world, and it has a profound impact on gut health and many other aspects of our health and well-being. But until the last few years, there wasn’t a ton of research on the nutrient value and content of bone broth, questions about heavy metal toxicity, and ways that we could use bone broth to improve our health.
Fortunately, that’s changed in the past few years, predominantly from research by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald and Jill Sheppard Davenport, who are going to be my guests on this show. We’ve worked together over the years to address [the] question of the healing benefits of bone broth. They are experts on this topic and have written a new cookbook on how to use bone broth effectively in your diet, how to use it as a base when you’re cooking, [and] how to boost the nutrient value with herbs and spices, mushrooms, and other nutrient-dense foods. I think this is the missing piece for how to successfully incorporate bone broth into your day-to-day approach. It’s one of the things that I always recommend to all my patients. It’s one of the things that can make the biggest difference in our health and well-being, and it’s so easy once you get it down.
[I’m] really excited about this conversation. I think it’s going to clear up a lot of misconceptions about bone broth, provide a lot more detail about how it can help, and give you some really practical suggestions about how to use it in your day-to-day cooking and approach to food. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
Chris Kresser: Kara and Jill, welcome to the show.
Kara Fitzgerald: It’s great to be with you again, Chris.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Chris Kresser: It’s always a pleasure. So, we’re all big fans of bone broth. When I first got interested in this field, even before I became a clinician, it was through the Weston A. Price Foundation [and] Nourishing Traditions. As you both know, they’re huge advocates of bone broth, and that was a big part of my gut healing and my recovery from the chronic illness that I struggled with. And at the time, there wasn’t a lot of research available. It was more [of] a traditional, medicinal food that we knew was present in a lot of cultures, but there wasn’t a lot of research behind it. So I’m really excited to dig in to this topic in more detail, because I know you’ve both done exhaustive research on the healing benefits of bone broth and the nutrients that it contains, and how that can help improve our health and longevity, which is, of course, a particular interest of yours, Dr. Fitzgerald. So maybe we can start with the backstory. How did you [both] come to this interest in broth and its healing effects?
The Background of Better Broths and Tonics
Kara Fitzgerald: Let me start, and then I’m going to pass it right over to Jill to add to it. Of course, I’m a naturopathic physician by training, Chris. As you elegantly stated, there’s a long, massive, traditional use history, especially in naturopathic medicine, so it was a part of the core curriculum of my training in medical school. And [I] grew up with broths [and] with a mom who really understood the benefit. We, of course, prescribed them. We were using them in practice forever, and the nutrition team was using them. For me, I think what started this journey was doing a roundtable Q&A at Jill’s alma mater, the Maryland School of Integrative Medicine. Is that the name?
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Maryland University of Integrative Health.
Kara Fitzgerald: Maryland University of Integrative Health, sorry about that. We were doing a Q&A during a great conference that they hosted, and I was on the stage with Deanna Minich and a couple of other folks. Deanna threw out this teaser question of, “Are we overprescribing bone broth? Is it loaded with toxic metals?” She threw this teaser question out, and I was stopped. I didn’t have the answer. I knew we were using it all the time, and of course, our thinking is, “Yes, we’re over prescribing it, and bones are loaded with lead, and this is a really horrible thing.” And it was scary.
I came back to the clinic, and our clinic is a deeply educationally focused place. We’ve got multiple rounds meetings, but the big rounds, our weekly rounds, [are] with our nutritionists as well as our physicians, and people jump in who are physicians who are training and nutritionists in training. So it’s this big, awesome, lively discussion where we really kick around best practices. A lot of what we’ve done here is really birthed in this discussion time that we have, and we kind of educate each other. It’s like a village; it keeps each other current in the literature. So I came home from this conference and was giving everybody a brief on it, and I said, “Deanna Minich posed this pretty extraordinary and provocative question that really needs to be answered.” I wanted us to take it on. I said, “I’ll absolutely fund looking at bone broth. We have to do it. We can’t just prescribe this to our patients without answering this question.” And, really, there was a dearth of literature. So, Jill decided to take it on. I think at the time, [she was] just finishing [her] training with us. She did her [Certified Nutrition Specialist] (CNS) hours with us. Maybe [she was] already a full nutritionist in the clinic. She totally took this on and worked with other nutritionists to begin the investigation. So anyway, Jill, let me kick it over to you. It’s a long story, but it’s sort of cool.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Well, I have to say I was interested in the answer, but it was also a tiny bit selfish, if I’m honest, because there were all these wonderful bones that I’d been making broth with in my freezer, and I opened the door after that conference and thought, “What are we doing here?” I needed to know the answer just as much as everybody. So with your support and your enthusiasm, we launched this bone broth pilot study. The bone broth pilot study, and I’ll get into the results in a minute if that’s of interest here, was key to the origin story of the new “food as medicine” cookbook that Dr. Fitzgerald and I just released this past November, because the results were so great and fantastic. We conducted this A to Z, full complete look not only at [whether there is] lead in bone broths, [but also whether there are] other toxic metals. We looked at 19 different toxic metals, and a whole list of minerals, as well. And because the results were so great, as I said, we got this inspiration with full confidence to launch into taking broth to new places to create healing recipes.
Bone Broth Pilot Study on Toxic and Essential Minerals and Metals
Chris Kresser: Great, yeah, let’s dive into that study and the results, because I remember this controversy. I wrote about it several years ago, and my conclusion was pretty much the same as yours, which is [that] lead is not really an issue in bone broth in the levels that it’s typically found. I think it’s probably worth mentioning, especially in California [where] you’re seeing Prop 65 labels on just about anything, including before you walk into a restaurant, that people understand that it’s not unusual. In fact, it’s quite normal to see very low levels of heavy metals in a variety of different foods, and that’s because heavy metals are naturally found in the soil. The dose makes the poison. I think it’s important to point that out because I think some people have the misapprehension that we should be able to find foods that have zero levels of lead or other metals, [and] that’s just not the way it works. Those are naturally found on the earth and in the soil. So I’ll just preface it with that.
Kara Fitzgerald: And let me underline it by saying, we’ve evolved. Our bodies evolved with exposure to these particular toxins. They know what to do. Our liver knows how to handle it; our gut knows how to handle it. Obviously, if we’re overwhelmed with it, if our house is loaded up with lead paint, toxicity can definitely be achieved. Our bodies aren’t used to an overwhelming amount. But we were designed to metabolize these, unlike some of the synthetic modern toxins.
Chris Kresser: And that’s true for all compounds in plants. The carnivore argument is that there are toxins in plants. Well, big deal. Those actually upregulate our endogenous antioxidant defense system, and they can be beneficial. That’s a whole other rabbit hole that we won’t go into right now. The other thing I wanted to mention so [that] you can address it, or we can just talk about it, is the importance of nutrient synergy. When these metals are present in food, there are also other nutrients that are typically present in those foods that can help us either detoxify those [metals] or prevent us from absorbing [them]. Calcium is an example, [and] iron is an example. Vitamin D, vitamin C, and thiamin have all been shown to have a protective effect against lead toxicity. So, none of this is happening in isolation.
Kara Fitzgerald: Right. You know, the other thing, because of course, Chris, you certainly read the recent Consumer Reports [study] looking at chocolate and finding loads of lead and other toxins. Or cadmium, I think, primarily.
Chris Kresser: Cadmium, yeah.
Kara Fitzgerald: You know, you do a periodic blood test. It’s covered by insurance, it’s something that we should be looking at anyway, [and] it should be just a part of a standard workup. And then chances are, you’re good, or if you’re not, you move into handling it and get on with life.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, exactly. It’s a mountain out of a molehill, in most circumstances. Jill, tell us a little bit about what you learned in the study, both in terms of lead content in broth and whether that’s anything to be concerned about. And then what else you found in broth.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, sure. Chris, I really appreciate that blog post you did on lead years ago. That was a nice starting off point for us. It’s linked in our study, as well, if folks are looking for the link. And that point about competitive inhibition, we address it in the study, as well. That is why it was so important for us, for the first time to our knowledge, to completely look at 36 other toxic and essential minerals and metals besides lead so we could figure out what’s in there [and] in what amounts, so we could see how much of [that synergistic effect that you pointed out] was at play. So, what did we do? What did we find out? We sent four samples to the same lab that we would use to look at toxic metals and essential minerals in clients that we work with. We worked with Doctor’s Data, and the first sample was store-bought beef broth. This was from a great brand, Kettle & Fire, which just as an aside, when I don’t have time to make my own broth, I really, really like that brand. It’s good quality and made well. So we sent that one in, made from organic and grass-fed beef bones. The second [sample] was a homemade beef broth. This was made from the bones in my freezer. Bones from grass-fed and organically raised cows, sourced fresh from a farm in Maryland. And just [a] quick shout-out to the local farms and ranches who make these available and affordable. [We’re] just so super appreciative [of them]. [The] third [sample was] homemade beef broth from conventionally raised cows. So [this was made from] bones purchased off the shelf at a very standard grocery store in [Washington,] DC. Then, because collagen powder is so frequently used by folks as an alternative to cooking with bone broth, the fourth [sample] was hydrolyzed beef collagen powder from the brand Great Lakes Wellness, derived from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows.
We sent these four [samples] in as a pilot study to check out lead, along with 36 other toxic and essential minerals and metals. Just to cut to the chase here, of the 19 toxic metals that we tested for, including lead, all were either non-existent or far below our concern threshold. And the limits that we looked at to create our threshold [were] pretty much [from] everywhere possible. We looked at [the United States Food and Drug Administration] (FDA), [the Environmental Protection Agency] (EPA), [the United States Department of Agriculture] (USDA), American Academy of Pediatrics, just every kind of way to analyze this to determine that lead, in addition to toxic metals, really wasn’t a concern in any of our samples.
Kara Fitzgerald: That means off-the-shelf, super-standard, non-organic. [Jill,] you do have to give your little anecdote that you were able to smell the difference between those bone qualities. But I just think that’s really heartening, because there was a time, depending on where you were, [that] if you were in a polluted, leaded-gasoline area [and] cows were grazing there, then they would have a burden. I think it’s nice to see that we’re past that, where it’s not an issue.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, absolutely. One, we’ve seen bone broth, I think all three of us here, do great things for people’s health, gut health, and a variety of other benefits, which we can talk about if that’s helpful to recap for folks. The other thing is knowing that this is only looking at the metals, the minerals, and the metallic toxins. For this study, it was honestly the first time that I used bones from conventionally raised cows to make broth, and there was a noticeable difference in the way the aroma filled my house. It didn’t smell great. So that’s just an off-the-cuff sort of observation.
Kara Fitzgerald: That’s an understatement though. She used more colorful adjectives. It’s horrible.
Chris Kresser: I’ve heard that before. We’ve only ever made broth with bones from pasture-raised animals, but I have heard from some of my patients [that] when they didn’t have access to pasture-raised bones and they used conventional bones, it smelled and tasted very different.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah. Right there with you. It was very much a surprise. So just reminding folks that, of course, this wasn’t taking into account pesticides, antibiotics, or other kinds of chemical or toxic exposures.
The Nutritional Value of Broths
Chris Kresser: So, not much lead, or not an amount of lead to be concerned with. What about other micronutrients, or other nutrients, in general? I’ve found over the years that there are some misconceptions about nutrients in bone broth. For example, some people might think that bone broth is very high in calcium, because after all, it’s made from bones, right? And bones contain calcium. I’m curious to hear what your data found, but from the previous research that I have seen, there’s actually not very much calcium in bone broth. It’s, of course, rich in other nutrients that are beneficial.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, absolutely. Our samples found bone broth [is] a great source of potassium. I think it was more in one cup than in a banana or an avocado.
Chris Kresser: I’m just going to break in here and say that’s really relevant, because the Linus Pauling Institute says 100 percent of Americans don’t get enough potassium. I know this is a focus of yours, Kara. The sodium-potassium ratio is one of the biggest mismatches in the modern world relative to ancestral diets.
Kara Fitzgerald: Right, right, right. Relative to every other mammal. It’s kind of extraordinary that we’ve completely flipped it.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, so let’s put bone broth on the map for potassium repletion. It’s also, according to our samples in our pilot study, a great source of selenium. So, thinking about [it] as a nice source for folks who are low in that and supporting their thyroid health. It also provides some magnesium [and] some calcium, though as you mentioned, when we compare calcium to our daily needs, it does contain less calcium than we would have thought. So while it’s a very good multivitamin mineral, [it’s] not a complete source.
Chris Kresser: Right. Can you talk a little bit about collagen and glycine and the role that they play?
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, sure, absolutely. Bone broth contains a large amount of glycine, which is a key amino acid in collagen, which gives bone broth, if we’re lucky enough to make it well, that nice sort of jiggly, gelatinous effect when chilled. Glycine is terrific for all sorts of things, but one aspect that I tend to emphasize in my practice is that it’s mood calming and sleep [supportive]. I’m using, for instance, our lavender-infused bone broth tonic to support people for sleep and getting really nice feedback there. Glycine is also supporting [balancing blood sugar] by improving insulin resistance. Because it’s one of the three amino acids that we need to make glutathione, along with cysteine and glutamic acid, we can think of [it] as a nice source to support detoxification, as well. I think glycine gets superstar status when we think about what the amino acid components are in collagen and in bone broth. There’s a good amount of arginine, which helps protect against infection, and those glycosaminoglycans [that are] great for joint health. That’s a mouthful of these wonderful amino acids and carbohydrates that are so supportive for our health. And I like to think of those things every time I’m taking a sip of bone broth, because I think our thoughts matter, too. It’s about everything we ingest.
Kara Fitzgerald: I would say that you did an awesome rundown. The only thing that I would add is that it’s essential in the whole methylation journey and making S-adenosylmethionine, methylating folate itself. Key player there.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I was going to mention that. And we talked about the sodium-potassium ratio being flipped. I would also argue that the methionine-glycine ratio has been flipped or distorted in the modern diet where you have many people eating predominantly lean proteins that are high in methionine and not eating much of the collagen- or glycine-rich protein sources like bone broth, or the gelatinous cuts of meat like oxtail or chuck roast or things like that. When you look at ancestral diets, there was much more of a balance between methionine and glycine intake. A theory that I subscribe to when you look at studies that show a relationship between protein intake and cancer, like The China Study and T. Colin Campbell, generally, if [those] data [stratify] intake of methionine and other amino acids, you really only see a relationship with very high methionine intake not balanced by glycine and not balanced by any of the other nutrients that promote methylation like [vitamin] B12, folate, [vitamin] B6, etc.
Kara Fitzgerald: That’s interesting.
Chris Kresser: This is the nuance that is often left out of the claims made about protein, and another reason why I think bone broth, and collagen and glycine, in general, are really important additions to the diet for most people.
Guided by the healing and longevity formula of Dr. Fitzgerald’s Younger You program, Better Broths and Healing Tonics shares easy recipes that help you to stave off inflammation and chronic disease—and live longer, better. #chriskresser #bonebroth #recipes
The Cookbook and the Recipes
Chris Kresser: All right, so let’s talk a little bit more about some of the broth recipes. The interesting thing to me about it is not just the broth, which is the base or the foundation, but how you approach boosting, if you will, the nutritional value of the broth recipes using things like mushrooms, which I’m also a big fan of, and spices, which we know are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available on an ounce-for-ounce basis, and things like that. I think that’s where this gets really interesting, and you can make a superfood out of these broth-based recipes.
Kara Fitzgerald: I want Jill to go into the super brilliant design of the book, but I do want to give a shout-out to our research and give another shout-out to Jill being supported by [The Institute for Functional Medicine] (IFM) and presenting this content at the Annual International Conference back in 2018, which was really fabulous. They were very supportive of this work. I think we had many, many downloads for this document because everybody wants to know that their food is safe. But, yes, I think she came up with a pretty brilliant structure to design it. Concurrent to that was our study looking at epinutrients. Looking at biological age and DNA methylation and gene expression, etc., and this remarkable collection of epinutrients. So, as you’re talking, Jill, you can point out some of those nutrients that you layered into the structure.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you both. I have to say it was a lot of fun to figure out how to use bone broth and then use your research, Dr. Fitzgerald, with the Younger You program supporting healthy genetic expression. It was a lot of fun to think about how to take all this great information and make it actionable. I’m totally that person who will take a cookbook to bed at night and read the blurbs and flip through [it] and [then] in the morning just grab my same old apple and almond butter sort of thing. So part of this book is really intended to inspire and make it easy and doable and action-oriented, as well as, of course, to educate.
As a brief overview [on] how this book sets the readers up, each recipe purposefully incorporates the nutrients that Dr. Fitzgerald has studied thoroughly and just discussed. So, using methyl donors and DNA methylation adaptogens as much as possible to promote healthy longevity and healthy epigenetic expression so that we can avoid aging into disease, and also benefit this huge, vast field, backed by scientific evidence, known as “food as medicine.” So we list those donors and adaptogens at the top, in addition to other health benefits. We talk about it as a bone broth book, [but] you can also, by the way, make the recipes vegan, vegetarian, or plant-forward, plant-based using plant-based broths. Purposefully, because we want all these healthy nutrients in our diet. There’s a heavy emphasis throughout on the use of epinutrients like polyphenols, which are this powerful group of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, [and] nuts and seeds, that are the center of Younger You and Better Broths. Almost all of our recipes start with the broth. You can use any type of bones that you like, you can use a plant-based [broth], [or] you can use a mushroom broth, which we crafted purposefully to help people get more mushrooms in their diet for all of the many, many supportive effects they have on epigenetics, on immune health, on lipids, on so many things.
So, you start with a broth. And then, Chris, as you mentioned, we created this boost system. We kept things simple, and then you boost it if you have time and interest by throwing in smart combinations of herbs and spices and mushrooms that have a certain effect. For instance, our Younger You longevity boost is mushroom, rosemary, and garlic. There are others that support inflammation and a variety of other health effects. You make a broth or two, you boost it, and then you use these broths as your base to make really healthy, nutrient-rich, nutrient-dense recipes all week.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s amazing. I want to dive into that a little bit more, because I think sometimes when people think about bone broth, they’re like, “Okay, soup.” That’s it. “I’ll have soup once a week, or make a bone broth-based soup.” But there [are] so many other ways that you can use broth. Let’s dive into some of those because I know you expand well beyond the idea of soup. Personally, we use it for sauces, I’ll drink it straight as a tea sometimes, [and] we’ll use it to cook. If we are cooking grains, like rice, we’ll use it to cook the rice in. So, yeah, how about some of the less conventional ideas for incorporating bone broth, so that people are getting a little bit every day?
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Okay, and I love those ideas that you have, Chris. I think one of the neat things that we have come up with are bone broth ice pops. Yes, I said ice pops.
Chris Kresser: Wow, yes, unexpected.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: We have a strawberries and cream [one] and a couple of different flavors. [We were] thinking about folks who may not be drawn to bone broth, thinking about kiddos. We don’t want to create this bone broth tug of war in any kitchens. So with that desire in mind, we created, which I think is something that’s really neat, a sort of “sweet-based broth,” in addition to what you might think of as a more savory-based broth. This isn’t sugary sweet, and there’s no added sweeteners in there. We’re using cinnamon, cloves, apple, orange peel, all modifiable, by the way, based on the unique needs that someone may have for gut health, for instance. It creates this nice sort of sweet-ish, lovely flavor profile. It goes into the strawberries and cream ice pops, it goes into a whole variety of, I call them sort of like latte-ish drinks, tonics that we have. You can whip [it] up and make a warm, sweet-ish smoothie, knowing that not everybody wants a cooler smoothie, for instance, in the winter months when those might be harder to digest or chilling for the body.
So, [here are] some examples. I think one of my favorite recipes in the book is our mole negro recipe. I love mole negro. I love Mexican food, I love Oaxacan food, which is the region where that came from. I lived with an Oaxacan chef for a while who made the most magical mole, and I knew that we could build on this wisdom, this traditional wisdom and indigenous wisdom, and we looked at all the nutrients and we compared it to this fantastic appendix in Dr. Fitzgerald’s book, lining out foods and all their epinutrients. Mole negro tastes great on everything, and it is absolutely filled [with nutrients]. I think we counted 36 different DNA supportive nutrients and methylation adaptogens [in there].
Chris Kresser: That’s amazing. I love the broth pops idea. I mean, there’s bacon-flavored ice cream, so why not bone broth-flavored popsicles? Maybe you can combine the two, bacon-flavored bone broth popsicles. That would be a new one.
Kara Fitzgerald: I want to just throw out as an aside for anybody who might be feeling a hint of overwhelm, that these are all tested in our clinic practice where people haven’t made bone broths for themselves, or layered on boosts and then used them in recipes. If there’s one thing that the nutrition team needs to be competent at, [it] is holding the branch down so that anyone can do it and you can do it within the context of a busy working household with kids, etc. So please just know, if you’re listening and you haven’t jumped into this world yet, you[’ve] got it. You can do it. Jill lays it out super easy.
Chris Kresser: Yeah. I would say, having worked with thousands of patients and prescribed bone broth to virtually all of them like you, Kara, and many of those patients being kids or families, and having my own kid and using bone broth in lots of recipes over a long period of time, that it adds umami, which is one of the key flavors and makes most things taste better, especially when it’s incorporated in other recipes, [like] using it as a base for sauces or cooking grains in it or with soup. Our daughter is 11, and she still loves soup that’s made with bone broth. So it might be intimidating and overwhelming at first, but I think in many cases, kids actually love it and find that it makes everything taste better.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, some folks asked me, “Okay, Jill. You’re telling me this is gonna make my life easier, but first, I have to make a broth and then I have to use it to cook something?” I’m like, “Yes. I promise, because it really does make things taste better.” And by the way, all these great nutrients [like] your water-soluble zinc, selenium, vitamin B if you throw mushrooms in there, all of it’s jumping into your meals and adding flavor at the same time. It creates success and it makes things really quick to cook in the kitchen. If you have broth and you have vegetables, [and] the broth is infused with spices and herbs, if you use some of our boosts, you throw it in a blender and it’s done. And I hope it’s empowering and inspiring to people. I’ll say this, to your point, Dr. Fitzgerald, that [with] the entire front of the book, which are blends, aka warm smoothies, tonics, and infusions, and many of our soups, and then all of our base broths and all of our base broth boosts, when I was creating [them] with the team, I gave the mission [that] I want all these things to be able to be made in 10 minutes or less [of] hands-on time. The whole front of the book is for you if you’re like, “Give me something to do in 10 minutes, and I’ll do it.” We’ve got you.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I would say it’s also just a question of how you think about your cooking time. It’s maybe a little front [loaded] in the sense that it takes a bit of time to make the broth. But then once you have it, as you’ve pointed out, you can just dip into it throughout the week over and over again. You’re not going to be making broth every single day. In most cases, you’re going to make it once a week and then have access to it throughout the rest of the week, which, like you said, Jill, I find actually makes it easier to make good meals, rather than harder. This is something that’s prevalent in the highest level of cooking, too. You go to any Michelin star restaurant, [and] almost certainly, they’re using broth in a lot of their recipes. Recently, we were at the library getting our daughter some books, and we saw Julia Child’s [Mastering the Art of French Cooking], and we picked up a copy of it, and pretty much every recipe in there has broth. It also has butter, and all of the good French stuff. But this is something that top chefs have been incorporating into their recipes for many years. It’s not only healthy, it’s delicious and will elevate you as a cook.
Histamine Intolerance and Specialized Diets
Kara Fitzgerald: So, let me throw this out there because I just hear it. I hear it in my head, the din. People are listening to this and saying, “But I’m histamine intolerant.”
Chris Kresser: Right.
Kara Fitzgerald: I just want to hear both of your thoughts. I know you’ve addressed it, Jill, in the book, but I know, Chris, you’ll have some thinking on it, as well.
Chris Kresser: Well, I’ve covered this so many different ways, so I’d love to hear your approach, Jill, and then I can chime in and tell you what I think.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Well, [with] folks who have histamine overload, or maybe mast cell activation syndrome, or some kind of combination or sort of allergy activation or things like that, there’s a lot more that we do to get to the root cause so their body can handle the histamine that it’s producing. It can degrade it and maybe not produce amounts that may lead to intolerance, for example. So, knowing that food is just one piece of a full Functional Medicine and nutrition approach for building tolerance. I have worked with people who do suffer, and, at first, I really didn’t know quite what to make of histamine intolerance. Over time, I began to really, really respect what people were experiencing and the response that they were having. In this book, we have a way to make broth that is lower, pretty darn low, in histamine, I would imagine, because histamine is, in part, created through a bacterial conversion, histidine through histamine-recurring bacteria. If we cook it quickly, like pressure cooking, and if we are freezing it quickly, that helps. It also helps to use meat on the bones. So we poach a chicken, essentially, and we teach people how to do that in a pressure cooker style, and that broth can then be used all throughout the book. So anyone who is on a low-histamine diet, who is finding that beneficial, you have a way to make nearly everything in the book from sweet to savory.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I would agree with that. I would also come back to the nutrient synergy discussion that we had earlier. I know from seeing the book that a lot of the other nutrients from herbs and spices and things that you’re including in some of the recipes can have an antihistamine, or at least a histamine-balancing, mast cell-supporting effect. So even if someone was somewhat sensitive to the broth itself, it may be that the other nutrients that are in those recipes are going to help balance that out. And look, my experience is it’s just a highly individual fact thing, and it can even vary on a day-to-day basis, where if we think of histamine as a threshold-based intolerance depending on how empty or full your cup is on that particular day, or what else is going on in the background, that might determine your response. But it’s not something that you have to wait 30 days to find out about.
Kara Fitzgerald: That’s right.
Chris Kresser: You don’t need to take a lab test and wait for the results and see, “Oh, did that cup of broth affect my histamine?” You’ll know. That’s the nature of histamine intolerance. You’ll know right away. You’ll start developing some of the symptoms, and you can manage your intake accordingly. And then, of course, either on your own or with your Functional Medicine provider, keep working to address the underlying causes of histamine intolerance. In my opinion, one of the big ones is poor methylation. [If] you’re consuming all these nutrients that are going to help your methylation, long-term, that’s actually going to reduce your histamine intolerance. That’s my take.
Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah, and rebuild the gut, which is essential to reestablish histamine.
Chris Kresser: Cause number two of histamine intolerance, right?
Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah. One of the cool things that we’ve seen time and again is that those with histamine intolerance or other gut-mediated intolerances almost uniformly can handle more foods and food combinations than they know. When you combine things carefully and when you use the structure for building a broth that Jill just outlined, people are routinely pleasantly surprised at what they’re able to do, with the caveat that some days are harder than others, as you said. But we routinely expand people’s diets, and pretty rapidly, because you do, in fact, know with an intolerance like that if you’re going to react, immediately. You don’t have to wait for a lab test.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s something I’m a big fan of, expanding people’s diets, rather than narrowing them and making them even more limited. This is a little bit of a tangent, but I think it’s relevant. For me, I don’t necessarily think that a minor reaction to eating something as you’re trying to expand your diet is a problem. It’s actually something that we may need to learn to tolerate as we expand our diet. A trap that a lot of people fall into is, if they have any kind of reaction whatsoever, they immediately stop eating that food and don’t try to expand their diet, and that can keep people stuck in a very limited range of foods indefinitely. If you haven’t been eating a food for a long time and then you introduce it, your gut bacteria and your body in general need to reacquaint themselves with that food, and that might produce a few symptoms. I just try to caution people from seeing any kind of negative reaction as a sign that you absolutely shouldn’t be doing that, because I think that’s the wrong approach.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that point. If there [are] folks listening in who are on specialized healing diets, we tailor the recipes and help you customize them to support you. However, I took a tour through pretty much every kind of healing and specialized diet over the course of a decade, healing from my own various symptoms, gut health included. Everything from vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-FODMAP, you name it. And I found that I was so focused on what to exclude, in a fearful way or in a concerned way, that I wasn’t thinking about emphasizing what to include that could help shortcut the finish line to my healing journey. This book, Better Broths, seeks to right that wrong so that we can embrace [the] full circle of this large concept called food as medicine. Not only maybe avoiding things for a short time, if necessary, that we don’t tolerate, but running toward all the foods that can help us improve our health, our body function, and our tolerance.
Chris Kresser: Absolutely. I think that’s really important, and it’s something I’m sure you both witnessed in your work. I think not so much in the general population, but in our patient population, the people are exposed to so much health information online and so many people who are very strident proponents of a particular theory or approach. If you were to add up [autoimmune protocol] (AIP), carnivore, Paleo, low-FODMAP, and you put all those restrictions together, you basically have four or five foods left that can safely be eaten. I think it’s really important, [and] I know you agree, Jill, because we worked together on this for a while. And I think you do, too, Kara.
Kara Fitzgerald: Yeah.
Chris Kresser: Nutrient deficiency is already so common as it is, that removing foods that are really nutrient-dense just out of some idea that they might not be good for us, that’s not tested by our actual experience or any supporting lab testing, is not a good approach.
Kara Fitzgerald: No, no, absolutely. Orthorexia is a real phenomenon we see in our patient population that we really have to aggressively correct. I’m preparing my lecture slides for the IFM immune module that I teach in, and one of my areas of focus this time is developing a true allergy because you’ve been avoiding something for so long. Your immune system’s ability to recognize and tolerate something and know that it’s okay and safe, we can lose that. We can lose that ability under certain circumstances.
Chris Kresser: Or not even establish it. This is how the guidelines are changing with babies, in terms of when you should reintroduce certain foods that can have an allergenic effect, like egg yolks or eggs or even gluten and wheat. If you wait too long …
Kara Fitzgerald: You lose the window of tolerance.
Chris Kresser: That’s right. Right.
Kara Fitzgerald: I know; it’s extraordinary.
Chris Kresser: This is, of course, also the idea behind the hygiene hypothesis and the old friends hypothesis and exposure to all kinds of antigens, bacteria, [and] microbes. It’s why kids who grew up on farms typically have more robust immune systems than kids who grew up in really sterile environments. There’s a lot to that.
Bringing it back to when we went off on that useful tangent, histamine [in] bone broth, yes, it’s an issue for some people. If you have a little bit of a reaction to bone broth, in my opinion, that doesn’t mean no bone broth ever again for eternity. It means maybe just dial it back a little bit the next time you do it, or just check in to see where you’re at. Maybe on a day where you’re feeling good and you haven’t had a lot of foods that have histamine, you might be able to consume a little more. Don’t freak out about it. Listen to your body and use that as your guide.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, and if you’d like, you can use our lower-histamine bone broth, and then steep it and make our nettle infusion, which supports some histamine intolerance.
Methylation Adaptogens, Epinutrients, and the Importance of Variety
Jill Sheppard Davenport: One thing that was running through my mind listening to you both talk about the importance of variety, [is that] all throughout the book, we stream vital polyphenols, [which is] a type of phytochemical, and we highlight these with a spotlight. We discuss how many of these are DNA methylation adaptogens and epigenetically active and point back to Dr. Fitzgerald’s research with her Younger You program. What I think is interesting is [that] sometimes people ask me, “All right, if I sprinkle a little bit of this herb and a little bit of this spice, and I infuse a cup of broth with a little bit of nutmeg or thyme or nettles, for example, it just looks like a sprinkle. Is this really going to do anything to support my health?” Kind of aka, “Jill, is it worth it?” And what I like to share is that, when it comes to these plant-based, naturally arising chemicals, what the research has found is that, when eaten in small doses consistently and from lots of different food sources, really honing in on getting that variety, it has a dramatic impact on health.
One piece is how they’re epigenetically active, and folks can turn to Dr. Fitzgerald’s and others’ research on that. And thinking about how polyphenols can play an important role in cancer prevention, in part through epigenetic changes. Understanding that most of the research outside of supplements on how food and different nutrients are impacting epigenetic expression toward cancer expression, it’s in doses of these phytonutrients that are naturally found in foods. It’s literally these nutrients acting as medicine in foods. So the bottom line, I would say, is yes, it definitely helps. I just encourage lots and lots of variety and frequency, and I hope folks will see that impact on their health as I have for mine, and so many people that I’ve worked with.
Chris Kresser: Excellent. Well, I’m really excited about this book being out there. I think a lot of people have heard about the benefits of bone broth for a long time, but they just haven’t really figured out how to incorporate it into their diet on a regular basis, and also how to make interesting, not just broth, [but] how to actually make interesting recipes that are broth-based. Frankly, like I said before, it really elevates your culinary game. If you can master the art of cooking with bone broth, everything that you eat is going to taste better, and it’s going to be better for you. So it’s a win-win situation. Tell us where people can learn more about the book and pick up a copy.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Yeah, absolutely. So, you can go to BetterBroths.com. And to learn more about how the book fits into the Younger You program, you can go to YoungerYouProgram.com. To learn more about what Dr. Fitzgerald and I are doing, you can check out DrKaraFitzgerald.com or JillSheppardDavenport.com. And the book is everywhere. It’s so fun to get pictures of my friends who are out and about and going into bookstores. That’s been really fun. Of course, it’s available at big-box retailers and online at Amazon. The full title for those who are interested in checking it out [is] Better Broths and Healing Tonics: 75 Bone Broth and Vegetarian Broth-Based Recipes for Everyone by Dr. Fitzgerald and myself.
Chris Kresser: So exciting. Congrats on this phenomenal work. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you both, and [I] look forward to seeing what’s next.
Kara Fitzgerald: Awesome. Chris, thanks so much for having us. I really appreciate you and your depth of knowledge and interest in our work and support of our work.
Chris Kresser: You’re very welcome.
Jill Sheppard Davenport: Thanks so much. Great to be here.
Chris Kresser: Thanks, Jill. Thanks, everyone, for listening. Keep sending your questions to ChrisKresser.com/podcastquestion. We’ll see you next time.
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