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Stock vs. Broth

Stock vs. Broth

French chefs have a term fonds de cuisine, which translates “the foundation and working capital of the kitchen.” Bone and meat stock provide just that, the foundation of both the kitchen and ultimately one’s physical health.

One of the most common questions that those individuals embarking upon the the journey of gut health have is:

  1. “Do I make stock or broth?”
  2. What is the difference between the two?
The two words are often used interchangeably by the most chefs. For the purpose of describing it in the context of health and gut health in particular- I will use the terms “meat stock” and “bone stock.”
I will use “stock” when referencing shorter cooked meat stock and “broth” for longer cooked bone stock.

Meat Stock

Meat stock, rather than bone broth,  The significant difference is that the stock (meat stock) is not cooked as long as broth (bone stock). Stock is especially rich in gelatin and free amino acids, like proline and glycine. These amino acids, along with the gelatinous protein from the meat and connective tissue, are particularly beneficial in healing and strengthening connective tissue such as that found in the lining of the gut. These nutrients are pulled out of the meat and connective tissue during the first several hours of cooking meaty fish, poultry, beef and lamb. The larger the bones, the longer the recommended cooking time.

Bone Broth

Bone broth, the longer cooked bones without the meat, is a superior source for minerals, as well as the same amino acids found in meat stock. The amino acids (with the exception of histidine) are present in higher amounts in bone broth. For certain individuals with leaky membranes in the gut and brain, the high concentration of glutamic acid may be problematic. Some people, including autistic children, have impaired liver function that causes the accumulation of ammonia in the blood and brain. Liver disease-associated brain damage has been linked to the accumulation of ammonia. In recent years, studies have shown that excess glutamine aggravates this condition causing brain injury.

Russell Blaylock, M.D. advises that those with ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders avoid excessive amounts of glutamates. Free glutamates include not only MSG but also glutamine and glutamic acid. These can potentially have a damaging effect on neurons in susceptible individuals. This is why I do not recommend using nutritional formulas containing glutamine in cases of the above-mentioned conditions, as well as Crohn’s or Leaky Gut Syndrome.


Gelatin, a major component of meat stock, also assists in the proper digestion of proteins ensuring optimal growth in infants and children. It improves the integrity of collagen, which is reflected in the improved appearance of the skin as well as in the lessening of digestive tract inflammation. Additionally, gelatin enhances the digestibility of grains and legumes cooked in it. Both grains and legumes are usually recommended to be eliminated in the beginning stages of addressing gut issues for some- with grains avoided completely until one is ready to transition back.

Once gut healing is complete and the digestive tract function is restored, properly prepared grains and legumes will be best enjoyed prepared using meat stock or bone broth.

How to Proceed

Broth or bone stock is introduced after the Introduction Diet when gut healing has advanced. Some with longstanding gut issues find that if they introduce broth (bone stock) early, prior to the sealing of the gut, they have reactions to the free glutamates that result from the longer cooked gelatin. Those who are sensitive to MSG will generally be sensitive to these free glutamates until their guts are healed. The timing on when a GAPS person is ready to progress to bone broth is individual.  Once the gut is healed and sealed and the liver is working efficiently, these sensitivities typically go away. The formation of free glutatmates can be too excitatory for many sensitive individuals.

Uncomfortable die off reactions, as well as symptoms of nervous system agitation, are signs that the digestive tract is best served staying with the meat stock. Die-off reactions can include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, constipation and skin eruptions or rashes. Die-off symptoms can be managed or minimized by using old-fashioned therapies like castor oil packs and Epson salt baths. Making the transition gradually from stock (meat stock) to broth (bone stock) is advisable. Cooking broth at a very low temperature (slow simmer) will minimize the formation of free glutamates.


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