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Do you struggle with constantly getting sick over the winter months? Or perhaps is just a nagging sore throat and fatigue, but you’re able to power through your workdays (even though you don’t feel like yourself). Catching nasty a cold or flu, or constantly fighting off infections from co-workers or family members, derails your productivity at work (and in the gym) and zaps your energy at home. Many people struggle to get through the fall and winter season with sub-par health, holding their breath until spring and warm weather returns. There is another alternative.
Ask anyone what traditional remedy they’ve heard is effective for the common cold and they’ll likely tell you… grandma’s (or grandpa’s) chicken soup. This age-old remedy for colds and flu goes back centuries, across many different cultures, and is still widely practised today. Does the latest research support the use of chicken bone broth (or chicken soup) for supporting immunity and fighting off colds and flu? Let’s take a closer look at six ways bone broth can improve your immune system.
Bone marrow is a potent immune builder found in chicken broth and soup. Bones are living tissues, not just inert scaffolding of your body, containing collagen, bone marrow, and a naturally robust source of minerals.(1) Calcium, zinc, iron, selenium and many trace minerals all work together to keep your immune system running on all cylinders, chicken soup or bone broth is a nice way to get these nutrients in an easily absorbable form.
In the first article in this Bone Broth series, I discussed the many benefits of a group of compounds called glycosaminoglycan (i.e. GAGs for short). One GAG in particular, heparin sulfate supports your innate “first line of defense” arm of your immune system (fighting off attacking bacteria, viruses, etc.) as well as supporting your adaptive “seek and destroy” arm of your immune system that covertly roams around your body to knock out foreign invaders that have already penetrated your defenses.(2)
Glycine is classified as a conditionally essential amino acid, which means it becomes essential when your body is under stress. Fighting off colds and flus is definitely a stressor, along with lack of sleep (the average Canadian only gets 6.5 hours of sleep per night, and 33% get less than 6 hours nightly) and long, busy work days.(3) The ancient bone broth remedy is rich in the amino acid glycine, which modern research shows acts on specific immune cells to dampen the inflammatory response.(4,5) This may translate to a speedier recovery for you.
Cilia are a crucial physical defense against incoming bugs. These tiny, hair-like projections line the mucous membranes in your nose and upper airways, imposing a physical barrier against bacteria and viruses. When your nose and upper airways dry out during the winter months, from too much travel (i.e. air travel), or allergenic foods it can leave you more susceptible to infection. Interestingly, a recent study found chicken broth improves the protective function of cilia, keeping your defenses strong so you don’t catch a nasty cold or flu, as well as help to accelerate recovery if you’re sick and rundown.(6) Warm drinks, like a cup of bone broth or chicken soup, also help to increase the movement of nasal mucous which helps to clear your stuffed-up nose and sinuses.
Chicken broth, often referred to as the “Jewish penicillin”, contains many unique properties that support your immune system. The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s found chicken broth is able to help significantly reduce annoying symptoms like congestion and mucous accumulation via its effect on white blood cell migration within cells.(7) In short, your white blood cells work more efficiently when consuming bone broth. Incredibly, these benefits were even found in canned chicken soups.
Bone broth is a terrific natural source of glutamine, and gets significantly depleted (up to 50%) when your immune system is taxed, as is often the case if you’re chronically rundown or sick. Glutamine is also a primary fuel source for your enterocytes (i.e. gut cells), helping to maintain a strong gut barrier that is essential for not only your gut health but also your immune system, as 70-80% of your immune system is located in your gut.(8) If you struggle with constant gas or bloating, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome this will tax you gut and ultimately your immune system defense. Add a regular cup of bone broth to your regime to ensure adequate glutamine in your diet.
Chicken soup or bone broth provides an array of nutrients helpful for preventing colds and flu, diminishing the annoying symptoms of colds and flu, as well as keeping your digestive system strong to prevent future infections. Consumed for centuries by traditional cultures across the globe, bone broth is an ancient food that provides a wealth of nourishment for your immune system and overall health. Make bone broth a regular part of your routine and feel the difference for yourself. (It looks like Grandma was right!)