Bone broth and the gelatin that it naturally contains is considered one of the best gut-healing foods.  In today’s world where the standard diet is nothing but gut-destroying junk, we could all use a bit of gut-healing!

Gut-healing is especially important if you have SIBO.  Yet, there is a confusing Catch 22: bone broth could actually exacerbate SIBO symptoms.  Here’s what you need to know.

Quick Recap: What Is Bone Broth?

bone broth

Bone broth is made by boiling down the bones and connective tissues of animals (usually chickens or beef bones, but other bones can also be used).

We usually think of bones as something static in our body.  The reality is that bones are complex, living tissues.  They contain many nutrients our bodies need.  It is a shame that bones are usually discarded today instead of made into broth!

Boiling the bones and connective tissues causes their nutrients to be released into the water.  The result is a nutrient-dense liquid that consists of:

  • Gelatin: Gelatin is the same thing as collagen. When collagen is cooked, we call it gelatin.  So, what is collagen?  It is a type of protein which contains the amino acids proline and  Glycine is particularly good for gut-healing because it stimulates stomach acid production for better digestion.
  • Glutamine: This is an amino acid which helps against mucosal breakdown in the gut. It also protects the intestinal walls from breaking down.
  • Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs): These are a type of polysaccharides 
    carbohydrate which are found in bones and connective tissues.  One of the most well-known GAGs is hyaluronic Acid.  It is notable for reducing and preventing joint pain and other health benefits.

(Source 1, 2, 3)

Why Might Bone Broth Be Bad for SIBO?

When you have SIBO, there is too much and/or the wrong type of bacteria in your gut.  The key to curing SIBO is to get gut bacteria back in balance (fix gut dysbiosis) while simultaneously healing the gut.

As someone who battled with a severe case of SIBO, I can tell you that it is not easy to cure SIBO (I’m not trying to be discouraging here; I just want to be candid about how tough this condition is to treat).

You essentially need to stop eating anything that would feed the bacteria overgrowth in your gut. Bacteria primarily feed on carbohydrates, so you’ll have to cut out carbohydrates to get the bacteria under control. I even went to the extreme step of doing an elemental diet to cure my SIBO and remained on a specialized diet for weeks afterwards. You can learn all about this in my eBook The SIBO Solution.

Here’s where the problem is with SIBO and bone broth: Bone broth contains carbohydrates. More specifically, it is the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) carbs in bone broth that are problematic.

In short: The GAG carbs in bone broth can feed the bacteria in your gut, causing overgrowth to get worse in SIBO patients.

Bone Broth and FODMAPs

If you have SIBO, then you have probably already heard of the Low FODMAP diet. This diet is often recommended for SIBO because it removes certain fermentable carbohydrates which bacteria love to eat.

In several forums and blog post comments, I’ve read that “bone broth is high FODMAP.”  While this comment is in the right vane, it is not completely correct.

The GAG carbs in bone broth are a type of polysaccharide carbohydrates.  Under FODMAPs, polysaccharide types of carbs are allowed – even though these can also feed gut bacteria and aren’t recommended for SIBO.  The fact that these carbs (as well as many other gut-damaging ingredients) are allowed is one of the big problems with the FODMAPs diet.  (Confusing, right?)

In short: The GAG carbs  in bone broth don’t fall under FODMAPs, but still are not good for SIBO.

Using Meat/Marrow Bones Instead of Cartilage Bones

Check out any Yes/No food list for SIBO and you’ll see that bone broth made from cartilage bones (such as knuckles) is a “no” food.  Yet, bone broth made with marrow and meaty bones is okay.  This is what Dr. Allison Siebecker, the leading authority on SIBO, says as well in her SIBO-Specific Diet Food Guide.

Why is bone broth from marrow and meat bones okay, but broth from cartilage bones is not?

Let me be clear: Cartilage – and thus GAG carbs – are found in all bones.  However, there are a lot less of these carbs in the meaty bones than the cartilage bones.

As I talk about in this post about diet protocols for SIBO, it is low FODMAP, not no FODMAP.  The small amount of GAG carbs in broth made from meat/marrow bones often isn’t a problem for people with mild cases of SIBO.  People with severe SIBO might react poorly though.

(Source 1, 2)

Beef Bones vs. Chicken Bones

Both beef bones and chicken bones both have GAG carbs which can be bad for SIBO sufferers.  However, beef bones are a lot larger than chicken bones.

The larger the bones, the longer cooking time is required to break down the connective tissues.  So (to generalize), a broth made by cooking beef bones for 4 hours will have less carbs than a broth made by cooking chicken bones for the same amount of time. (Source)

On the downside, using larger bones cooked for shorter periods means the broth won’t have as much gelatin in it.  That is why we usually recommend small bones for making gelatin-rich bone broth or even smashing meat bones with a hammer to break them up before cooking them.  It is also why broth made from meaty bones often won’t gel at all.

The Bone Broth-Histamine Issue

One important thing to note is that bone broth can cause issues for people with histamine intolerance.  This is because gelatin causes the release of histamine in the body. (Source) A lot of times, HIT goes hand-in-hand with SIBO, so it is something you might need to check out.

If HIT is a problem for you, then  you will probably be better off with hydrolyzed collagen than bone broth or straight-up gelatin.  Hydrolyzed collagen is the exact same thing as gelatin except that it is easier to digest and is less likely to cause histamine issues.  You can read about the difference between gelatin and collagen here.

How to Use Bone Broth When You Have SIBO

Remember that SIBO is a highly individualized condition.  What works for one person might not necessarily work for you.  You’ll have to try bone broth for gut healing yourself and see how your body reacts.  With that in mind, here are some guidelines for using bone broth for healing when you have SIBO.

  • After treating SIBO start with smaller amounts to see how your body reacts. If your body tolerates bone broth well, then gradually start drinking more (up to 4 cups daily) to help repair your gut lining.
  • Use bone broth made from meat and marrow bones as these broths will contain fewer carbs.
  • If you are worried about reacting to bone broth (or just don’t have the time to make your own bone broth), then just consume gelatin instead.
  • Hydrolyzed collagen is an alternative to gelatin and may be better tolerated by people with histamine intolerance.
  • Even if you opt for gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen instead of bone broth, take it slowly! Some people still find these hard to digest.

And, of course, make sure you are choosing REAL BROTHS AND GELATIN.

Don’t use any of those processed, store-bought brands as they contain preservatives and other ingredients which are terrible for your gut.

Want to learn more about healing your gut, curing SIBO, and the benefits of gelatin? Read my eBooks The SIBO Solution and The Gelatin Secret

Not only will you get the information needed to revitalize your health, but also lots of great gelatin recipes and SIBO recipes.

The SIBO Solution

The SIBO Solution – Buy Here

The Gelatin Secret ebook

The Gelatin Secret – Buy Here

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Sylvie McCracken is a former celebrity assistant in Hollywood turned full time entrepreneur currently living in Ashland, Oregon with her kids. She writes about treating and preventing health conditions with real food and natural remedies, as well as anything else she feels like writing about because she's a rebel like that. 😉 he also mentors health professionals turned entrepreneurs on her other site,