(As always, if you have a food sensitivity, think about what you could substitute: chicken? beef? sheep? fish? Go with it...)
Anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows that I am a *huge* advocate of chicken soup and chicken soup fasting a couple of times a year (or when the immune system is obviously being challenged - like with what appears to be a cold or allergy attack).
As most of my food studies, this one was motivated primarily because I began noticing a difference when I played with our diet. This one is, perhaps, my first discovery because it was our 'start up' food for our Total Elimination Diet (TED), over five years ago.
We experienced such vastly improved health (all four of us, who are, health-wise, fairly different pictures) that I have kept this soup as my main dish in our 'healing protocol' and use it regularly, whether it be a 'recovery protocol' or a 'prep protocol' for something like surgery.
How did it pay off for us in our healing protocol? Well, one example would be two years ago:
I had a c-section and was ready to go home the next day. This astounded all the hospital staff. They didn't let me go because it was unheard of but even the doctor said she had never seen anyone sail through such major surgery the way I did. As most women in their 3rd labour experience, I knew about 24 hours beforehand that my time was coming and began replacing my heavy food with nutrient rich but easily processed chicken soup. My main staple in the hospital was chicken soup that I brought from home. Though I did also eat some steamed fish, eggs, rice biscuits and tea (I'm always starving after delivering a baby.), I tried to put about 8 hours between those heavy foods and fill up on the soup in between.
I don't suggest this for other people as a healing protocol because it's just not my place. But people often ask me what I do and why I do it, so I thought I'd finally get to writing it down and figuring out the science behind it. So, I've been collecting for a while... such a long while that I've lost a fair bit and will have to come back in to add my references as I find them... but here are a few for starters:
First of all, back in the beginning when I was first figuring out how to grow a hesitantly growing boy, I began to research bones and what makes them grow. Calcium is of course first on the list. So, everyone thinks 'dairy' right away, of course. The problem was, I needed calcium right away and dairy was not included in the first four days of our TED.
Being completely panicked about four days of soup for my son, I reassured myself with an article I read about North Americans, for all the dairy they eat, being severely deficient (generally speaking - considering how much dairy they consume) as compared to Asians who consume little dairy but seem to have better bone health.
So, I began looking at international diets, trying to discover what the differences were. How, do people in 'starving' countries even survive? How do people with severe dairy allergies survive and grow?... etcetera...
One thing I found out was that, historically speaking, we used to make much better use of the bones and skin of our food, than we do now. Now we either buy it boneless and skinless or we throw those 'useless things' in the garbage. However, I found out that they are far from useless.
Bones have quite a lot of calcium in them. Other cultures are still boiling them and using them, though North American culture seems to have lost this vital health practise. So, I checked out some studies and found that using *all* of your *kill* is essential to good/great health of both ourselves and our planet.
According to a Pubmed abstract (1994) I found, calcium content of chicken soup increases with duration of cooking. So simmering your bones for 3 hours will leach the most calcium into the soup (with acid!).
***Edit (091116) I went and checked my reference today and the wording has changed to say 24 hours with only mention of the water added being acidic... but it doesn't say how to make it so. I specifically remember wording about 3 hours and cabbage from years ago so will now try to find my printout from back then. Until I can find it though, I'll be telling people 24 hours from now on. Kind regards,
Note: a beef bone was used in this particular experiment but common sense would say that any bones would be helpful. Also, the study was performed in mind of people who could not use dairy for a calcium source. The leaching of calcium from the bones into the soup maxed out at three hours. There was no improvement in calcium content of the soup after three hours of simmering.
There are caveats though, the broth needs to be acidic. That means plenty of acidic vegetables need to be in there with the bones and water. So, if you don't add the cabbage, you will never get the same leaching of calcium, no matter how long you boil those bones. Grandpa was right, it's just not the same without the cabbage.
A crock pot is perfect for this: Just throw in the bones, throw in half a head of chopped cabbage and simmer it. (I have also used lemon, to make avgolemono - Greek, chicken rice soup, or lime for a broth to cook rice in that will be served with fish.) Put it through a strainer, into glass canning jars (not too full) and throw it in the freezer for multiple uses.
I am often asked about using vinegar as the acid. Some people seem to do this effectively. However, I suggest that there is more room for error and the ruination of a perfectly good broth (not to mention that many candida diets don't allow for vinegar). It's hard to over-lemon or over-cabbage your broth.
On to other bone issues that are often forgotten about, magnesium and vitamin C.
Magnesium is very important, not just to bones but to health in general, especially for someone who is going to be confined. Even cows who are raised in a confined environment have to have specially supplemented diets or the possibility of death from hypomagnesemia lurks. These same results were reflected when looking at older, homebound women.
According to NIH (National Institute of Health in the U.S.):
(bolding is mine)
....Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood, but the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant ....I read these kinds of things about magnesium again and again (there are loads of case studies about bone density and magnesium management) and wonder why everyone in North America seems to be so 'stuck' on calcium when it comes to bone health. The bottom line is that without sufficient magnesium, no amount of calcium is going to help you!
Magnesium and osteoporosis
Bone health is supported by many factors, most notably calcium and vitamin D. However, some evidence suggests that magnesium deficiency may be an additional risk factor for postmenopausal osteoporosis . This may be due to the fact that magnesium deficiency alters calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate calcium (20). Several human studies have suggested that magnesium supplementation may improve bone mineral density . In a study of older adults, a greater magnesium intake maintained bone mineral density to a greater degree than a lower magnesium intake . Diets that provide recommended levels of magnesium are beneficial for bone health, but further investigation on the role of magnesium in bone metabolism and osteoporosis is needed.
As an additional benefit, magnesium has been shown to aid asthmatics... so pump up the magnesium in that chicken soup!
In my case, I know when I'm magnesium low, especially after drinking coffee, because I will get chilled and (if I drink coffee for long enough through the day) sometimes my heart starts doing funny things and my breathing becomes a little laboured.
If I supplement my magnesium citrate (and stop ingesting the coffee), I can clear these issues usually in about an hour. Again, I do not suggest that anyone else try these 'experiments'. I tell my stories only as a matter of interest because they are usually blind reactions with solutions that I happen upon by chance. As an after-thought, I go and try to find out if I'm some type of medical oddity. Usually though, I can find something scientific that backs my 'blind findings'. Like anything though, too much of anything isn't good either, so I don't supplement every day (generally only on my coffee days) but I do try to maximize it in my diet by not consuming coffee every day and boiling my bones and using that broth as general cooking water rather than throwing out the skin and bones and receiving no benefit.
As far as food sources go, it really aggravates me to always see 'wholegrains' near the top of the list for magnesium.
Wholegrains make me malabsorb... whether they're gluten or not. Again, how can I tell? After eating a plate of wholegrains (especially if I add cheese sauce), I get all headachey, low in energy, cold and shivery and my heart/lungs start doing funny things. So, I have found that *I* do better to minimize my grains and keep them white but cook them in a well-rounded soup broth.
My reactions are pretty much non-existent if I do it this way. I've been practising this new way of eating for about a year now and have, again, experienced a general increase in my overall health and quality of life.
So, though I cannot find any broth abstracts to back up my personal findings or instincts, because calcium and magnesium are both alkaline earth metals (according to the periodic table) there's no reason to think that I'm not getting as much magnesium benefit from my bone and cabbage soup broth as I am getting calcium benefit.
Aside from my bone broth being a major source of magnesium, I began looking for other sources of magnesium to grow my boy. Aside from eliminating foods that were harming his gut (gluten, refined sugar, nightshades and lily families), I began searching for magnesium superfoods.
Another abstract about Arctic Canadian Indigenous adults and children and their cultural diet seems to reflect my finding that magnesium levels can be optimized easily via the implementation of animal meat, bones and organs in our diets. (I have more about organs and iron and soup but this is already getting too long, so I will have to save that for another day.)
Almonds were at the top of the list with a mere ounce providing 20% of the dv% for adults. The problem was, my son's gut was pretty messed up when we first started and nuts were just too hard for him to digest. Eventually, after some healing, he seemed to tolerate a very well ground almond flour that was cooked into the Squashbread Tea Cake recipe.
He loved raisins though and would 'fast' with them when he had a sore tummy before we knew what was creating his ill health. So, though he's now doing well five years later, I still buy raisins in bulk and let him have at it.... and of course we have lots of soup broth foods (rice, grain-free-gravy, etc.) throughout the week.
Early on in our tailored diet plan, the result of this practise was that his bones grew one year's worth in sixteen weeks. At this point in time I was not supplementing him at all because I was too afraid of a negative reaction to unknowns (as I was coming to realized that I truly knew nothing about the food we ate or biological vitamin and mineral impacts).
I maintain this 'broth' schedule because it continues to work well for him and I feel that it maximizes his nutrient levels. Also, when I become lax in this practise - as parents sometimes do tend to let things go sometimes, he seems to complain more about his tummy, which then spurs me back to making sure the broth is once again resumes a bigger role in our diet.
Another supportive abstract about the mechanisms involved in healing canine bones shows that serum calcium levels were reduced suggesting that the calcium may have been pulled from the blood to be delivered to the bone for healing. Calcium regulating hormones also changed (Remember the NIH quote above? Magnesium is required for this process.) in response to bone injury.
As usual, my conclusions are mine, and mine alone... but they do dictate some of the more 'particular' instructions for some recipes. The pickiest recipe by far (according to length of time and ingredients), so far, is chicken soup. But the reasoning is clear, it is the most heavily depended upon recipe for healing the gut, the body and the mind in our household.
Kind regards to all as always,
See you next time for Part II of the benefits of chicken soup.
Vitamin C, cabbage details and making the most of oregano to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Presently considering Part III covering fasting with chicken soup, why, why not, how, how not and other pontifications of mine that are backed up with scientific references.
Chicken soup revisited: calcium content of soup increases with duration of cooking.
Calcif Tissue Int. 1994 Jun;54(6):486-8.
Severe bone deformities in young children from vitamin D deficiency and flourosis in Bihar-India.
Calcif Tissue Int. 2005 Jun;76(6):412-8. Epub 2005 May 19
Hypomagnesemia among cows in a confinement-housed dairy herd.
Complementary therapies in the treatment of bronchial asthma.
Risk and presence of food insufficiency are associated with low nutrient intakes and multimorbidity among homebound older women who receive home-delivered meals.