Bone Broth Fasting
A bone broth fast is a type of modified intermittent fast that entails consuming bone broth several times per day as a replacement for meals. Consuming bone broth provides your body with essential amino acids while allowing your gut a rest from anti-nutrients in vegetables or grains and other inflammatory foods. Reducing inflammatory foods and gut damaging compounds from your intake allows the immune system time to rebound from leaky gut reactivity likely contributing to autoimmune flare. Without the added burden of digestion, the gut lining has time to focus on repair.
You may be familiar if you have read The Anti-Anxiety Diet with the fact that gut lining damage can occur from stress alone and we see depleted levels of glutamine, an essential building block for the cells of our gut lining, under elevated stress. Beyond resting the gut, bone broth is rich in glutamine, collagen, and gelatin to support gut tissue repair to reset your gut integrity, reducing inflammatory stress while enhancing nutrient absorption at future meals. I discussed bone broth fasting in Episode 93 of the Naturally Nourished Podcast on Getting Autoimmune Disease into Remission listen here for more.
Beyond the benefits for your digestive tract, a bone broth fast supports autophagy, a process of cellular cleanup regulated by the immune system and stimulated at times of calorie restriction (CR) or time restricted eating (TRE). It is important to understand and acknowledge that the digestive process is somewhat distressing to the body.
When the system is overburdened with toxin overload, inflammation, autoimmune flare, or under chronic stress, the body is not in an optimized digestive state and may actually create more signals of stress and inflammation when distressed with food. This can be seen in nature when animals that are sick go off to the woods for a day or two, spike a fever, rest, sleep, and allow their body to do the healing work.
Often when we are not feeling well we don’t have an appetite, so we don’t eat savory quality protein-rich and fat focused foods and instead, we force feed carbs as comfort foods even when our body is telling us “don’t eat” with aversion, nausea or bloating. This is where a bone broth can be incredibly supportive of gut health and can be used as a tool when experiencing an autoimmune flare or recovering from an immune hit like a cold, flu or food poisoning.
A bone broth fast can be used proactively for optimal health as well, as a tool to kickstart weight loss or as a part of a quarterly detox such as my 10 Day Real Food Detox. Fasting supports a reduction in insulin levels, which allows the body to access fat as a fuel source and when in a fasted state, the body makes more human growth hormone (HGH) which stimulates metabolism and has a muscle sparing effect. Bone broth is packed with minerals as well as amino acids, making it the perfect addition to extended fasting that will keep electrolytes stable versus a water fast alone!
Note: this is not a recommendation if new to keto or not currently participating in a low carb or low glycemic diet. If you have blood sugar irregularities and are on a blood sugar lowering medication, consult with your physician as you may need to adjust dosage prior to participating in a bone broth fast.
Also, if under high stress and dealing with known low leptin levels or elevated rT3 via blood value, a bone broth fast could further signal starvation and distress your body, it would be ok to do only broth but it would be required in this case to get 5-6 Tbsp fat to compensate for calorie need, more details of how you can incorporate below.
Consider a Bone Broth Fast if:
- You are in an active autoimmune flare.
- You are dealing with digestive distress or recovering from a cold, flu or food poisoning.
- You want to kick off a detox, elimination diet or reset on a ketogenic diet.
- You are looking to accelerate body fat loss (and are overweight with body fat out of normal range).
Bone Broth has been shown to have immune boosting impact in many studies including:
- Chicken broth in vitro has shown inhibition of migration of neutrophils, acting as an anti-inflammatory that can reduce symptoms of illness (1)
- Glycine receptors have been identified on several types of immune cells, glycine is an important amino acid found in bone broth (2)
- Compounds in bone broth have been shown to influence B cell, T cell and macrophage activity (3)
- Gelatin and glycine have been shown to reduce inflammation caused by LPS, a component released by bacterial cells that can drive leaky gut (4)
- Glutamine helps maintain the integrity of the gut mucosa and intestinal barrier, essential in our immune defense (5)
Benefits of Fasting:
- Accelerated fat loss (6)
- Reduction of fasting insulin and insulin resistance (7)
- Reduction of cardiovascular and diabetes risk (8)
- Autophagy or cleaning up of old “faulty” cell parts (9)
- Promotion of human growth hormone (HGH) to aid in body composition shift and maintenance of muscle mass (10)
How to Do a Bone Broth Fast:
- Consume 2-3 quarts bone broth per day, ideally from a variety of sources. Here is a recipe for our Chicken Bone Broth and Beef Bone Broth. You can also use a good quality pre-made bone broth such as Bonafide Provisions (use code ALIMILLERRD to save 20% off your online order!).
- You can add herbs or spices such as turmeric and ginger as well as pinches of Himalayan or Celtic salt to flavor broth and increase nutritional density. Note: If dealing with bloating, distention, digestive stress, or autoimmune flare, hold all additives and just do broth to limit antigens and potential reactions.
- Green and herbal teas are best, coffee and espresso are okay, but better to avoid if dealing with gut ulceration such as in inflammatory bowel disease.
- No dairy
- Generally, consume broth in 5 servings, only 2 should have add ins of ghee/coconut oil, herbs, turmeric (try golden broth from the Naturally Nourished Cookbook!) the other 3 should be plain broth with mineral sea salt such as Redmond Real Salt
- Keep consumption within an 8-10 hour window, this means for 14-16 hours (typically 8pm-10am or 12pm) only water, coffee, or tea to support intermittent fasting with calorie-free hydration
This protocol can be followed as is for 3-5 days and may be further supported by the following based on need:
For Detox Support:
Add Cilantro, onions, garlic, shallots to broth and then transition out on final days by starting with adding ½-2 cups cooked cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels (limit these cruciferous veggies if also having digestive stress)
Add a Reset, Restore, Renew Detox pack at rise and rest throughout
If underweight or at ideal body fat and not looking to stress system:
Add 3-5 Tbsp fat blended into broth, tea, or coffee
For hunger and to enhance gut restoration as well as boost protein:
Add 2 scoops collagen and 1-2 scoops gelatin to the broth blending into 2 of the servings of broth to create a creamy consistency
Further Food has grassfed collagen and gelatin and wild caught cod collagen options
Modifying your bone broth fast:
If dealing with hunger that is uncomfortable, known hypothyroidism, dealing with adrenal fatigue, low leptin, or are at low body weight, limit a pure fast to 12 hours and add fat to liquid once 12 hour window hits (example 8pm-8am with nothing, then can do a fatty coffee, tea or bone broth).
For the above conditions, ensure you consume between 3-5 Tbsp pure fat throughout the day, if over 30 pounds overweight stay at the 3 Tbsp amount. Ideally use a combination of coconut oil, ghee, MCT oil, avocado or olive oil blended into broth or beverages.
If this sounds extreme but you still want benefits:
Fast for 12-16 hours
2 servings of broth 1 with added fat blended in
1 meal with protein and fat (optional veggies)
You may do a 12-16 hour fast 8pm-12pm predominantly while sleeping and in morning only having water, coffee, or tea. Then at noon or so, have 12-16oz bone broth and 1 Tbsp fat to break the fast and sip on another 8-16oz broth another time through the day as a snack. Have 1 light meal daily such as bone broth blended with sauteed spinach and topped with poached salmon. This meal provides protein and fat to aid with satiety but keeps your roughage and veggie fiber low.
If your digestive system is not inflamed you could do a meal of 5-7oz protein, ½-2 cups veggies, and 1 Tbsp fat in cooking such as olive oil as used with lemon and herbs for a dressing on a salad or 1 Tbsp coconut oil to sautee veggies.
A gentle entry for a 5 day optimal health bone broth fast:
Days 1-2: Guidelines above (either with or without 1 meal per preference and goals) + 1 avocado (may cube into broth or eat with lemon/lime, sea salt, cayenne)
Days 3-4: only the bone broth fast guidelines
Day 5: Add back 1 avocado plus guidelines above, Add 1/2 cup shredded cabbage simmered in bone broth twice during the day (1 cup total cabbage), Add 4-6oz protein may be on the side or added to broth such as pulled chicken, poached fish in broth or 3-4 eggs.
Lifestyle support for fasting:
Fasting provokes a hormetic impact on the body, meaning it causes stress that ultimately provokes benefits to the system. In this sense it is important during a fast to ensure mental, emotional, and physical stressors are limited as you are already physiologically stressing your system with “food insecurity”.
- Restrict exercise to gentle movement therapy! Yoga, walking, light pilates, barre or gentle resistance only!
- Consider infrared sauna and temperature variations such as ice baths or cold showers to provoke thermogenesis to stimulate lipolysis (body fat break down), adiponectin (hormone that stimulates grey/brown fat), and anti-inflammatory healing effects.
- Focus on harnessing your parasympathetic state to allow the body a sense of “safety” during your fast. Caloric restriction and time restricted eating alone will be a stressor so work to practice breath, meditation, and mantra.
- Include nutrients that drive detoxification processes of both phase 1 and phase 2 biochemical enzyme pathways. My 10-day Reset, Restore, Renew Detox Packs drive phase 2 encapsulation and excretion pathways while supporting phase 1 activation in the liver. I suggest 1 pack 2-3 times daily during a bone broth fast.
- If dealing with digestive distress, rawness, gut inflammation, or inflammatory bowel disease consider layering on the Gut Rehab Bundle!
Now what about mTor?
It is important when looking at research on the influence of “protein” to not get too myopic and recognize that it is the dose that makes the poison! When focusing on mTor activation and impact, energy should go towards demonizing refined carbohydrates and refined sugar as they provoke insulin response and have no essential need or nutritional benefit whereas amino acids in protein-rich foods have a quarter or less influence and provide essential needs and therapeutic value for the body.
A note from Becki on her experience:
I do a 3 day bone broth fast with my husband every quarter as a detox and reset for my system. I follow a low carb high fat diet most of the time, so a bone broth fast is not a huge shock to my system. We choose a long weekend with no social commitments and try to reduce our agenda to chores around the house and minor outings that do not involve food. I will often choose a project that needs doing around the house like cleaning out a closet as a distraction and find that without the focus on eating (plus all the fabulous ketones I’m producing) I can be super focused and productive! We start this on Thursday night and break the fast with a meal on Sunday night
Our fast for the 3 days looks like this:
Breakfast: Matcha Keto Tea: 1 tsp matcha powder, 12oz hot water, 1 Tbsp coconut oil, sprinkle cinnamon
Snack:16 oz Bone Broth with pinch Himalayan sea salt
Lunch: 16 oz Bone Broth, 1 Tbsp ghee, pinch turmeric powder, pinch Himalayan sea salt
Snack: 16 oz Bone Broth with pinch Himalayan sea salt
Dinner: 16 oz Bone Broth, 1 Tbsp ghee, pinch turmeric powder, pinch Himalayan sea salt
Snack (if needed): 2 sheets toasted nori dipped in 1 Tbsp olive oil sprinkled with coarse sea salt. I find this super helpful to have something to chew on and nips any desire for munching with minimal caloric impact!
I sip on additional bone broth with sea salt, green tea and rooibos tea throughout the day. I also take 3 detox packs per day during my 3 day fast and ensure I am drinking 2 liters water and sparkling water as well to accelerate detoxification. Note: I typically do 3-4 Tbsp fat daily while my husband does closer to 5-6 due to our calorie needs
Fasting is NOT appropriate if pregnant or breastfeeding, if significantly underweight or if you have a history of disordered eating. You should only fast if being actively monitored by a nutrition professional.