Why Gut Health Matters: Your Skin

Ahh acne. We meet again, my nemesis! But this time, I’ve cracked the code, and I’m ready to share it with the world. In this next segment of Why Gut Health Matters, I’m going to address the link between gut health and skin disorders. My personal skin issue has always been acne, but that’s not the only one affected by poor gut health. There’s also rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and many, many more. While those last two have an auto-immune component (which we briefly covered in this segment of the series), all can be traced back to gut health — or lack thereof — even if they diverge in physical expression. 

Myopia in Specialized Medicine

Unfortunately, most dermatologists aren’t trained to ask their patients about their digestion or even consider the possibility of a link between gut health and skin disorders (a connection first scientifically documented in the early 18th century!). I know from personal experience that in my 20 years of battling acne, never once did any physician or aesthetician I saw for my skin troubles ask me about my digestion or my diet. Nor did any of them see a problem with prescribing me round after round of antibiotics along with a Diflucan prescription, knowing that yeast infections would result from the constant antibiotic assault. This was normal — a standard course of dermatological treatment. 

Today, if you walked into a psychiatrist’s office presenting with anxiety, you likely wouldn’t mention your constant gas and bloating or your eczema — nor would your doctor ask. You wouldn’t mention your psoriasis or depression to your GI specialist either. But the fact is, most if not all patients with skin disorders also have digestive disorders and mental health challenges. Specialized medicine has cordoned off our bodies into separate parts, ignoring the very real and very documented relationship between certain conditions. Conventional medicine no longer sees us as a complete system, much to the detriment of the whole-person patient.

gut health and skin disorders

Bugs Bugs and More Bugs

As I’ve mentioned in all of the previous segments of this series (especially the one addressing the gut as gate keeper), the living bacteria in the gut are integral to our overall health, and that includes skin health. When we take round after round of antibiotics, we aren’t just killing the “bad” bacteria — we’re killing nearly all the bacteria, giving fungi like candida a chance to run rampant in the system. Candida overgrowth results in a whole host of symptoms I don’t have time to go into today, but check out this extensive list to find out if they apply to you. I’ll give you a hint: skin problems is on the list.

Not only is gut bacteria crucial to maintaining healthy skin, so is the bacteria living right on the surface of our bodies. Like those found in the gut, the bugs on our skin protect us from the outside world of potential invaders, and when we kill them all off, it’s open season for everything else in the environment. When skin disorders are treated with antibiotics, the problem might seem to temporarily subside, but at best, it’s a band-aid solution. The cumulative effects of antibiotic use is a net negative, with gut dysbiosis as a common consequence.  

Where They Don’t Belong: SIBO and Leaky Gut

SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) occurs when the bugs that belong in our large intestine start migrating up into our small intestine. It can also result when bugs from our food don’t get neutralized by the hydrochloric acid (HCl) in our stomachs — inadequate HCl is a major factor in SIBO.

While a very small number of bacteria naturally (and healthily) live in the small intestine, it’s supposed to be a nearly sterile environment. These microscopic interlopers can cause some major problems, one of which is gas. Lots of gas. Most patients with SIBO feel bloated and gassy after meals, especially meals rich in carbohydrates, because those bugs that don’t belong are breaking down their dinner before it gets where it’s supposed to be going. Other symptoms of SIBO include diarrhea, constipation, malabsorption of nutrients, and fatigue. Want to know another type of patient that often has SIBO? Patients with rosacea. 

You might be asking what causes low stomach acid. A major cause of low stomach acid will be the topic of the last segment in this series: STRESS.

Let’s connect the dots:
Stress => Low Stomach Acid => SIBO => Rosacea

I’ll delve more deeply into how stress affects the gut next week, but this note from a recent paper should paint the picture for you nicely:

“Experimental studies show that psychological stress stagnates normal small intestinal transit time, encourages overgrowth of bacteria, and compromises the intestinal barrier.” (source)

… which leads me to …

Leaky Gut, which we’ve discussed extensively throughout this series. Leaky gut (aka intestinal permeability) is both the chicken and the egg when it comes to systemic inflammation in the body. A leaky gut allows partially digested food particles into the system, setting off an inflammatory immune response, and the resulting inflammation causes further leaky gut — a destructive cycle that can lead to autoimmune disease if gone unmitigated. (And as I mentioned at the top of the page, psoriasis and eczema are increasingly being seen and treated as autoimmune disease.) As we talked about in the segment on gut health and mood disorders, a leaky gut => a leaky brain => depression. But what I didn’t mention in that segment was this:

Stress => Leaky gut => ACNE

As many as 40% of acne patients also complain of constipation (or other digestive distress). A growing body of research is showing that acne patients have a larger variety of “bad” bacteria in their stool, a greater sensitivity to “bad bugs” (like e. coli) and a higher level of systemic inflammation resulting from leaky gut. If you’ve been following along with this series, you know we’ve come full circle to Your Gut as Your Gate Keeper. Fix the leaks, fix the skin. 

gut health and skin disorders

Low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified 10,000 times.
Photo by Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley, both of USDA, ARS, EMU.
Image released by the Agricultural Research Service, ID K11077-1

Fix it! 

How to fix a leaky gut? How to clear up SIBO? It turns out, the answer is the same: reduce systemic inflammation by healing the gut wall and increasing the good guys. Stokes and Pillsbury, the pioneering researchers who discovered the gut-brain-skin connection in the early 1900’s, suggested probiotics and cod liver oil to do just that. 

Sorry, did you read that whole sentence? IN THE EARLY 1900’S RESEARCHERS WERE RECOMMENDING PROBIOTICS AND COD LIVER OIL FOR SKIN DISORDERS. I’m not one for all caps, but I felt that deserved the emphasis. Imagine me yelling when you read that. WHY don’t conventional medical doctors use this and the subsequent studies supporting this work to inform how they treat their patients?

Probiotics help restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut, thereby booting out the bad guys that create inflammation and toxins that harm the gut wall.

Cod liver oil is not only rich in Omega 3’s with potent anti-inflammatory and healing properties, it’s also rich in vitamin A, an important nutrient for healthy skin (which you know if you ever took Accutane for your acne). 

Enteric-coated peppermint oil, an herbal remedy scientifically proven to relieve symptoms of IBS, is also being explored with promising findings for mitigating SIBO. 

And while the research from Stokes and Pillsbury doesn’t cover this last ancient gut-healing solution, I’m going to cite my own anecdotal evidence and add bone broth to the list of tools to heal your gut. Rich in minerals, collagen (aka gelatin), and cartilage, bone broth is the ultimate gut- and skin-healing superfood. You’ve probably seen cosmetics products that boast collagen as a topical ingredient to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and create healthier looking skin. When ingested in the form of bone broth, collagen does a lot more than that.

  • It promotes a healthy level of stomach acid
  • It aids in digestion of problematic foods like dairy, legumes, meats, and grains
  • It coats the lining of the gut to reduce permeability, reduce inflammation, and fill the leaks
  • It supports a healthy immune system, including white blood cell production
  • It provides amino acids — the building blocks of muscle in our bodies
  • It promotes the absorption of minerals, including those already present in the broth, for skeletal support and bone health (source)

My personal success story with bone broth has reached more readers than anything else I’ve posted in a year of writing this blog. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to about bone broth, encouraging them to try it and celebrating with them when they’ve seen results. In combination with a diet rich in probiotic foods and eliminating the trigger foods that create inflammation (for me that was mainly gluten), bone broth changed my life. I’ve recently experimented with adding this fermented cod liver oil and this enteric-coated peppermint oil into my diet out of curiosity (affiliate link).  (I like to use myself as a guinea pig from time to time.)

gut health and skin disorders

“My worst” didn’t just mean my skin. I was more depressed and heavier than I’d ever been before or since.

What’s Next?

Next week is the last segment of this series on Why Gut Health Matters, where I’ll not only wrap up this discussion but also challenge you to get started in healing your own gut. The end of this series doesn’t have to mean the end of the discussion for you — I’m happy to answer any questions you might have on the topic — just send me a note and we can keep the ball rolling to get your gut health where it needs to be.  


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.


Sources for this segment of the series include a 6-credit continuing education seminar presented by Merrily Kuhn, RN, CCRN (r), PhD, ND, PhD and the Institute of Brain Potential (bibliography and references can be viewed here), and information from the following articles, journals, and experts:

Stokes JH, Pillsbury DH (1930) The effect on the skin of emotional and nervous states: theoretical and practical consideration of a gastrointestinal mechanism. Arch Dermatol Syphilol 1930, 22:962-93

Ketron LW, King JH: Gastrointestinal findings in acne vulgaris. JAMA 1916, 60:671-75 

http://www.consultantnutritionist.com/General-Health-Nutrition/Traditional-Bone-Broth-in-Modern-Health-and-Disease.html

http://chriskresser.com/naturally-get-rid-of-acne-by-fixing-your-gut

http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1757-4749-3-1.pdf

http://wageningenacademic.metapress.com/content/0u3x16807123w358/#.VNq_SrB4qXw

http://healthandstyle.com/health/gut-may-causing-bad-skin/

http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/ansinet/jms/0000/57615-57615.pdf

http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/7/5/410.pdf

http://journals.lww.com/jcge/Abstract/2014/11001/Skin_Microbiome_and_Skin_Disease__The_Example_of.23.aspx

http://www.thecandidadiet.com/candidasymptoms.htm

6 Surprising Natural Acne Remedies You Already Have at Home

As a woman, I’m the target of ad campaigns for every beauty product under the sun. From the aisles of Walgreen’s all the way to the fancy counters at Macy’s, I’m being sold moisturizers, cleansers, masks, balms, spot treatments, scrubs, and the list goes on and on. There are products for every imperfection I could possibly have – especially the ones on my face. One time, I even had someone at one of those kiosks in the mall grab me by the arm and spray something on me before I even had a chance to protest, promising that it would clear up my skin. That seriously happened.

Stop the madness!

Stop buying all those expensive products that promise you the world. Remember, you shouldn’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth. You’d be surprised to learn how many remedies are already at your disposal right now that can replace all the fancy skin care products you’re told you need to buy. 

In the bathroom/medicine cabinet:

1. Toothpaste (the paste, not the gel)

acne remedies

affiliate link

While I wouldn’t recommend putting toothpaste all over your face, you’d be surprised how effective it can be for an occasional spot treatment. Be careful of super minty flavors though, which can be irritating to some skin types. The effective ingredient is baking soda, so you could always create your own paste with the baking soda in your kitchen for a similar effect. (source)  

How to use it: dab a small amount on the affected area at bed time and rinse in the morning using warm water.

 

2. Pepto Bismol (liquid)

acne remedies

affiliate link

Pepto has two active ingredients in it that are similar to ingredients found in over the counter acne treatments: salicylate (similar to salicylic acid) and benzoic acid (similar to benzoyl peroxide) (source). Salicylate works to reduce inflammation than can cause redness and pain on the skin. It’s also a gentle exfoliator to help clear the skin of dead cells that could clog pores. Benzoic acid is antimicrobial and works to remove any microbes that could cause infection on the skin. (source)

How to use it: swab a cotton pad of Pepto over the affected area at night and rinse with warm water in the morning. It’s fine to use Pepto on your entire face.

3. Milk of Magnesia (liquid)

acne remedies

affiliate link

Traditionally used as a gentle laxative and bowel soother, milk of magnesia (MoM) can also work as a facial mask for acne prone and oily skin. Magnesium hydroxide is the main ingredient, but MoM also contains zinc, a natural acne fighter. The soothing effects that MoM have on the bowels can take place on the face in the form of reducing inflammation and excess oil. (source)

How to use it: using your fingers or a cotton pad, apply a thin layer to the skin. Let sit for 10 minutes and remove gently with warm water.

 

In the kitchen:

4. Coconut Oil

acne remedies

affiliate link

I’m sure you’ve heard and read so much about the healing properties of coconut oil at this point that nothing would surprise you about this miracle oil. Use it as a daily moisturizer, and wait for the magic to happen. Coconut oil is antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic. It works to create a healthy barrier for your skin that doesn’t feel heavy or greasy. Just use a tiny bit – it goes a long way. For me personally (and for a few folks who’ve shared their stories with me, including my sister), coconut oil helps bring blackheads to the surface, loosen the pores, and allow for extraction and eventual elimination.

How to use it: as a daily moisturizer (either in the morning, at night, or both), apply a tiny amount to the entire surface of your face. Coconut oil also works GREAT as a make up remover.

5. Bone Broth

acne remedies

click the image for a link to my bone broth recipe and more info about why it’s great for your skin

If you’re familiar with my personal acne saga, then you knew this acne remedy would be on this list. You might not have homemade bone broth laying around in your kitchen, but I can assure you that it’s worth every minute of time it takes to make if your ultimate goal is clear skin and a healthy gut. There’s a very real physiological connection between the health of the gut and the health of the skin.

How to use it: drink a coffee mug full of warm bone broth every morning for two weeks. After two weeks, assess your progress and consider dropping back to 4 times per week based on the health of your skin and digestion.

6. Raw Honey

acne remedies

affiliate link

I love this one and use it very regularly. When used as natural facial cleanser or mask, raw honey can do wonders for the health of your skin. It works well to keep the pores clear and offers natural bacteria-fighting properties to combat the bacteria that causes and inflames acne. Raw honey is fantastic for daily use as a cleanser and can even be used as a gentle exfoliator if you use one with sugar crystals in it. (source)

How to use it: as a daily cleanser (I find that it’s best to use in the shower to avoid unwanted stickiness dripping down your arms), take about two teaspoons into your fingers and apply to damp skin as you would any other cleanser. Rinse with warm water. As a mask, apply to dry or freshly toned skin, covering the affected area and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

 

7. Plain Yogurt

acne remedies

affiliate link

You’ve likely heard about the beneficial bacteria found in yogurt. These bacteria aid in digestive health by replacing potentially harmful bacteria that could be causing problems in your gut (and therefore your skin). They help restore a proper balance in your gut flora. Similar (if not the same) bacteria are also found in other places in and on your body, including your face. Applying a yogurt mask to your face can help restore the proper balance of healthy bacteria on your face as well. Restoring this balance can reduce the inflammation caused by “bad” bacteria and improve the health of you skin. It also works as a gentle exfoliator, removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, which can clog pores. (source) Using plain yogurt ensures that you aren’t adding any unnecessary sugars, flavors, or additives to your skin that could be irritating. 

How to use it: apply a small amount of plain yogurt to the surface of clean skin and let dry for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

BONUS: A great way to combine remedies and increase your effectiveness is to make a mask with yogurt AND raw honey together. You can mix them with each use or create a batch to keep in your fridge for a few weeks. Use between 2 and 3 times as much yogurt as you do honey in your mixture, and either whisk with a fork or mix in a blender.

 

Homemade Bone Broth

Download my Bone Broth Instruction Guide (aka the CWB Bone Broth Acne Cure) by clicking here.

homemade bone broth

You may not think of broth as anything more than a flavored source of liquid for cooking, but in fact, when prepared properly, broth adds a whole lot of goodness into your diet, acting as a super-efficient, super-delicious nutrient delivery system. From the vitamin and mineral content to the gelatin and collagen that’s released from the bones, broth is a veritable nutrition powerhouse. It boasts a number of health benefits, including improving hair, skin, and nails, support for the digestive tract, enhanced immune function, hormonal support, bone and joint health, and increased overall vitality. In my Chicken Soup for the Sick post, I share a bit about the benefits of bone broth when you’re not feeling well, but this post is more comprehensive in explaining why bone broth is important for your overall health. (Well-care, not just sick-care.)**

I love to use my own homemade broth as often as possible, so I make a LOT of it at a time. Whether I’m sipping it in a warmed coffee cup first thing in the morning or adding it to a soup, stew, or pan of veggies, I try to get it in every day. Although I’ve been making my own broth for years, drinking it every single day is something relatively new for me, and so far, I can say that I’ve already noticed a difference in my skin. We’ll see what else comes about over the course of the next few months…

By the way, do you know the difference between stock and broth? I used to think that one used bones and one used meat, but it turns out the difference is simply that one is seasoned and one is not. Basically, broth=stock+seasoning, and both are made with bones. Of course, there’s no harm in leaving the bits of meat that are stuck to the bones or using a whole chicken and fishing out the meat for another meal. While I don’t think this distinction is particularly important in general, I mention it so that we can all speak with authority on the matter going forward! If you want a more versatile base, leave the seasonings out until it’s time to add the stock into a particular dish, and season accordingly. The recipe I’m going to share is only seasoned with REAL salt and fresh parsley from the garden, so technically that puts it in the broth category.

Why make your own?

Making your own broth or stock is not complicated. It requires no measuring, no precision, and no peeling — in fact, no peeling is the preference — there are tons of great nutrients right in the skin of the veggies. All you do is throw everything in. Don’t peel the onions, garlic, or carrots. Don’t chop the leaves off the celery. Throw all of it into the pot. You don’t even have to cut them up if you really don’t want to, just break the carrots and celery in half, and throw in whole cloves of garlic. You might want to slice the onions in half, but that’s it!

There are both health reasons and culinary reasons why making your own broth is far superior to buying it in a can:

  • control over the ingredients (this should really count as 5 separate reasons — organic veggies, filtered or good-quality water, organic/pastured meats, type and amount of salt used, no preservatives)
  • amount of time it spends cooking
  • greater level of nutrient extraction (related to #1 and #2)
  • taste
  • texture

The only limiting factor in broth-making is the size of your pot. For me, it’s go big or go home — if I’m going to make broth, I’m going to make a nice big batch and freeze it. Generally, I just collect the bones from our meals, and once I have a couple of freezer bags full, I know it’s time to make another pot of broth. (You could also buy a cooked chicken from the market, strip the meat for chicken salad or soup, and throw the carcass in). Making fish broth is also an option, although I prefer to cook with it more than I prefer to sip it. I’ve made it with fish heads and crab shells before with great success!

I am a self-admitted overly aggressive jar collector, so I have the resources to make large batches to store. If you don’t have jars to freeze your broth, you might want to go get some. I like 16 and 32 oz jars, depending on how I plan to use the broth. But please please be careful when freezing your broth — leave a couple of inches of room for the liquid to expand, and maybe even leave the tops off in the freezer over night if you have enough space for that. I’ve had jars break in my freezer because I didn’t pay attention to this crucial detail, and things got messy (and I wasted some home-made broth, which made me very sad).

Bang for your Buck:

Bones:

If you’ve ever roasted a chicken (or purchased an already roasted chicken from the grocery store) and then let it sit in the refrigerator, you may have noticed the gelatinous pools that collect in the tray. These pools of goodness represent the stuff of life. Gelatin is leached from the bones of the animal during the cooking process and provides us with:

  • key amino acids that help with muscle development
  • minerals for bone and joint health and proper metabolic function
  • collagen, often sold as a beauty product to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and improve cell health
  • all those great things I listed at the beginning of this post

The best way to ensure that your broth is going to be full of gelatin is to add a few splashes of raw apple cider vinegar or the juice of a whole lemon into the water. The acid will leach all the good stuff from the bones. When you make your own broth, it will thicken up in the fridge the way Jell-o does. Nothing you buy in the store is going to do that.

Veggies:

Veggies are technically optional in bone broth-making, but it’s my opinion that if you’re going to go to the trouble to do this yourself, it might as well taste fantastic. Onion, garlic, celery, and carrots are a great place to start. They have a host of benefits on their own, and because you have control over the quality and cook time, you can ensure that you’re getting the most of those veggies. Taste-wise, these ingredients (or some slight variation) are the basic building blocks of nearly all cuisine, creating the first layer of flavor for most pot dishes. Nutrition-wise, these ingredients provide:

  • Beta carotene
  • B vitamins
  • vitamin A
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • selenium
  • phytonutrients (especially potent if you pick them from your back yard garden)

Salt:

The type of salt you use is another controllable detail with homemade broth that is not so with what you get in a can. Sea salt and REAL salt contain far more trace minerals that help with hydration and general mineral balance in the blood than regular table salt, which is simply NaCl (Sodium Chloride). In fact, some argue that these types of salts aren’t implicated in hypertension the way regular table salt is, and that a deficiency in these salts contribute to heart disease and various other physiological malfunctions. These more complex salts taste better too.

Seasoning:

Making your own broth means choosing your own seasonings and avoiding weird additives like MSG, thickeners, and “natural flavors” (which usually means something soy- or corn-based, and very likely GMO). The recipe I’m sharing only includes salt and fresh parsley as seasoning. I chose to add in parsley mostly because it’s plentiful in my backyard, but also because parsley is a fantastic super food. It boasts a rich vitamin and antioxidant profile and helps mitigate inflammation, balance blood sugar, and improve immune function. 

How To:

It’s more accurate to call this a set of instructions than a recipe. Basically, you throw everything into either your large slow cooker or your biggest stock pot, and fill it up with filtered water. Here you see three large carrots, 2 small yellow onions, 1/2 a bulb of garlic, 7 or 8 small celery stalks from the garden, a giant bunch of parsley, and 2 freezer bags of chicken and turkey bones. I chopped nothing but the onions in half and thoroughly scrubbed the dirt off of the carrots. I threw more parsley in about 30 minutes before I turned off the fire to enhance the flavor and add in even more beneficial micronutrients.

homemade bone broth

Once the pot is filled, add in a few splashes of raw apple cider vinegar and about a tablespoon of either sea salt or REAL salt.

Let that sit for about 30 minutes before you turn on the heat.

Turn the stove or slow cooker on low, and let simmer for anywhere between 8 and 24 hours. If you’re uncomfortable leaving your stove top on unattended, a slow cooker might be better for you, as there’s no reason for you to be in the kitchen during this process. I usually set this up on low heat, go to sleep and work the next day, and take it off the fire when I get home. If you see a weird film on the top, skim it off with a spoon or your small strainer.

Once it cools as bit, use a slotted spoon or strainer of some kind to fish everything out until you’re just left with the broth. Or you can pour the broth through the strainer into the jars. I use a tiny one that works quite well.

Store it in jars in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.

homemade bone broth


Sometimes for a recipe like this one, it’s easier to have everything listed out in bullet points in a simple, one-sheet guide. Lucky for you I have just the thing!

Download my Bone Broth Instruction Guide (aka the CWB Bone Broth Acne Cure) by clicking here.


 Check out my story about how drinking bone broth changed my life

**to learn more about the health benefits of broth and traditional ways of eating, check out the Weston A. Price foundation.

Chicken Soup for the Sick

I think I might have crashed and burned after few weeks of being a little manic — and completely swamped at work. Around two weeks ago, I went on a totally overboard baking spree, got the winter garden going, made a giant crock of turkey chili, reignited my sewing adventures, started a new morning routine, and committed to a new fitness goal (more on that in a follow-up post!). I was on fire! Then after a huge two weeks at work of being exposed to all sorts of people who work with all sorts of other people during cold and flu season, I finally succumbed. I’m sick. Yuck.

When I’m sick like this (stuffy nose, rattling chest cough, sneezing), all I want is hot liquid — tea, soup, a hot bath, anything hot and liquid. I woke up at 3am on Saturday morning unable to stop coughing, so I decided to start a soup in the slow cooker, knowing I’d be happy to wake up to a nourishing hot liquid in the morning. (I also made herbal tea to drink right then, gargled some warm salt water, took some ibuprofen, and made an onion-honey concoction for my throat.)

Luckily, I had everything I needed for the soup and could basically just throw it all into the pot with little effort (at 3am, easy is the name of the game). All the ingredients in this soup are chosen with healing purpose and intention, so bookmark this post for the next time you get sick. You’ll be happy you did.

Cook time should be a minimum of 6 hours on the low setting, but you can let it go longer to make it work with your sleep or work schedule.

20131118_122429

Organic Pasture Chicken, bone-in:
Chicken broth made from boiling bones has been a home remedy for centuries, but today we know that it’s more than folklore and wives’ tales. The nutrients that are leached out of the bones and into the broth have active healing properties that aid in gut repair and therefore immune system health. 80% of our immune system lives in our gut walls, and the cartilage and collagen (gelatin) from the chicken bones aid in keeping that system healthy and vital. They also provide amino acids and minerals to help nourish the body and encourage healing. (source) I started my broth with a bag of bones from the freezer (we collect our bones every time we eat chicken), two whole chicken legs (which I browned on the stove first, mostly for flavor enhancement in the soup), a tablespoon or so of raw apple cider vinegar*, and pure water.

*It’s important to include the vinegar or some other form of acid, because it aids in extracting all the good stuff from the bones. Lemon juice works too. 

Soffritto:
From a culinary perspective, nearly everything you cook in a pot should start with a soffritto (onions, carrots, celery, sautéed in an oil — I use ghee) or some variation upon this theme. It makes for multi-dimensional flavor, but in this case, we’re packing a healthy punch as well. Onion acts as an expectorant that helps mucus flow. Carrots are a powerful antiseptic and great for respiratory infections. Celery works to relax muscle and promote restful sleep (and we all know that good, restful sleep is the fastest way to heal from just about anything). (source 1source 2source 3I had some prepared soffritto in the refrigerator so I threw that into to the soup, but the next morning, I also chopped up an additional 1/2 onion, 3 carrots, and 4 or 5 stalks of celery and threw them in to make the soup more substantial. It works just fine to start with the loose chop for a soup like this without doing all the work to prepare a proper soffritto.

Garlic:
Also important for flavor in a huge number of pot dishes, garlic is among the most well-studied natural remedies. In the case of a cold, it’s a great antiseptic and stimulates the immune system to help fight invaders. (source) I coarsely chopped 4 cloves for this pot.

Jalapeno:
Capsaicin is the chemical that makes chilis hot. I chose jalapeno because I don’t like too much spice, but I wanted the health effects of capsaicin — thinning mucus and pain relief. Peppers are also rich in vitamin C. (source) I used 2 peppers — de-seeded 1 and left the seeds in the other (personal preference for not making it too spicy)

Ginger:
Also a bit of a spicy ingredient, ginger acts as an antiseptic, an expectorant, and a fever reducer (source 1, source 2). I coarsely chopped a piece of ginger about 3 inches long and then fished it out after the soup was finished cooking.

Herbs:
Savory, Bay Leaf, and Thyme: All three of these herbs are great for thinning mucus and ridding it from the lungs. Thyme specifically also helps fight infection. (sourceI put about a tablespoon of savory and thyme and 3 bay leaves.

REAL Salt:
Rich in trace minerals, a good quality salt like REAL salt helps replenish electrolytes, which is especially important if a cold or flu is causing a fever with sweating or vomiting. About a tablespoon for a pot this big, but better to err on the side of too little so you can add more later. 

Eventually I went back to sleep and woke up on Sunday morning to the wonderful aroma of slow-cooked chicken soup. My throat was very thankful, and I’m on my way to recovery!

 

** I am not a doctor. This post is not intended to treat or diagnose illness.

Last updated by at .