Confused about Broth, Glutamine and MSG? Here’s the Facts

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Confused about broth, glutamine and MSG?    Lots of people are, so let’s clear up the confusion once and for all.

First of all, glutamine is not MSG.   Rather, glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid that is critical for gut, brain and immune health.   That said, some people sensitive to MSG react poorly to broth.   Autistic children and others with sensitive and damaged guts often react to it even though they desperately need the gut healing that glutamine could assist.   Some of these people are so sensitive they react not only to broth but to any good dietary source of glutamine, including beef, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products.

What to do?  The GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride MD to help autistic children and others in need of gut healing relies heavily on broth for healing benefits.   Yet Dr. McBride starts many patients out on a lightly cooked bone broth — which she calls a “meat stock.”     As these people heal, they progress  over time to regular long-cooked bone broth.    The reason this helps many sensitive individuals is because the glutamine content of broth increases with cooking time.  Indeed, the levels of all the amino acids are about three times higher compared to the short-cooked broth as this applies to chicken, beef and other bone broths as well as gelatin products.   The results suggest that those sensitive to glutamine should consume only short-cooked broth until the condition clears.   For a chart showing the amino acid levels of long-term and short-cooked broth as tested by CoVance Laboratories, go to page 38 of Nourishing Broth.

To learn more, including what happens when glutamine crosses the blood brain barrier, and other important broth issues, read my full article at The Healthy Home Economist blog here.  Or read all about it in our book Nourishing Broth.

For the broth testing at Covance Laboratories, we wish to thank Kim Schuette of Biodynamic Wellness, Solana Beach, California.   The long-cooked broth was prepared by Chef Lance Roll, The Flavor Chef, of San Diego, California, and the short-term broth by Kim Schuette.   Certificate of Analyses came from Covance Laboratories

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  1. my question is: if I make a quick broth to avoid this reaction, can I remove the meat and bones and reduce it for storage or sauce? Or will it get a higher amount of glutimine in it? Thanks

    • The short-cooked broth concentrate will have lower levels of glutamine (and all the other amino acids) compared to the long-cooked broth concentrate. If you add water back to either you’ll be back to the levels in the broth.

  2. Hello Kaayla,

    Two linked questions:
    a) how long has adding an acid been part of the tradition of making broth? I know we do it now because it helps get the minerals out of the bones, I’m wondering if that is a newer invention or long part of it’s history.

    b) I heard a podcast recently (Chris Kresser–The Future of Food Production) where the interviewee briefly mentioned that acids increase the rate at which the free glutamate combines with the free minerals (e.g., sodium), increasing the amount of MSG and other similarly acting glutamate salts in the end product. To minimize this (one can’t avoid it completely), you would need to make broth without adding an acidifier. They didn’t say a whole lot about it, and I’d have to re-listen to it for exact mechanism. I’m wondering if you know anything about this and your opinion.


    • I don’t know how long people have been adding a bit of vinegar or wine to their brothmaking but it was probably rather recent in history. Homemade broth does not contain MSG but it does contain abundant levels of glutamine, a conditionally essential amino acid needed for gut healing, immune function and overall good health. Unfortunately some people, particularly autistic children and other people with major health challenges, are extremely sensitive to glutamine. These people need to begin their healing journey with a short-cooked broth as recommended during the introductory phases of the GAPS diet. While the short-cooked broth has lower levels of glutamine, it also has lower levels of ALL the amino acids and so is much less nutritious. We have not done lab testing on the amino acid levels of broth made with and without vinegar. But IF the acid increases the level of glutamine, it would also increase the level of all other amino acids too so the discussion of the merits of short-cooked vs long-cooked broth would still apply.

    • Do you know where I can find that podcast by Chris Kesser? I’ve been having real issues with chicken stock, even when it’s cooked for under 2 hours. Maybe it’s because I’ve been adding apple cider vinegar and letting it sit for up to an hour before bringing it to a boil???

  3. kate Dobbertin says:

    It seems like when I cook my beef bone broth for a long time – leaving it in the crock pot for a week – vs the standard 48 hours – it doesn’t end up gelling. It’s possible that this is due to a too-high temperature (obviously I’m not watching it all the time, and it varies with outside temperature, as I have it out on my porch) – but is it possible that just cooking it for so long breaks down the gelatin?
    If so, am I still getting the benefits of gelatin? or just the other benefits of bone broth, but not the benefits of gelatin?

  4. Glutamine for sure is one of the most essential amino acids. Thank you Kaayla for great links with useful information.

  5. Pattrish says:

    I have your book and I absolutely cannot locate what is defined as “short term” broth versus “long term” broth. I haven’t found any recipes defined as a “short term” broth. How many hours constitutes a “short term”?

    I’m highly sensitive to the concentration of glutamine in “long term” broths and it wasn’t until I read your book I understood why “long term” broths made me have serious MSG reactions.


    • The short-cooked broth involves taking meat such as a whole chicken or a package of beef soup bones and boiling it for just a short period of time, just until the meat is cooked. This means about an hour — or perhaps an hour and a half — for chicken. It could be about 3 hours for beef. Even with such a short cooking time, your broth can still be jiggly. If not, add chicken feet.

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