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

MSG broth.001
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.

  6. JulieMarie says:

    I love your books, and I’m a longtime fan of your work and that of Westin Price. So I dove headlong into the bone broth craze, ordering an entire case of it from a good organic company, and it’s now all in my freezer. To my dismay, I am getting severe joint pain from the glutamates in it, to the point where I can barely climb the stairs in my house. I hate to throw out several hundred dollars worth of broth. Can I dilute it in some way that will make it more like short-cooked broth?

    • Sorry to hear you are experiencing so much pain. You don’t mention which brand you are using so I cannot evaluate the quality or the ingredients in the product. If the quality is good — not even all the frozen “organic” brands are as good as we would hope — your joints are most likely doing some needed detox. Such a severe reaction though suggests you would do best to slow down, reduce the serving size, and, perhaps, stick with short-cooked broth for the time being. In general, broth supports overall joint health and aids in recovery. Good luck.

      • Just a thought…I recently used some store bought bone broth (grass-fed beef) and also ended up more joint pain than usual – realised after that it had tomatoes as an ingredient….!! Not so good for some of us – hadn’t twigged when I read the ingredients list 🙂

  7. Hi, I have leaky gut and I’m afraid to take bone broth. I am allergic to msg. So the glutamine and crossing the blood-brain barrier makes me very nervous. I am highly sensitive and allergic to MSG. Along with yeast extract and all the other names that MSG is. Every time I have something like that I get basilar migraines. I’m on the severe side of those migraines. A lot of times I completely lose my sight altogether, 1/2 or the other side of my body goes paralyzed including my face even looks like I’ve had a stroke. I get very confused my speech is garbled nobody can understand me. And I get a horrible headache. And my brain sometimes takes a week or two to go back to normal. I am so scared of having this reaction with bone broth. But I do not know what to do to heal my gut if I can’t have bone broth. Please help

    • Do read my article on bone broth and glutamine carefully. Bone broth doesn’t contain MSG but some people do react poorly to the glutamine (a conditionally essential amino acid that we very much need to heal leaky gut) because their bodies and brains cannot process it correctly. Bone broth may be able to help, but you most likely will need to start with very small quantities of the short-cooked version. Take care and good luck.

  8. Hi, I would like to explain that the longer any meat it cooked, the more the protein chains, that include glutamates (glutamine and glutamic acid are glutamates), are broken down, freeing glutamate. Free glutamate is MSG without the sodium – ie, mono (free) glutamate. So to say broth “only contains glutamine and not MSG” is misleadimg, as it contains more and more free (mono) glutamates the longer it is cooked, and that is essentially the same as consuming MSG and causes the same problems of inflammation, and hence joint pain or migraines, ADHD, Autism, and so on (which is not due to detox). It’s a confusing world of information out there, so I am not being critical of this post, but I am saying it is creating some confusion. The poison is in the dose! Starting with short broths is a good idea! But if free glutamates are a real problem for you, perhaps eating a whole food diet, looking into your methylation (gene testing and supplementation); checking your histamine levels (if high avoid histamine aggravating foods), avoiding broth and turning to betaine hcl, bile and enzyme support might be the place to start. After some healing has taken place, perhaps then short broths will be tolerated. Followed by long broths. But I find myself wondering about the health benefits overall of broths, as high concentrations of free glutamates cause inflammation, it’s everywhere in the scientific literature.

    • I am with you. In my opinion, bone broth can be a FAD diet. One healthcare professional openly apologized to her patients in an interview because she highly recommended bone broth at one point. Subsequently, she found out that people with the MTHFR gene mutation should not use bone broth. Just one example. Again, one person’s food is another’s poison. I assume when the glutamates are freed up, sodium and other minerals will be freed up too. Then sodium will bind to glutamate to form MSG. Thank you for the article and all the comments to help me get a more “complete” picture.

  9. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been conducting a little research on this.

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