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Gelatin, Stress and Sleep

a big mug-full of beef broth (made from bones, cartilage, ears, hooves, etc) before bedtime.  The belief is that it's "restorative."  Well, it turns out there is some extremely valid science behind that custom.  In fact, a tour-guide in Paris once told us that the very first restaurant of the world started in Paris and only served one item:  Beef broth.  The idea of adding food to the menu didn't come along 'til decades after the first "resto" was in operation.  The name "resto"??  Short for restorative.  The custom was so pervasive and long-lasting because broth-drinkers had better sleep, felt calmed and regenerated .
And it wasn't "in their heads" - although - in a way it was -  because what was happening is that the amino acids (particularly glycine) in this gelatinous liquid modulated certain brain neurotransmitters and worked to calm the nervous system, whereas proteins from the muscle part of meat (the only part we Westerners eat) are very excitatory and inflammatory. (mainly tryptophan)

I've long known that gelatin is recommended as a drink before bedtime to promote sleep.  But I and a few of my clients have tried it and not found it particularly helpful.  We were doing it wrong.  First of all, it really helps to find a brand that tastes neutral (not of beef hooves :-), get the right dose, and then stick with it for a long time to watch what happens all over the body.  Since it's basically an anti-inflammatory, it is useful in warding off all modern degenerative diseases, particularly arthritis, diabetes, but also multiple sclerosis (glycine is anti-spastic) , seizures, and just any ailment that affects the nervous system.  In fact, the response of arthritics who try gelatin (in the right dose) is that pain relief is so fast (less than a week) that we know it cannot be because gelatin is building up collagen - that's a lengthy process.  The pain-relief resembles that from cortisol or aspirin.

What I learned recently is that the main amino acid in gelatin, glycine, is found almost no where else in high levels other than gelatin.  Now, here is the surprise:  the antithesis of glycine is tryptophan, a very inflammatoryamino acid.  When we watch aging animals, from rats to people, we see that they require less and less tryptophan as they age.  It is a huge miscarriage of science to prescribe tryptophan for sleep induction, apparently.

This subject is complex but interesting.  After reading the entire 15 page paper I realized that our diets are so up-side down if we are meat consumers but not gelatin consumers. You really need gelatin to balance the negative, inflammatory properties of muscle meat.  So many puzzle pieces fell into place.  The cultures that consume head-cheese, pigs' feet, chicken-feet soup, etc, on a daily basis, are getting plenty of gelatin and do not suffer the same rate of degenerative disease as we do.  "Modern" dietary practices are killing us, not just because of the junk we are consuming, but also because of the good stuff we are notconsuming.  I for one, will not go another day without gelatin in the evening.  (please don't mistake for Jell-O, a mostly sugar/aspartame drink)

The research on gelatin and glycine for this particular paper (pub. 2009) is very thorough, even going back to 1897 when articles were published about managing diabetes with just gelatin.  Gelatin modulates and lowers blood sugar.  The researcher is a PhD Biologist, Ray Peat, and I've been reading his exquisite research since the 1970s.  When I see his name on anything, I must just stop and read it.  If you'd like to read the whole 15 page paper, google: and search his articles.  His view of biology is a very dynamic, wholistic one, and he doesn't believe in "dissection of parts and pieces" to understand a system as complicated as biology. His approach is "how does this fit into the big picture?" Dr Peat's papers on progesterone are legend. Much of what we know about the interaction with estrogen and progesterone are because of his pioneering work. He and other early 20th century biologists - Roger Williams, Linus Pauling, Szent-Giorgi, etc first recognized that these hormones are not just "sex hormones" but also affect heart, bones, skin, etc. 

Details:  best brand for purity and taste:  Great Lakes Kosher Gelatin; minimum daily dose at bedtime:  15 grams. (2 TBSP)  For more serious issues, including myasthenia gravis and MS, doses of 100 grams are used.

Give it a try whether or not you have sleep issues.
mary anne

Mary Anne Robinson, MS Bio-Nutrition
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