What is collagen and why do we need it? This is a popular question in my new Facebook group, Health Coach Nation.
What is Collagen?
So, what is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body. It’s found in the organs, tissues, joints, bones, and skin. Think of it as the glue that holds our body together. Collagen keeps our hair looking good, our skin elastic, and fortifies all of the connective tissues in the body.
According to Medical News Today, the depletion and breakdown of collagen is linked to many health issues.
What is Collagen in the exogenous form?
Exogenous collagen comes from an outside source in the form of bars, powder, gelatin, bone broth, or skincare products.
Here are some examples of exogenous collagen…
- Powdered collagen products and bars: Typically, these products are “hydrolyzed.” In other words, the proteins are broken down in a way that allows you to easily stir collagen into liquid or food without it becoming gel-like in its texture and consistency. Hydrolyzed collagen products are made from cows’ connective tissues or fish collagen.
- Gelatin: A protein that is prepared from collagen. Gelatin is has the same amino acids as collagen, but different chemical properties in the body. It’s the protein that makes Jell-O wiggle and can be found in the skin, bones, and scales of animals. According to NPR, when you cook steak, the collagen within the meat breaks down into gelatin.
- Bone broth: A gut-healthy way to increase your collagen.
- Skincare products: Some skincare items use collagen as an ingredient to keep your skin hydrated and prevent wrinkles, but there’s not much research to support the topical use of collagen. According to Medical News Today, collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin.
Benefits of Collagen
Many clients and friends ask me: “Do I NEED to take collagen?”
My answer: If your goal is optimal health and preventing accelerated aging, it’s probably a good idea to add collagen to your routine.
1. It slows down aging.
When we hit our mid-30s, the collagen in our body starts to break down. As a result, our skin starts to loosen, our gut lining is more susceptible to permeability, and our bones and joints become weaker. On average, we can lose 7% of our body’s collagen every 10 years when we reach our 30s. It might begin sooner or later, depending on your quality of health- your stress level, lifestyle, and nutrition habits.
Preventing the breakdown of collagen through avoiding sugar and consuming collagen-rich foods keeps your skin, joints, and body youthful.
2. It improves skin appearance.
Collagen makes up 70% of your skin’s protein. It keeps the skin firm, smooth, and hydrated. Also, the amino acids in collagen promote adrenal health. When your hormones are in balance, you’re less likely to experience breakouts.
3. It reduces joint pain.
As we lose collagen, we become more susceptible to joint stiffness and pain. By supplementing with exogenous collagen, we can keep our joints lubricated, while also promoting bone and teeth health.
4. It’s fat-loss friendly.
The amino acids and protein in collagen help to reduce cravings and maintain lean muscle mass. For example, the amino acid glutamine has been shown to reduce cravings for sugar and alcohol. Arginine, another amino acid found in collagen, aides in muscle growth and repair, while boosting the metabolism.
5. It promotes gut health.
Collagen promotes a healthy gastrointestinal tract and colon by signaling our body to build healthy tissues and repair damaged cell walls that line these organs. Research suggests that collagen reduces the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, acid reflux, leaky gut syndrome, and other GI disorders.
Collagen in Your Diet
We know collagen helps with skin improvement, tissue repair, digestion, gut health, and sleep quality, but what’s the best way to incorporate it into our diet?
- Grass-fed beef and meat, typically tougher cuts that contain connective tissue
- Organic bone broth from grass-fed animals if possible (Read why organic is best.)
- Gelatin from cooked meat & fish with the skin in tact and tendons
- Primal Kitchen or Bulletproof Collagen Protein Power from grass-fed cattle (I get mine from Thrive Market)
- Bulletproof Collagen Bars
My preferred method: unflavored collagen power. It dissolves easily in water, coffee, or a smoothie. Flavored ones usually have added sugars and synthetic ingredients, so be sure to read the ingredients.
When adding the powder to a liquid, health expert Dave Asprey suggests using a low-speed blender setting (“pulse,” “stir,” etc.), instead of high-speed to prevent damaging the proteins. There is no research to confirm that blending collagen damages the protein, but I’d rather be safe than sorry and get my money’s worth!
Other Ways to Boost Collagen
- Eat foods with vitamins and minerals that allow the body to perform collagen protein synthesis like zinc and vitamin A. Zinc can be found in foods like wild caught salmon, while vitamin A is present in chlorella. Other examples of antioxidants and minerals that boost collagen activation: Vitamin C, copper, manganese, and anthocyanidins (found in cherries, blueberries, and blackberries).
- Procedures like red light therapy can stimulate collagen production!
- Cold thermogenesis like ice baths and cryotherapy can encourage collagen production.
Collagen is a BONUS
Collagen is not a magic pill… Supplementing with collagen is a great idea, but should be in conjunction with an overall healthy lifestyle. The best health results come from practicing good habits consistently. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, exercise, and avoid smoking and alcohol.
Want more glow-boosting tips?
Now, whenever someone asks you, “What is collagen?”, you’ll be a true expert! If you want to learn more glow-boosting strategies (supplements, foods, fitness, and skincare), check out my eBook, “Youth-Proof: 6-Weeks to a Healthier, Glowing You.”