Think of collagen as the “glue” that holds your body together. In fact, collagen comes from the Greek word ‘kolla’ – meaning ‘glue’. It’s the fibrous protein found throughout your body, in organs, muscles, skin, hair, nails, teeth, bones, blood vessels, tendons, joints, cartilage, and your digestive system. There are many different types of collagen (16 to be exact), that do different things, but the majority of collagen, up to 90%, is “Type 1”. This is the most common and strongest type of collagen. Like a superhero, it’s even stronger than steel (gram for gram!) This type is found in your skin, bones, organs, eyes, and inside your digestive tract.
Starting at about age 35, collagen production naturally begins to slow, which can have all sorts of negative effects on your body. By age 40, collagen begins to deplete faster than your body can reproduce it, and by age 60, over ½ of your body’s collagen has been depleted. In addition to aging, many other factors impact collagen levels. These include genetics, smoking, pollution, excessive sun exposure, and nutritional deficiencies, among others. Adding a collagen supplement to your daily regimen is essential for optimal health and functioning.
Surprising Health Benefits of Collagen
So in addition to the external benefits of collagen, what else can it do for you? You might be surprised.
1. Helps Repair a Leaky Gut
Nearly 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut. One of the main reasons I use collagen supplementation is to help repair a leaky gut. When you have a leaky gut, toxins, food particles, and infections can pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream, causing inflammation. Over time this chronic inflammation can lead to autoimmunity. Therefore, if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or thyroid condition (the vast majority of which is autoimmune) then you likely have a leaky gut and you would benefit from adding collagen into your diet.
That’s because your Intestinal wall is made up of microscopic folds or “villi” which are actually built of collagen. The amino acids in collagen quite literally, “seal the leak” or perforations by supporting cellular health and tissue growth.
2. Improves the Appearance of Hair, Skin, and Nails
Hair loss and skin issues can be symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, as well as the normal aging process. As you age, you may have noticed that your skin has become looser and less elastic – and there may be wrinkles or creases where your skin was once more smooth and supple. You might also experience brittle nails, peeling, splitting or breakage. Your hair may also begin to thin and become dry and brittle.
This is because collagen protein is essential to healthy hair, skin, and nails. As I mentioned, your natural production of it decreases as you age. Increasing collagen intake can go a long way to make your skin appear more firm and smooth. It can also impact the appearance of your hair’s fullness and shine.1
Many people don’t realize that by adding collagen to your diet can also help in reducing the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks. When skin loses its elasticity and becomes thin, cellulite becomes more obvious. Collagen can help to increase moisture retention, boost elasticity, and helps smooth out that dimpled appearance, as well as those fine lines.
3. Impacts Joint Health
Much like oil in a car, collagen allows your joints, tendons, and ligaments to glide and move easily. With age, and as your collagen production depletes, your joints can become stiff, swollen and painful, even causing a lack of mobility. Collagen contains the amino acids glycine and proline, which help to support joint mobility and a healthy inflammatory response.
4. Supports Weight Management
Collagen can even help you manage your weight. Glycine, the amino acid I mentioned earlier, forms muscle by converting glucose into energy. Having more lean muscle tissue gives your metabolism a boost because muscle burns more calories than fat. Essentially, collagen helps to turn your body into a fat-burning machine, even when you’re at rest. There is some evidence to also suggest that supplemental collagen may support a feeling of fullness after you eat.
5. Maintains Your Heart Health
Proline, which is found in collagen, can impact the depositing of fat in your arteries and the repair of tissues within them. Arterial fat may play a role in blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.
6. Supports Bone Formation, Growth, and Repair
Calcium is not the only component for healthy bones. Your bones are ⅓ collagen, which gives them their flexibility. Your bone cells are constantly turning over, and adding collagen protein to your daily diet may support both health by increasing bone mineral density. Several studies have shown that osteoporosis can be impacted by supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen.2
7. Impacts Detoxification and Liver Function
The toxins we are exposed to every day must be processed by your liver to be removed from your body. Glycine, which is found in collagen, can support your liver during the potentially damaging detoxification process.3 This is particularly welcome news for those of you who consume alcohol, a toxin I suggest you avoid. As if all this weren’t enough, glycine may even support a calming and restful sleep. It’s one of the reasons I love to drink collagen powder in my hot tea before bedtime.