If you have even a passing interest in health, you’ve almost certainly heard of collagen, but how much do you really know about it?
Collagen has become increasingly popular as scientists continue to unwrap the hidden benefits of this substance.
These days collagen can be found in everything from shampoo to lotion to special dietary supplements. Because of this, it can seem like a cure-all. Since many universal remedies simply don’t deliver on their promise, it’s understandable if you’re a bit skeptical of collagen and the claims associated with it.
While collagen is not a magic bullet for any ailment, it can certainly help in an incredible variety of areas.
Today we’ll look at some of the lesser known benefits collagen provides, but, first, let’s learn more about the basics of this seemingly magical stuff.
What Is Collagen?
Our bodies are about 16% protein and collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, making up about ⅓ of all the body’s protein. (1, 2) Among its many functions, collagen strengthens and provides the structure of our skin, our tendons and ligaments, and our bones.
The word collagen stems from the Greek word kólla which means glue. Think of collagen, then, as the protein-rich glue that holds your body together.
There are over two dozen types of collagen within our bodies. (3) Of these, Types I, II and III are the most prevalent, totaling 80-90% of human collagen. (4)
Collagen and other proteins are made up of strings of molecules called amino acids. Your body uses amino acids and nutrients from the foods you eat to naturally produce the collagen it needs. (5)
There are 3 primary amino acids in collagen:
When these and other amino acids form strong collagen structures in the body they contribute to the growth of hair and nails, they keep the skin elastic and resilient, and they cushion the joints.
Registered Dietician Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, CDN, says, “While we make out own collagen, we make less and less as we age and things like sun exposure, diet, and stress can deplete it even more.” In fact, adults are likely to lose 1% of the collagen in their skin each year. (6)
At the same time, the collagen already present in skin begins to break down due to environmental factors, dehydration, and slower cell turnover. (7) For all these reasons, Zeitlin recommends adding a collagen supplement to your routine to boost your skin’s youthful vibrance.
The aging process also results in loss of collagen in the joints, resulting in stiffness and pain as we move about. (8) Dr. Bill Rawls, M.D. explains, “A big part of aging has to do with degradation of collagen. Skin sagging and thinning, joints creaking, shortened stature, stooped posture, easy bruising, and all the visible signs of aging are a direct result of collagen breaking down.”
Now that you know a bit more about collagen, we’ll drill down on why you might want to pay a little more attention to it.
What Can Collagen Do For You?
OK, so no one wants to get wrinkled and hunched over as they get older, and collagen definitely plays a role in slowing these seemingly unavoidable facts of aging. (9, 10)
But what else can collagen do for you?
Is it all hair, skin and nails?
As well as keeping your joints in good working order, tendons flexible and skin youthful, collagen wears many other hats.
9 Little Known Benefits of Collagen
Collagen is absolutely vital to many systems in your body and has been demonstrated through research to play a crucial role in alleviating and preventing a range of health concerns. Here are just a few of the things collagen has been found to do…
1. Prevents and treats cardiovascular disease: Arterial stiffening (atherosclerosis) is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that collagen reduces the risk of this condition. (11) Dr. Amy Myers, M.D. explains, “Proline, which is found in collagen, may help to obliterate fat deposits in the arteries and repair tissue within artery. Collagen has also been shown to help control blood pressure. Because of this, collagen has been linked to the preventing arteriosclerosis.”
2. Supports the body in building muscle and shifting unwanted weight: A study of elderly men showed collagen supplementation increases muscle strength (12). A similar study involving older women showed lean body mass is better preserved with collagen in the diet. (13)
3. Helps control blood sugar: Studies show that collagen reduces fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C in diabetics. (14) Gelatin and collagen have been shown to stabilize blood sugar more efficiently than other proteins (15). So consuming collagen along with carbohydrates can keep your blood sugar nicely in check.
4. Speeds wound healing: As they heal, most wounds form scar tissue, which is predominantly made of collagen. Collagen has been used topically to speed the healing of external wounds. (16) One study showed that healing of pressure ulcers in long-term patients occurred twice as quickly in those taking collagen supplements. (17)
5. Improves satiety after eating: Collagen has been shown to improve satiety after eating. (18) This means you’re far less likely to overeat, making it a smart choice when you’re trying to shed a few pounds.
6. Protects and repairs brain cells in neurodegenerative diseases: This versatile protein has been harnessed for brain repair in the form of collagen scaffolds, of therapeutic benefit to patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (19)
Plus, the amino acids that make up collagen have additional proven benefits. For example, glycine has been shown to…
7. Improve liver function: In studies, glycine was found to reduce and repair damage to the liver from toxins or other external sources. (20) Registered Nurse Lou Ann Binkley, RN explains, “If you’re looking to detox your body of harmful substances, improve blood flow and keep your heart young, collagen is extremely helpful. That’s because glycine helps minimize damage your liver experiences when it absorbs foreign substances, toxins or alcohol that shouldn’t be passing through it.” Adequate levels of collagen can help ensure your body has enough glycine for this task.
8. Enhance memory and attention: Glycine has been shown to enhance memory in people of all ages, and to help with sustained attention in middle-aged men. (21) This study suggests glycine could be a non-stimulant alternative to the drugs currently prescribed to help in these areas.
9. Improve sleep: Glycine, that wonderful amino acid, has been shown to help you feel more rested after sleep. Subjects in one study noted improvements in sleep quality and feelings of clear-headedness and liveliness upon waking. (22)
Does collagen have any effect on the gut?
Why Is Gut Health Important?
You might not think much of your gut beyond how it fits in your clothes, but you’d be surprised just how much your gut affects your overall health and your life in general. When talking about the gut, we are talking about the entire gastrointestinal system, not your muffin top.
Science has discovered an entire living environment in the colon called the gut microbiome, and we actually have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria (microbiota) living there. (23)
The health of your intestinal tract is vital to your whole health. The bacteria in your gut affects everything from your metabolism to your body’s immune system, to how grumpy you are on Monday mornings.
Researchers have found there are upwards of 1000 different bacterial species living in your gut. (24) No two people have an identical makeup of gut bacteria either – sort of like a fingerprint.
The specific microbial makeup of your gut is determined by numerous factors including heredity, the foods you eat, and your lifestyle.
When the microbiota is functioning properly, your body can absorb nutrients effectively and your digestive processes work to efficiently eliminate waste. When your gut is out of balance, everything can be knocked off track. The gut microbiome has been referred to as your second brain because of the significant role it plays in your life and general health. (25)
You can see having a healthy gut is central to achieving optimal health and enjoying a high quality of life.
What Is A Leaky Gut?
A leaky gut sounds pretty gross, and it can actually bring about a plethora of problems.
In a healthy person the lining of the intestine forms a tight barrier, controlling what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Leaky gut, or “intestinal permeability”, is a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes damaged, causing larger particles to “leak” into the bloodstream.
Some of these particles can include…
- Partially digested food
- Pathogens that can cause illness
When these rogue elements manage to break through the lining of your digestive tract they can cause an immune response, leading to inflammation and triggering chronic illness. (26)
Also, when the lining of the intestines is damaged or inflamed, your body cannot absorb the vitamins and nutrients you need from the food you eat, resulting in malnutrition. (27)
Can Collagen Help With Digestive Issues?
Collagen is found in high amounts in the lining of the intestines and throughout the digestive tract. If your body has insufficient collagen to properly line your intestines, the gut wall can be compromised, leading to leaky gut syndrome.
Since collagen is necessary for the health of your intestinal lining, it stands to reason that upping the amount of collagen you have will help to heal your gut when necessary and mitigate many digestive issues.
In fact, studies show that collagen and its amino acids can improve your digestive health by protecting the cells of the intestine from damage and repairing injury when it occurs. (28, 29)
Can You Get More Collagen?
Most people today don’t get enough collagen in their diets. This leaves them exposed to myriad problems.
Our ancestors enjoyed collagen in abundance because they had no problem eating less desirable foods. They ate many things we avoid today, like organ meats and skin, bones and cartilage, and tougher cuts of meat. Full use was made of everything.
These days, we largely tend to avoid those nourishing foods. Because of that, we are inviting problems with our guts and subpar performance in other body systems.
Thankfully, you can get more collagen!
You can change your diet to include more collagen-rich foods, like bone broth and gelatin, and you can also complement your diet with a collagen supplement.
Our collagen supplement of choice comes from Perfect Keto.
The Perfect Keto company created their collagen supplement using best practice. Perfect Keto’s Collagen is from grass-fed cows, it contains no artificial ingredients, no chemically created flavors or colors, and it contains MCTs to give you an energy boost and to slow protein absorption so your body can use it for recovery.
So, What’s the Bottom Line?
Collagen has a number of key roles in your overall health, and your gut health.
Don’t overlook the importance of this mighty protein. Making sure you get enough collagen in your diet will keep your digestive system regulated while giving you a general health boost.
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