Is collagen calling your name?

Whether the intention is to strengthen and grow glorious nails or to minimize uncomfortable joint pain, collagen is growing in popularity. Lou Ann Binkley, RN, nutrition counselor, PPG Integrative Medicine, explains the perks of this supplement and how you can incorporate it into your daily routine.

Ways collagen can be beneficial

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and tendons. It’s what helps give our skin strength and elasticity, and when it comes to our joints and tendons, it’s the “glue” that helps hold the body together. Technically a polypeptide, collagen contains a mixture of amino acids like proline and glycine, which are found in all connective tissue within the body (including vital organs).

Our body’s collagen production naturally begins to slow down as we age, leading to wrinkles, thinning hair and joint pain due to weaker or decreased cartilage. Other lifestyle factors — like eating a diet high in sugar, smoking and high amounts of sun exposure — also contribute to depleting collagen levels.

Here are a few ways that collagen benefits us.

1. Improves skin and hair

Increasing collagen levels can help your skin look firmer, increase smoothness, and help your skin cells keep renewing and repairing normally.

2. Reduces joint pain and degeneration

When we lose collagen, our tendons and ligaments start moving with less ease, leading to stiffness, swollen joints and more. With its gel-like, smooth structure that covers and holds our bones together, collagen allows us to glide and move without pain. Think of ingesting more collagen like greasing a creaky door hinge. Recent studies have found that collagen is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and other joint pain and disorders.

Researchers at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that supplementing with type 2 collagen helped patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis find relief from painful symptoms by decreasing swelling in tender joints. Another study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences found that people with osteoarthritis joint pain treated with type 2 collagen showed significant enhancements in daily activities, such as walking up stairs, ascending or sleeping, and a general improvement in their quality of life.

3. Helps heal our gut lining

Because the amino acids in collagen build the tissue that lines the colon and GI tract, supplementing with collagen can help treat gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders, including leaky gut syndrome, IBS and acid reflux. Collagen also helps with the absorption of water within the intestines, keeping things moving more freely out of the body.

4. Boosts metabolism, muscle mass and energy output

A boost in collagen may help increase your metabolism by adding lean muscle mass to your frame and helping with the conversion of essential nutrients. One of glycine’s (an amino acid that is in collagen) most important roles is helping form muscle tissue by converting glucose into energy that feeds muscle cells. Muscle mass is crucial as you age, since it helps support posture, bone health and burns more calories than fat.

5. Strengthens nails, hair and teeth

Collagen protein is the building block of your fingernails, hair and teeth. Adding collagen into your diet regimen can help keep your nails strong and possibly reverse signs of hair loss.

A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that there’s an “essential relationships between extracellular matrix (ECM) and hair follicle regeneration, suggesting that collagen could be a potential therapeutic target for hair loss and other skin-related diseases.”

6. Improves liver health 

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. One of the ways to help in cleansing your liver is by having a cup of  bone broth daily

7. Protects cardiovascular health

The amino acid proline found in collagen helps your artery walls release fat buildup in the bloodstream, shrinking the fat in the arteries and minimizing fat accumulation. Proline is needed for tissue repair within the joints and arteries, plus it helps control blood pressure. It’s also linked with the prevention of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by  helping our arteries stay clear of dangerous plaque buildup.

Getting collagen into your life

Where there are many, here are a few key ways to incorporate collagen into your daily routine:

  • Making or drinking a cup of real bone broth each day will add to your collagen reserves. You can consume bone broth on its own or use it in all sorts of recipes.
  • When choosing a collagen supplement, choose one with as few ingredients as possible and make sure that it is obtained from grass-fed and pastured humanely raised animal sources from a reputable company . Collagen protein powder should just be collagen protein isolate, a.k.a. collagen hydrolysate, hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptides.

If you want to try a collagen supplement for two to three months, the health risks should be minimal and there may be some benefits. Always consult with your physician before adding a new supplement to your diet.

 

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