Collagen seems to be all the rage these days. People are adding it to their smoothies or making bone broth and drinking it by the gallon. But what is collagen, and why do people seem so enamored with it?
Collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the human body, makes up 25 to 35 percent of total protein content. Because of its ubiquity and role in the body, it might not be a surprise to learn that collagen comes from a Greek word meaning glue. It is quite literally the substance that holds your body together.
While your body produces its own collagen on a regular basis, with age, your collagen production drops, and the fibroblasts that produce elastin and collagen in your epidermis and dermis stop working so effectively, resulting in wrinkles, sagging flesh, and dry skin.
But your lifestyle can also affect collagen production. Eating too much sugar, using tobacco products, or spending too much time in the sun can decrease the amount of collagen available in your body. People who are sick or going through stress or suffering from anxiety might also see a drop in collagen production.
Because collagen makes up an amazing 75 percent of the dry weight of your skin, maintaining the proper amount of collagen can help your body maintain skin elasticity. It can even reverse the effects of aging on your skin and reduce wrinkles.
Collagen can also contribute to joint health and may help to reduce cellulite. Other uses of collagen include helping to build muscle, burn fat, and aid in good digestive health.
But What Is Collagen?
Collagen is made up of the amino-acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine and is found in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. It is the main component of connective tissue, which can be found throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the membranes that protect the brain and the spinal cord.
There are many types of collagen. They can be found in scar tissue, tendons, skin, the walls of arteries, and the eyes, bones, and teeth. Another type is found in joint cartilage and in between the discs in the spine. A different type of collagen is found in the walls of the intestines, in the uterus, and in muscles and blood vessels. Yet another type is found in the skin and the lung tissues. The collagen found in the cells, hair, and the placenta are also different from the previously mentioned types.
Collagen might be rigid when it is found in bones, flexible when it’s found in tendons, and along a spectrum between the two when found in cartilage. It can also be found in corneas, blood vessels, the gut, between the discs of the spine, and the teeth.
Collagen has been widely available in creams and serums that can be applied directly to the skin to rejuvenate the flesh and fight wrinkles. But new products on the market include collagen that can be ingested. The theory is that collagen and powders taken internally can help combat that loss of elasticity and restore skin.
What Can You Do to Protect the Collagen in Your Body?
Studies show that the best way to protect the collagen being produced by your body includes using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, not smoking, and eating a diet that is rich in protein and antioxidants.
Another thing you can do to protect your natural collagen production is controlling inflammation by reducing your intake of sugar. Chronic stress, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption can also affect natural collagen production.
Needless to say, natural collagen production is also a function of a healthy, well-balanced diet. The vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and proteins you consume on a daily basis affect the vitality of your whole body, including your skin.
The food you eat each day should include antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and items rich in sulfur, which is incredibly important to natural collagen production. Sulfur has also been shown to prevent aging of the skin. Foods that are sulfur-rich include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, legumes, nuts, garlic, eggs, fish, beef, and chicken.
Collagen production can also be improved by eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of vitamin C-rich foods. Foods that help in the production of collagen include:
- Kiwi fruit
- Dark green vegetables
- Pumpkin seeds
Is Bone Broth a Good Source of Collagen?
Some people like to make their own bone broth at home from the bones and marrow of animals. Cooking the bones is a form of hydrolysis that breaks down long amino acid chains into easily digestible shorter amino acid chains, called peptides. The collagen from animal bones, ligaments, and other connective tissue is then slowly dissolved in the broth.
Research shows that once collagen hydrolysate is digested, it is circulated in the blood and can accumulate in the skin. Collagen peptides have been shown to prevent the premature aging of the skin caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Collagen peptides also increase the efficacy of antioxidative enzyme activities in skin.
Gelatin is another form of hydrolyzed collagen, which is made by mixing collagen in water and slowly heating it to a boil.
When making your own bone broth or gelatin at home, it’s important to choose your source materials wisely. Use only bones and tissues from cage-free, free-range, and antibiotic-free animals. The same is true of collagen supplements. Only purchase supplements that explicitly state that they come from the best sources. It’s also important to note that there is no such thing as vegan collagen because it’s an animal product.
What Should I Look for When Considering Collagen Supplements?
Collagen supplements should state that they contain peptides, or hydrolyzed collagen, which are easier for the bloodstream to absorb so they can travel throughout the body doing their job of repairing, rebuilding, and providing energy. Collagen powder supplements might also include vitamin C, silica, and hyaluronic acid. Vitamin C is essential in the production of collagen in the body. Hyaluronic acid, a molecule found in the skin, helps keep skin plump and well hydrated. Silica, which is the mineral silicon with an extra oxygen molecule, is sometimes called the “beauty mineral” because, as with collagen, it can improve skin elasticity, nail growth, and hair.
Collagen supplements, by increasing the collagen content in the skin, may help counteract the effects of aging, improve skin health and hydration, reduce lines and wrinkles in the face and around eyes, improve elasticity, and make better, stronger hair and nails. Collagen supplements work primarily by supplying your fibroblasts with the amino acids necessary to keep producing collagen.
Collagen supplements are also often part of a plan to treat arthritis, joint pain, and other inflammatory diseases. Collagen can contribute to good gut health and be used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut syndrome and any number of digestive problems. Collagen can also help repair the skin that gets damaged by an acne breakout.
Collagen supplements can be taken as an adjunct to protein powders, especially for those who exercise or lift weights regularly and are concerned not only about building or maintaining muscle, but also about repairing muscles, tendons, and joints.
Collagen supplements come in many forms, including liquid or powder, as a chewable, or in capsules, tablets, and pills. Liquid collagen is usually made from marine animals. While it’s good for collagen supplements to have vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, they shouldn’t have a lot of other ingredients, such as probiotics and fiber that might interact with collagen or interfere with the way your body digests it.
The side effects of collagen supplements are few. Again, it’s important to know the source of the supplements because if they’re not from animals raised organically and in a humane manner, there could be heavy metals and other contaminants in the supplements. It’s also important to note that those who have a history of kidney stones should consult with a physician before adding collagen supplements to their diets.
Most people report that the worst side effect to collagen supplements is that they don’t always taste great and can leave an aftertaste, depending on how they are prepared and what they are mixed with.
Collagen supplements can be taken at any time of the day. Most nutritionists recommend between 2,500 and 5,500 milligrams a day.
Know What You’re Buying and Who You’re Buying It From
Not all collagen supplements are created alike. Before supplements hit the market, federal law does not require them to be proven safe and to meet the FDA’s satisfaction. Nor are there a set of industry standards that delineate how much of any given active ingredient is contained in a supplement or where that active ingredient came from. In fact, doses can even vary in the same bottle of supplements, so consumers may believe they are getting the expected amount, but they can’t really be sure.
This is why it’s important to take any supplements under the guidance of a healthcare professional or nutritionist who has sat down with you, discussed your needs, analyzed your blood, and determined what products you need to achieve your goals.
The professionals in the BodyLogicMD network have access to high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade supplements that are formulated under strict controls to guarantee they are the best supplements from the best sources with dosage that is consistent. Consumers just can’t get that with over-the-counter supplements. In developing its line of supplements, BodyLogicMD works with the scientists at Douglas Laboratories, Compounded Nutrients, Metagenics, and NuMedica.
BodyLogicMD also has a new line of BioSkinMD Skincare products that are specially designed to care for your skin. The BioSkinMD Skincare Kit includes Daily Defense Moisturizer AM Cream, which contains vitamin C and is applied directly to the skin to protect and hydrate it and aids in the production of collagen.
The professionals affiliated with BodyLogicMD are certified in regenerative and anti-aging medicine by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, which focuses on advancements in preventive and anti-aging medicine, encompassing integrative medicine, preventive medicine, functional medicine, nutritional medicine, and regenerative medicine.
Practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network are skilled at evaluating all the circumstances that might be contributing to a person’s particular skincare situation. Each person is treated rightfully as an individual with their own needs. Unlike conventional medical practices, the practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network are trained to take a holistic view of each individual to see how each aspect, including diet, activity level, and endocrine system functionality, might be interacting to produce conditions that are less than optimal.
For instance, a hormone imbalance can affect how you feel, how much energy you have, and how hard it is for you to lose or gain weight. A hormone imbalance might also be the reason why you may be losing hair or your skin is dry and flaky. Such an imbalance can arise from a number of different circumstances, including age, environmental toxins, or diet.
After a thorough evaluation of your condition, your BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner might conclude you’re a good candidate for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy or that you need a nutrition plan to help you balance your diet with food that is healthy and rich in the nutrients that can help support your skincare goals. Your practitioner might also tailor a regimen of supplements that could help you feel more vibrant and energetic while restoring your skin, fingernails, and hair and alleviating or even eliminating pain in your knees, hips, and shoulders.
A collagen supplement might be just one of the ingredients in a treatment plan developed one-on-one with your needs foremost in mind. BodyLogicMD’s line of multivitamins and antioxidants are designed to support your brain, your gut, your joints, your skin, and your body as a whole.
Don’t wait any longer. Contact your nearest BodyLogicMD clinic today and get started on a path to a healthier, more active and happier you.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.