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All About Collagen

Everyone wants to know what’s up with Collagen.

Who should be taking it, what will it do for me and is it worth the cost.

So, it’s protein, we know that much, but it’s not found in muscle meats, the main meat human omnivores consume. To be classified as collagen a protein must be structurally supportive in the Extra Cellular Matrix. Bones, Tendons, Cartilage, Hair, Nails, Skin, this is where the collagen is found. It’s strong and complex. Most modern diets don’t contain nearly enough of it.

Collagen content in human skin decreases by 1% per year beginning in your 20s. Sun exposure, smoking, stress, lack of sleep, high blood sugar, diabetes – all of these things decrease collagen and make the collagen that we are left with less pliable – leading to stiff joints and those ever popular symptoms of aging like dry, wrinkly, saggy skin. Clearly, we need to work on replacing it.

When I started researching for this blog I didn’t realize how much Collagen as a supplement had been studied. There have been more than 200 different scientific studies done on Hydrolyzed Collagen supplementation and it’s efficacy and effect on conditions ranging from joint strength to skin elasticity, digestion, wound healing and blood pressure regulation.

Clarification point: Hydrolyzed collagen aka Collagen peptides– this just means the bonds holding collagen strands together have been broken down. The bits are smaller, allowing the body to absorb and utilize them more efficiently.

Reason #1 I am loving collagen – Easy, high quality protein – we’ve already talked about why protein is so essential.

What is it great for? Well, I'm glad you asked....

Joint Health: Collagen can regenerate the synovial fluid that cushions joints, repair and rebuild cartilage weakened through overuse, impact and stress – because it is made of the same stuff our joints are made of - thereby reducing joint pains & reversing degeneration – its natural gel structure is the element that allows joints to glide & move without pain. Picture the Tin Man – collagen is the oil can for your joints. (Bruyere O, 2012) In people with Rheumatoid arthritis, it decreases swelling and pain in tender affected joints. (Trentham DE, 1993) (Barnett ML, 1998)

Osteoarthritis is another area where this product has been studied extensively for both treatment and prevention. (Crowley DC, 2009) Your likelihood of having Osteoarthritis is increased by having a first degree relative with the condition. That DOES NOT mean you will get it. Epigenetics, friends – this is what naturopathic & preventative medicine is all about. Controlling your diet, lifestyle and supplement choices to alter the course of your genes. Collagen can help combat your genetic predisposition to degenerative diseases. (Bello AE, 2006)

It’s not only for the old and deteriorating. Many studies have been done on healthy, young athletes. The results show that collagen supplementation can reduce the incidences of pain from repetitive use in otherwise healthy individuals and reduce the risk of joint deterioration in this high risk group. (Clark KL, 2008) (Zdzieblik D, 2017). That’s pretty cool, right? It can prevent dreaded knee pain in runners, soccer players and dancers.

Skin health: Not too many things can slow the signs of aging. Quitting smoking is good, but if you don’t smoke in the first place… By increasing collagen levels, skin cells are repaired and renewed and skin looks firmer & smoother. The appearance of cellulite & stretch marks are reduced. (Oba C, 2015) (Proksh E, 2014) It improves elasticity, barrier integrity & hydration in sun exposed skin too. (Yoon HS, 2014) (Inoue N, 2016)

Hot tip – Although collagen is present in many topical beauty products, it doesn’t seem to be beneficial in this format – we can’t absorb it sufficiently through the skin, to really get benefit it must be ingested- get it from the inside out. Save your money for the powder, don't spend it on the creams.

Bone Health – Osteoporosis is when bone mass is lost more rapidly than is typical. People over the age of 70 generally have decreased bone density and increased risk of injury. Hydrolyzed collagen stimulates chondrocytes – human cartilage producing cells - preventing age related bone density reduction. (Bello AE, 2006)

Digestive HealthLeaky gut or Intestinal Hyperpermeability - something I see plenty of in my practice – symptoms include IBS, reflux, Crohn’s, Colitis, food sensitivities, skin rashes, thyroid dysfunction and unexplained stomach pains among many other things. This protein soothes the gut lining, reducing inflammation and healing damaged cell walls, sealing & regenerating the tissue that lines the GI tract. Long term effects include being able to digest more foods and absorb nutrients more efficiently. (Koutroubakis IE, 2003)

Hair Health: Actual reduction and reversal of hair loss (Chen P, 2015) 180 days of collagen supplementation in women with thinning hair resulted in improvements in hair volume, scalp coverage, shine & thickness. (Glynis A, 2012)

OK, you're obviously sold. So – how can you get collagen into your diet?

The best way – Bone Broth. Not just stock, but proper bone broth. Recipe follows…

The easiest way – Hydrolyzed Collagen powder – odorless, tasteless (like iocane powder) and blends easily into hot or cold liquids. Can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, applesauce, soups, stirred into tea or coffee.

I blend mine into my bulletproof coffee most mornings – coffee + collagen + healthy fat (a recipe for another blog).

Collagen is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s safe for kids, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions. No risk in long term use. It is a whole food product – so it’s more food than supplement or protein powder. It is an animal product though, so not suitable for vegetarians, sorry friends.

Important to note that most of these studies were conducted for a minimum of 3 months in order to see results. Patience, grasshopper.

*Disclaimer: None of this information is a replacement for individualized medical advice. Please see your Personal Health Care Provider for advice regarding your particular needs.

* This post may contain affiliate links, I may receive a small commission from sales of certain items if you link to them from here, but the price is always the same for you.

Bone Broth

Crafting rich homemade stocks is so therapeutic for your body and soul. Brimming with nutrients, a bowl of this shimmering liquid contains collagen and is truly nourishing and easy to assimilate.

The best bones to use are those from pastured animals, as they will yield the most gelatin-rich, mineral dense and flavorful stock with far less toxins. To get bones to make your stock: Save leftovers from a roast, ask around at your local farmer's market or inquire with a local butcher

Any vegetables and flavourings can work, these are my standards:

3-4 lbs of bony chicken parts (necks, backs, breastbones, wings).

4 quarts cold water

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots

4 whole cloves garlic

2-3 pieces of sliced fresh turmeric or ginger or both

1. Place bones and vegetables in a large pot.

2. Cover with water. Add apple cider vinegar. Let stand for 20 minutes to 1 hour. This acidic solution helps release the nutrients from the bones.

3. Bring to a gentle rolling boil. Remove scum that rises to the top, discard.

4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 8 to 24 hrs.

5. Let cool, strain the stock carefully.

Drink hot mugs of it or pour into glass jars and store in the fridge or freeze for later consumption.

A, G. (2012). A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. The Journal of Clinical & Aesthetic Dermatology , 8-34.

Barnett ML, K. J.-T. (1998). Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with oral type II collagen. Results of a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis & Rheumatism , 290-7.

Bello AE, O. S. (2006). Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Current Medical Research & Opinion , 2221-32.

Bruyere O, Z. B. (2012). Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: a 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine , 124-30.

Chen P, C. M. (2015). Lack of Collagen VI Promotes Wound-Induced Hair Growth. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology , 2358-2367.

Clark KL, S. W. (2008). 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research & Opinion , 1485-96.

Crowley DC, L. F. (2009). Safety and efficacy of undenatured type II collagen in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a clinical trial. International Journal of Medical Sciences , 312-321.

Inoue N, S. F. (2016). Ingestion of bioactive collagen hydrolysates enhance facial skin moisture and elasticity and reduce facial ageing signs in a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study. Journal of the Science of Food & Agriculture .

Koutroubakis IE, P. E. (2003). Serum laminin and collagen IV in inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Clinical Pathology , 817-820.

Oba C, I. K. (2015). Effect of orally administered collagen hydrolysate on gene expression profiles in mouse skin: a DNA microarray analysis. Physiological genomics , Aug;47(8):355-63.

Proksh E, S. D. (2014). Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacology & Physiology , 47-55.

Trentham DE, D.-T. R. (1993). Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science (New York, NY) , 1727-30.

Yoon HS, C. H. (2014). Supplementating with dietary astaxanthin combined with collagen hydrolysate improves facial elasticity and decreases matrix metalloproteinase-1 and -12 expression: a comparative study with placebo. Journal of Medicinal Food , 810-6.

Zdzieblik D, O. S. (2017). Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism , 588-95.

Dr Dori Skye Engel,
Naturopathic Doctor & Doula

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