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In this article, we discuss the 10 biggest benefits of collagen and how you can rebuild your own.
What is Collagen?
As we age, we lose the ability to produce collagen.
Collagen is the most common protein in the human body. It provides our body’s structure and form. It’s the majority of protein in our bones, skin, joints, teeth, arterial walls, and other organs that are vital to our health.
If collagen sounds important, it’s because it is. It’s often referred to as the body’s glue because it holds us all together. In fact, the word “collagen” comes from the Greek words for “glue” (kolla) and “I produce” (gennao).
Collagen comes from the cartilage and connective muscle tissue in animals. It goes through a cooking process to separate the collagen from the other parts and then used by humans.
How Do We Lose Collagen?
Unfortunately, the way we live in modern society has led to a consumption of less gelatin/collagen. We’re simply not eating enough organic bone broth or eating the right parts of animals as our ancestors did.
This is creating a problem in the degeneration of our hair, skin, nails, bones, joints and connective tissues of the body.
Genetics isn’t the only culprit to blame for those fine lines and wrinkles. The natural loss of our collagen-producing ability plays a major role.
If collagen is the majority of protein in our bodies, and our bodies are full of protein, it doesn’t make sense that we would lose it, but we do.
Like all other substances in and on our body, collagen is subject to the normal wear and tear of aging.
Skin cells called fibroblasts produce collagen by replacing broken collagen fibers with new ones when they’re needed. Through a natural progression, our skin’s ability to replace damaged and diminished collagen slows down. More gaps and inconsistencies in the collagen mesh develop.
Why do We Lose Collagen?
There are many factors that contribute to collagen breakdown that can get neutralized to some degree. This includes hormonal changes, and free radicals.
There are other factors that contribute to collagen breakdown that involve our diet. Centuries ago, human diets were different than ours today. Of course, we have fast food and chemicals in our foods, but we’re talking about the actual food we consume.
Our bodies are built to process animal products. From 10,000 years ago to the start of the 20th century, our ancestors used almost the entirety of animals’ bodies for consumption. People had an appreciation for the animal and didn’t discard organs, skin, fat, and collagen-rich tissues.
Not that long ago, soup made from whole chicken feet simmering in broth was common. By today’s standards, it’s considered nasty by some. That’s the wrong way to think about it.
Benefits of Collagen for Skin
There are 28 types of collagen and each has a specific role in our bodies. The five most common types are the fibrillar, numbered I-V. These types play important roles that give us amazing benefits.
1. Diminish Fine Lines and Wrinkles
No one likes to see those fine lines when they look in a mirror. They appear around our eyes and mouth anytime after we turn 30. Over time, these lines become wrinkles.
A study published in 2013 found that oral collagen supplements help boosts skin elasticity and reduces the number of fine lines and wrinkles.
2. Improves Skin Tone
As time moves forward and we start losing collagen production, our skin loses elasticity.
Collagen supplements can replenish what gets lost from the inside. While collagen is in the dermis, the amino acids in hydrolyzed collagen help keep the outer layers of skin healthy and smooth.
Maintaining proper levels of alanine, glycine, and hydroxyproline (things that make up collagen) can keep small veins and arteries from appearing.
3. Helps Dry Skin
Dry skin is a common skin problem with all ages and genders. The American Academy of Dermatology reports environmental effects, aging, and lifestyle choices cause dry skin.
Collagen supplements contain the amino acids missing in your skin, which helps moisturize and hydrate your skin. Skin cells plump up by absorbing water from surrounding collagen, making it excellent for your face and give you a youthful glow.
4. Tightens the Skin
Health officials found that collagen peptides are a safe and natural ingredient that’s easy to digest and improves the appearance of your skin. The same way collagen helps moisturize and hydrate your skin, it will also help boost collagen production and improve your skin’s elasticity.
Creams and lotions only improve the outer layer of the skin. Supplements increase collagen levels in the dermis. This layer keeps your skin tight and firm and gives you a flawless complexion.
5. Minimizes Scarring
The amino acids found in collagen help reduce the appearance of discolored spots and help skin repair itself.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) recommends that taking a collagen supplement every day helps promote faster healing. Collagen supports healthy tissue formation which speeds up the healing process.
Benefits for Hair
You now know the benefits of collagen for your skin, but did you know that collagen also helps with your hair’s thickness and growth?
6. Increases Strength
Because collagen plays a big part in renewing cells, it’s also responsible for maintaining strength and elasticity in hair. It’s a natural defense against all the damage we do to our hair every day.
7. Encourages Growth
In general, women lose anywhere from 50 to 100 strands of hair each day and on days when they wash their hair, that number can jump to 250. Replacing collagen renews the cells that lead to a reduction in hair loss.
Benefits for Joints
Collagen is also beneficial for our joints and bones. Here are some of the ways collagen benefits the parts of our bodies we can’t see.
8. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation causes us to lose collagen in our bodies faster. Combined with a diet that avoids foods that cause inflammation, taking collagen supplements will reduce inflammation that leads to many health issues like cardiovascular disease and arthritis.
9. Improves Joint Health
Researchers in a 2008 study by the Department of Nutrition and Sports Nutrition for Athletics at Penn State University found collagen hydrolysate improved the joint health of athletes with joint-related pain.
After the 24-week trial, researchers collected and analyzed data from all 147 subjects. They found the group that took the collagen hydrolysate had significant changes in six test fields. The participants cited joint pain when walking, standing, at rest, when carrying objects, and when lifting all improved.
The results of the Penn State study implicate that taking collagen every day helps support joint health and can reduce the risk of joint deterioration.
10. Helps Prevent Bone Loss
Bone is living tissue that has a lot of different roles in our body. It supports muscles, protects organs, and stores calcium. Its framework is collagen which gets strengthened by a calcium phosphate mineral.
This combination makes bones strong yet flexible under stress. It also contains living cells get renewed by a bone remodeling process. As you age, your collagen production slows, thus so does the remodeling process slows and you start losing bone mass.
Loss of bone mass can lead to osteoporosis. Studies show that taking collagen supplements may help inhibit the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis.
How Your Body Can Get Collagen
Creams and ointments claim they add collagen to your skin and have been around for decades. The truth is, collagen molecules are too large to penetrate the dermis when applied in topical form. When you apply collagen by cream, it sits on the skin’s surface and doesn’t affect the skin structure.
The structure is the key to regaining some of the skin’s elasticity. If you’ve used these products and feel that you saw positive results, the cream moisturizes your skin and fills in wrinkles for a short time, at best.
The only proven way to boost collagen is from the inside and that means by consuming collagen. It’s the most natural and healthy way to get collagen into your system without the drawbacks of injectables.
But, there are foods that help the collagen-boosting process:
- Red Vegetables – Tomatoes, peppers, and beets contain the antioxidant lycopene, which protects our skin from the damage of the sun while increasing collagen levels.
- Dark Green Vegetables – These veggies are rich in Vitamin C and dark greens like spinach and kale can rev up collagen production.
- Orange Vegetables – Carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A which restores and regenerates damaged collagen.
- Berries – You know that berries are an excellent anti-antioxidant that are free radical scavengers, but blackberries and raspberries increase collagen levels in the process.
- Citrus Fruit – Citrus fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits that are rich in Vitamin C help the amino acids lysine and proline convert to collagen.
- Protein – Now that you’re a collagen expert, this one may be obvious. Along with animal protein, eggs whites are high in amino acids and collagen. If you enjoy a vegan/vegetarian diet, nuts are another good source of lysine.
- Garlic – Garlic is one of the best sources of sulfur, which is necessary for collagen production. It also provides lipoic acid and taurine that help rebuild damaged collagen fibers.
- Oysters – Oysters are rich in zinc, an essential element of collagen building. They’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals including Vitamin B12 and iron.
While there are foods that can help with the collagen replenishing process, there are foods you should avoid because they cause inflammation which accelerates the aging process.
Foods to Avoid
The biggest hurdle in avoiding these foods is this simple rule: If it contains flour and/or sugar or other sweeteners, it is pro-inflammatory.
- Vegetable and Canola Oils
- Feed-Lot Raised Meat
- Refined Grains
- Artificial Food Additives
Cutting these foods out has other health benefits like reducing your risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. If you can’t cut them out of your diet altogether, at least try and limit your intake.
Live Your Best Life
Now that you know the amazing benefits of collagen, you can start eating better (bone broth in particular) and taking supplements to help boost your body’s collagen production.
At Our Paleo Life, you can search through hundreds of recipes to find the food that’s low in sugar and high in protein / fat. You can order your own Paleo Meal Plan or Keto Meal Plan eBook and receive 50% off at checkout.