Collagen is one of those buzzwords that once it pops up seems to be everywhere, and suddenly you find yourself reading it on packaging from cosmetics to pills and powders. While it certainly may seem like a lot of hype for something that may not have previously been on your radar, there’s a good reason collagen is getting its 15 minutes (and should become a staple in your health and wellness dialogue).
Collagen is one of the most important and abundant proteins in your body. It’s used to sustain and maintain nearly every cellular function from your bones to your muscles and even your blood! Collagen is also able to help protect your organs and promote healthy organ function. It’s the substance that helps keep your joints and your muscles connected.
Collagen is regularly produced in the body, but as you age production does tend to slow. If you’re a smoker, a chronic sun tanner, or have regularly consumed a diet full of processed food, you’re not helping your collagen production. A lack of collagen leads to the creation of wrinkles and in some cases joint pain.
Collagen is one of the building blocks of all cellular function, which is why having more of it may provide significant benefit to several structural systems within your body.
Collagen for Joint Pain
As we age, our cartilage, the binding between muscles and bone, tends to wear and weaken. This is often the cause of stiff, achy joints. Aging cartilage can also be related to the sound of grinding between some of our most used joints such as shoulders or knees. This breakdown of tissue often leads to arthritis and can be a source of significant discomfort and pain.
Some research shows that upping your collagen intake could improve your joint pain and even relieve some of the symptoms of arthritis.
According to a study featured in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, researchers examined the influence of collagen supplements on participants suffering from osteoarthritis. The participants reported that symptoms from their osteoarthritis decreased by 40% over the 90-day study, while simultaneously showing a 33% improvement in the severity of their symptoms.
Another study featured in Science Magazine revealed that collagen use reduced joint swelling and tenderness in participants experiencing symptoms of severe rheumatoid arthritis. Some even experienced total remission throughout the study.
Collagen for Skin
We can’t talk about collagen without talking about skin health. Collagen has been shown to aid in skin regeneration, which gives the appearance of healthy, glowing, vibrant skin. Yes, it’s the collagen in your skin that makes you look younger. This is, in part, because collagen binds the cells, giving the appearance of more youthful looking skin.
As we age, our collagen production decreases, leading to drier skin that often appears less firm and covered with fine lines. By using collagen-infused creams, powders, and supplements, you stand a chance at staving off the effects of aging.
A study published by Skin Pharmacology and Physiology shows evidence that introducing a collagen supplement can improve the appearance of skin elasticity within just a few weeks. Another study observed similar results—participants enjoyed reduced visibility in wrinkles after eight weeks of supplement introduction.
Collagen for Muscle Building and Fat Burning
Because collagen is a primary component of muscles, it is influential in the building and maintenance of muscle mass. Collagen contains glycine, an amino acid responsible for the creation of creatine. Creatine fuels the muscles with additional calories and energy. This, in turn, causes your workouts to be more productive and your recovery more efficient.
For a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at the impact of collagen supplements in men aged 53 and older who suffered from symptoms of sarcopenia. Sarcopenia occurs when muscle mass deteriorates at a higher rate due to aging. Those who took collagen supplements coupled with resistance training saw an increase in fat loss and an improvement in muscle mass.
Collagen and Cellulite
It is estimated that 80 to 90% of women have cellulite due to the natural aging process. While cellulite is entirely normal, there is a growing trend toward finding ways to “cure” cellulite either through topical creams or by way of supplement intake.
Cellulite occurs when a layer of excess fat pushes against the connective tissue of the skin, leading to a dimpled appearance. For a double-blind study featured in the Journal of Medicinal Food researchers assigned collagen peptides to 105 random women between the ages of 24 and 50 years old over the course of six months. Participants reported a noticeable improvement in skin texture and elasticity, especially compared to participants who took placebos during the same six-month period.
Collagen for Digestive Health
As we discussed, collagen is vital to the function and viability of every major organ and muscle within the body. The gut is no exception, and studies show collagen can improve some of the symptoms of digestive disorders, including leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as a result of inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract.
A study conducted by the Department of Gastroenterology University Hospital in Greece discovered that subjects who had IBD were more likely to exhibit decreased levels of collagen. While additional research is certainly needed, the anecdotal evidence points to an improvement in digestive symptoms as a result of increasing collagen through ingestion.
Collagen, Best Way to Take It!
Collagen supplements have become an increasingly popular way of giving your body more of this seemingly magical elixir. Most supplements are hydrolyzed, making it easier to absorb in your body than straight collagen, and many creams and cosmetics contain collagen.
While sipping bone broth is indeed an option, it may not always be the most efficient method of delivering collagen to your system, which is why organic supplements are often the preferred way to ingest additional collagen.
The Benefits of Drinking Collagen
Collagen is also readily available in several foods, including bone broth and pork skin. Bone broth is an option when it comes to drinking your collagen supplement. It’s made by simmering meat bones (such as chicken or beef) to extract the flavor. As a result, the broth becomes incredibly rich in collagen and can be used as a base for soups or stews, or even sipped as a drink.
You can easily make bone broth at home (and we think it is much better than some of the store-bought versions). Check out our bone broth recipe to make your own!
Collagen reduced by cooking turns into gelatin in a powdered form. Collagen powder is a quick and easy way to increase the collagen in your body, and you can toss it into nearly anything from soups and stews to your breakfast smoothie!
Check out our Fountain of Youth Smoothie for a yummy treat that is delicious and provides a sweet boost of collagen for your skin and body.
Collagen peptides are another alternative to supplement your collagen intake. Most are sold as hydrolyzed collagen for better absorption of collagen into your bloodstream.
A Warning for Too Much Collagen
Too much of a good thing isn’t always advantageous. By taking too many collagen supplements, you do run the risk of hypercalcemia, which is an overdose of calcium that produces symptoms of chronic fatigue, nausea, and in some cases abnormal heartbeat. This typically occurs when someone takes collagen supplements that are sourced from marine life, including shellfish or shark cartilage.