From time to time I come across a supplement that really does change my life in a big way – more recently curcumin was one of those supplements. As some of you may know I had a massive tear of my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my left knee about 20 years ago whilst playing soccer. I have work diligently to keep it healthy, but sometimes the aging process can, and does, get the best of us. I always try to keep my meniscus happy in that knee, because a meniscal injury can make things go down hill fast. Thankfully for me I have some help from a supplement I now put in my Bulletproof coffee every morning.
So what goes in my coffee? Well, there is a new food supplement on the block. While, maybe that is being a bit too dramatic, but it is new to my life. The fact is, it isn’t really new at all. Collagen, as it is affectingly known as, has been around in traditional cooking and part of bone broths for as long as people have been making them. The secret to bone broths is the wonderful amount of easy to digest proteins and nutrients in it – one of which is a complement of proteins that also make up collagen.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, and is a naturally occurring substance that we make from a lot of the protein-rich food we eat. It contributes to skin elasticity, helping heal and repair the skin, but can also help with damaged bones, cartilages, and joints, because collagen is present in many connective tissues of the body. In fact, it is the “glue” that helps hold the body together
The problem is that our body’s collagen production naturally begins to slow down as we age. The processes inside of us that increase the amount of collagen begin to wane, and we can thank this process for wrinkles, sagging skin and weaker cartilage in your joints. Other factors, like diets high in sugar, smoking and sun exposure, also contribute to depleting collagen levels.
What Is It?
Collagen is also full of conditional amino acids like arginine, glutamine, glycine and proline. These are amino acids that, under normal circumstances, are produced by your body in an adequate supply as long as we are giving it the right building blocks.
However, when you’re sick, under stress or otherwise unhealthy, your body may not be able to produce enough of these amino acids on its own. It needs help from outside sources to keep up with the body’s demand for new collagen, which is to replace older worn collagen.
Some of the “nonessential” amino acids are actually really important. Amino acids like proline and glycine, in particular, play a major role in ensuring your body is running smoothly. For example, proline makes up almost 15 percent of collagen, and it also helps your artery walls release fat buildup in the bloodstream, shrinking the fat in the arteries and minimizing fat accumulation. Glycine, on the other hand, also makes up a major portion of collagen. And while from a size perspective it is the smallest amino acid, it has some big functions. Glycine helps to ensure our cells function properly by helping build healthy DNA strands. And, it is also one of three amino acids that form creatine (glycine, arginine, methionine), which promotes healthy muscle growth and boosts energy production during workouts
There are so many wonderful benefits of collagen and I would like to highlight a few of them. Keep in mind that no one supplements is going to heal all of your ills. But, this one can certain help, and adds a nice bang for the buck. So this week I wanted to highlight three ways that collagen helps:
Have you ever felt that your legs were stiff, or that our joints were a bit sore? That’s because when we lose collagen, our tendons and ligaments start moving with less ease, leading to stiffness, swollen joints and more
Think of ingesting more collagen like greasing a creaky door hinge – it will help your joints move more easily, reduce joint pain and even reduce the risk of joint deterioration. A recent study even found that collagen is an effective treatment for treating osteoarthritis and other joint disorders.
Skin and Hair
As we age, collagen production declines. You will notice it physically as it manifests as looser skin, more wrinkles and less elasticity. Increasing collagen levels can help your skin look firmer, increase smoothness, and help your skin cells keep renewing and repairing normally.
So collagen, in a way, is a little bit like the fountain of youth. And while I am not really a vain person at all, I do want to stay younger looking for as long as possible – and so I take collagen.
Strengthens Nails & Teeth
Ever had peeling and splitting nails? Well, a lack of collagen could be to blame. Collagen protein is also the building block of your fingernails and teeth as well. Adding collagen into your diet regimen can help keep your nails strong and your teeth healthy – and it you really want to keep those teeth healthy, stay away from sugar, and add a little vitamin K2 to your diet.
If you suffer from leaky gut syndrome, a condition where bad-for-you toxins are able to pass through your digestive tract, collagen can be super-helpful. It will help break down proteins and soothe your gut’s lining, healing damaged cell walls and infusing it with healing amino acids. It will also help absorb water, keeping things moving freely in the digestive tract.
Boosts Metabolism & Energy
A boost in collagen can increase your metabolism. Glycine, found in collagen, helps pump sugar into your body’s tissue to increase energy levels. It also helps in muscle development — and muscles burn more calories than fat. Combine any supplementation with vitamin C to ensure your body can convert the collagen into a useable protein that can begin to restore the source or your energy and vitality.
If you’re looking to detox, collagen is extremely helpful. That’s because glycine helps minimize damage your liver experiences when it absorbs foreign substances that shouldn’t be passing through it.
One of the easiest ways to cleanse your liver is with a bone broth fast; I often recommend a three-day bone broth detox to rapidly repair leaky gut. It’ll help rid your body of chemicals and “reset” your gut.
When skin loses its elasticity as a result of decreased collagen, there’s another side effect: more visible cellulite! Because your skin is now thinner, cellulite becomes more evident — no more hiding what’s happening below the surface. Improving your skin’s elasticity through collagen will help reduce that dimpling on your skin.
Our ancestors chowed down on quite a bit of collagen as a natural way of life, since earlier traditional diets incorporated whole-animal eating. Simply put, they ate many animal parts, like skin, tendons and ligaments, which we tend to dislike consuming today.
Luckily, you can get back to the basics. One of my favourite ways to increase collagen consumption is by making a bone broth, such as a chicken bone broth. It’s a healthy, delicious and cost-effective way to use parts of an animal that can’t be eaten directly — no waste here.
It’s also insanely good for you. As these inedible animal parts simmer for hours or days, they release collagen in an easy-to-absorb broth.
Collagen supplements are another easy way to increase your collagen intake. Make sure that you get your powder from healthy cows – and grass-fed if possible. Collagen supplements can be mixed into smoothies, soups or even into baked goods to provide collagen’s healthy benefits without adding any taste to your favourite meals
It is important to note that there are many factors that support the formation and use of collagen in the body, such as vitamin C, manganese, copper, proline and foods high in anthocyanidins (such as blueberries, cherries and blackberries). In order for collagen to be activated in the body, you always want to take your supplements with a source of amino acids and vitamin C, or make sure that your supplement includes these activating nutrients to ensure absorption and usefulness to your body.
Additionally, while many creams and powders claim to revitalize skin by adding collagen, the molecules in these topical products are usually too large for your skin to absorb. Through bone broths and supplements, you’ll improve your body from the inside out.
Lastly, be aware that certain foods — ones heavy in amino acids — promote collagen growth more than others. Animal products like eggs, poultry, fish and milk can all help boost collagen formation. But veggie lovers, fear not! You can also use collagen in recipes for your family or kids, such as homemade healthy jello or all-natural fruit snacks.
Collagen vs Gelatin
You might have heard collagen and gelatin mentioned in the same breath. That’s because gelatin is derived from collagen — when collagen breaks down, it becomes gelatin. A great example of this is found in bone broth: The bones are loaded with collagen and, as the broth cooks, it breaks down into gelatin.
In other words, gelatin is full of the same good stuff as collagen, just in a different form.
These are just a few of the ways that taking collagen can enhance your life, and I hope that collagen adds as much value to your life as it has to mine!
As always – Eat healthy. Exercise hard. And smile!
Dave Nelson lives in Woodstock and is a Functional Medicine Specialist. For more information please email email@example.com or visit - http://insideu.ca