Find out how collagen improves gut health, the many benefits on hair, skin, and nails, plus practical tips.
Before delving deep into the gut health world, when hearing the word collagen, I would typically associate it skin care and face creams. And honestly, unless you've had some exposure to gut health, it's likely not part of your every day conversation. But if you've been following the blog for a bit, you've noticed that I try to incorporate collagen whenever possible.
What is collagen?
I've touched on this in a previous post about gelatin but collagen is a naturally occurring protein that accounts for roughly ⅓ of all protein in the body. It is found in muscles, bones, tendons, the digestive system, blood vessels, skin and hair. If you picture almost any pliable part of our bodies (aside from bone), collagen plays a role in it. Collagen is essentially gelatin that has been processed in order to easily dissolve in most liquids, despite temperature. While there are several types of collagen, the one most prevalent type of collagen is Type 1 and also the one that is crucial for gut healing.
How does collagen improve gut health?
Helps leaky gut
Collagen helps to heal leaky gut (also known as intestinal permeability) by sealing the epithelial lining of the gut (which is a layer of cells that lines the intestines. It essentially patches any areas of the gut which have been damaged over time by toxins from the foods we eat as well as external factors. Collagen is high in the amino acid glycine, which is the key component to healing the permeable lining of the gut repairing it so it absorbs only what it's supposed to and keeps potentially harmful invaders from entering the bloodstream.
By ensuring that the proper amount of acid is produced by the stomach, collagen helps to regulate excessive gastric juice, which otherwise can lead to heartburn and in some cases stomach ulcers.
Prevents and helps to heal ulcers
In line with combating heartburn, collagen regulates the secretion of gastric acid-producing, preventing the formation of ulcers. The amino acid that's responsible for this is "glycine, a neutral amino acid that has been studied for its ability to inhibit gastric secretion and to protect the gastric mucosa against chemically and stress-induced ulcers."
Helps relieve constipation
Collagen binds with water in the intestinal tract protecting the colon from absorbing too much of it which in turn leads to faster transit time and easier elimination.
Though collagen plays a crucial role in gut healing, it's important to highlight just how powerful and important collagen is in other ways:
Other benefits of collagen:
By taking collagen regularly we're able to heal and seal the lining of the gut which in turn reduces the level of inflammation in the body, thus calming the inflammatory response.
Improves skin, hair and nails
You know the old saying: "you are what you eat" well in this case, this is true for your skin. Collagen helps improve the elasticity of skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It improves the appearance of cellulite and also assists with hair and nail growth.
Supports joint health
This 24 month study showed that collagen intake makes a difference in improving joint health. "The results of this study have implications for the use of collagen hydrolysate to support joint health and possibly reduce the risk of joint deterioration in a high-risk group."
I found this one interesting. In a recent review on the effect of glycine on the nervous system, it's been shown to decrease the flight or flight response while helping to balance mood.
When we consume large amounts of meat or undergo excessive stress, the amino acids cysteine and tryptophan are released into the bloodstream leading to suppressed thyroid function. "Excess tryptophan triggers inflammatory conditions, such as allergies, asthma, edema, acne, and arthritis. In excess, tryptophan also decreases immune functioning and leads to premature aging. Adding collagen hydrolysate to the diet helps to even out the absorption of cysteine and tryptophan by releasing the amino acids glycine, proline, and alanine."
How to get more collagen in your diet?
One of the best ways of obtaining collagen is by consuming bone broth on a regular basis. You can purchase bone broth here or make your own. And if bone broth is not your thing, you can always buy collagen peptides.
How can you use collagen?
So glad you ask. You can use it in many recipes, including adding it to any beverage you like such as tea, smoothie or even directly in bone broth for an extra boost. Collagen mixes well with most beverages and is odorless and tasteless.
Thank you for reminding me that I need to be adding collagen into my diet daily. I'm working on improving my gut health because I read somewhere that doing so is good for serotonin levels, but also, gut health is helpful for so many other reasons (not that I can name any off right now, I just know it is, ha ha). Being a longtime anxiety sufferer and a new (possible) arthritis sufferer, your article is convincing me even more to get back into using collagen in my foods. Thanks for a great article!
Kirsti - I've read about that too as far as serotonin. Most of our serotonin is in our gut so I'm definitely not surprised that it increases serotonin. It's pretty amazing!
Bone broth for the win! Isn't it amazing all the goodness it contains?
It's absolutely true, Raia - so much goodness. So basic and so powerful
I love collagen! Outside of better skin/nails I've seen a huge improvement in my girls immune systems
I agree - it's made such a difference in immunity!
Love this so much I referred my DIL. You have so much good info in here!
Thank you so much, Linda! That's so good to know!!
This is such an informative post!! Thanks for sharing the recipe links too!
Absolutely Jessica! I'm glad you found it helpful!
Our food habits play a vital role in our overall well-being. But when it comes to improving skin health, we need to include a few collagen-rich superfoods in our diet.