The word collagen gets thrown around quite a bit, but many people fail to realize the wealth of health benefits that it provides, including healthy hair, strong bones and nails, reduced inflammation, and better dental and gum health just to name a few!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most common protein found in the human body. In fact, it composes anywhere from 25-35 percent of all protein in the body. It is an essential component of bones, skin, muscle tissue, tendons, ligaments, teeth, hair, nails, cartilage, blood vessels and vertebral discs. In other words, without collagen, we simply wouldn’t be able to survive!
Fortunately, the body produces a decent amount of this protein on its own, but extra boosts from your diet and targeted supplements are increasingly popular. For many years, this protein was only thought of as a part of the cosmetic surgery, such as increasing the voluptuousness of the lips, but it serves so many critical purposes within the body that many people are seeking ways to boost their collagen levels.
There are 28 different types of collagen within the body, but 90 percent of it is Type I (skin, organs, bones, and tendons). This is also the type of collagen that provides the elasticity to our skin. This protein is essentially the glue that holds our bodies together, and when there is a deficiency in collagen production (which happens as we get older), it is very easy to see the negative side effects.
There are quite a few natural sources of this protein, or at least the ingredients required to make it. They are proline and lysine. Vitamin C is the other key aspect, as it turns lysine and proline into hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, the two forms required to make collagen fibers. Natural sources of these base proteins are animal proteins, such as those in chicken, fish, pork, and red meat (beef, rabbit, venison, etc.), wheat germ and eggs. Supplements of this key protein are also widely available, particularly in recent years, after the huge significance of this protein has become more recognized.
Health Benefits of Collagen
Collagen plays a critical role in the production of bone throughout the body by stimulating the production of osteoblasts (cells that produce bone). As we get older, the lower levels of this critical protein mean that less bone matter is created, resulting in osteoporosis, an increased risk of broken bones, and lowered mobility. Adequate collagen–by food or supplementation–throughout your life can help keep you strong and active as you age.
There are three critical components to the growth of hair – essential minerals, keratin, and collagen. Without that third component, the hair will be brittle and prone to breaking and falling out. If you want to keep your hair looking young, healthy and strong, ensuring that you have proper collagen levels is very important.
Helps Heal Wounds
Since collagen plays such a key role in the production of skin, when you hurt yourself, excess collagen is needed to replace those damaged or lost skin cells. Collagen supplementation can help speed the healing process of small cuts, bruises, and abrasions, and can also help if you are recovering from surgery or an extended illness.
Glycine is an important amino acid that is required to produce collagen, but it serves many other purposes in the body. Specifically, glycine is praised by some for its anti-anxiety properties, allowing for a more balanced level of stress hormones in the body. Therefore, adequate collagen levels by consuming proteins may be an alternative therapy to raise glycine levels and help keep your mood balanced.
Many people suffer from chronic inflammation in various parts of the body, most notably in the bones and joints. This is characteristic of arthritis, but also of normal aches and pains and wears on those areas of the body. This protein can help to reduce the inflammation in these sensitive areas by promoting the growth of connective tissues that keep the joints strong and reduce friction that can lead to inflammation and pain.
Promotes Better Sleep
Hydrolyzed collagen powder, which is a popular form of supplementation of this protein, also contains high levels of glycine. Aside from reducing anxiety, this amino acid is considered excellent for promoting sleep. It helps to balance hormone levels and eliminate daytime drowsiness while ensuring restful and uninterrupted sleep, making this protein crucial for people suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Balances Hormone Levels
The levels of amino acids present in this protein have a number of roles in the body, specifically in the creation and regulation of hormones. Without collagen, hormones like testosterone, melatonin, insulin, cortisol and many others cannot be produced, wreaking havoc on the homeostasis of the body. The supplementation with hydrolyzed collagen powder may be needed, however, always speak to a doctor before seeking out this use of collagen.
Slows the Aging Process
Collagen’s most visible effect on the body occurs in- the skin, our body’s largest organ. By improving the elasticity of the skin, it can prevent the development or deepening of wrinkles, and also eliminate signs of aging, such as age spots or blemishes. Collagen ensures that healthy, new skin cells replace old or sagging cells, keeping you looking younger and healthier, even as you advance in age.
The eyes are one of the most delicate parts of the body, and also one that is particularly sensitive to oxidative stress. The cornea is very important for vision health. Adequate collagen can assist in protecting the cornea from oxidative stress by replacing old cells and reducing free radical activity in this part of the body.
The intestinal wall is the most important barrier for blocking acidity from the rest of the body and ensuring proper digestion of food. When there are breaks or gaps in the intestinal wall, this can lead to “leaky gut syndrome“. This can allow toxins to wreak havoc on the rest of the body. Collagen not only protects the integrity of the intestinal wall but also builds new villi, which absorb the nutrients that we eat.
When it comes to your sparkling smile, collagen plays a dominant role, both in the integrity of your teeth and the strength of the supportive tissue around them. Without proper collagen levels obtained from your diet or through supplementation, your dental health will be severely compromised. You can maintain gum and jaw health, and keep your jowls from sagging, with proper intake of this protein.
Collagen Caution: The benefits of this protein are clear, and the need for it in the body is undeniable. People seeking out natural sources of this protein may run into trouble if they are allergic to those sources, such as shellfish or other protein-rich foods. Also, a loss of appetite is common with collagen supplementation, as the amino acids and concentrated level of protein often fool the body into thinking it is full.