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, optimized digestion, strong bones, revitalized nails, a reduction of inflammation, balanced hormones, better dental and gum health, faster healing, improved sleep, and lower stress levels, just to name a few!
What is Collagen?
Many readers may not know this, but collagen is actually the most common protein found in the human body. In fact, it composes anywhere from 25-35% 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 also 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% 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. To carry on the elasticity example, the wrinkles and sagging of skin that we experience in our later years are due to a noted decrease in collagen production. There are quite a few natural sources of this protein, or at least the ingredients required to make it – 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, red meat, 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
Some amazing health benefits of collagen include its ability to prevent osteoporosis, improve the quality of hair, speed up healing
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. Collagen 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, hair will be brittle and prone to cracking 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.
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 for its anti-anxiety properties, allowing for a more balanced level of stress hormones in the body. Therefore, increasing your level of this protein will also help you raise glycine levels and 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, and aside from reducing anxiety, this amino acid is also 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 normalcy of life. Be sure to supplement your diet with hydrolyzed collagen powder if you feel that your hormone levels are abnormal. Speak to a doctor before seeking out this use of collagen.
Collagen’s most visible effect on the body occurs on the surface – 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 and our ability to operate in the world; collagen can protect 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 causes “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 in 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.
A Final Word of Warning: The benefits of this protein are clear, and the need for it in the body is undeniable, however, 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. Other than that, this protein is one of the most important parts of our diet and overall health!