9 ways collagen improves gut health

When I used to hear the word collagen, typically skin care and face creams would pop into my head. And if you're not deeply entrenched in the gut healing world you may not know that collagen is actually very beneficial for healing the gut. If you've been following me for a bit, you've noticed that I try to incorporate collagen whenever possible. 

What is collagen anyway?

I've touched on this in a previous post about gelatin. Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that accounts for roughly 1/3 of all protein in the body. It is found in muscles, bones, tendons, 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 one is Type 1 and also the one that is crucial for gut healing. 

Collagen for gut health:

  1. Helps leaky gut: Collagen helps to heal leaky gut (I will cover leaky gut in a future post) by sealing the epithelial lining of the gut. It essentially patches any areas of the gut which have been damaged over time by 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 blood stream. 
  2. Combats heartburn: 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. 
  3. Prevents and helps to heal ulcers: "Glycine, a neutral amino acid has been studied for its ability to inhibit gastric secretion and to protect the gastric mucosa against chemically and stress-induced ulcers."
  4. Helps relieve constipation: Collagen binds with water in the intestinal tract ensuring that the colon does not absorb too much which will ensure faster transit time and easier elimination. 

Though I like to focus on gut health, I think it's important to highlight just how powerful and important collagen is and how it benefits us in numerous ways:

Other benefits of collagen:

  1. Reduces inflammation: As a result of healing and sealing the lining of the gut this will reduce the level of inflammation in the body, which in term helps to calm the inflammatory response of the body. 
  2. Improves skin, hair and nails: This is already well known but I always like to understand the mechanism behind it and why. 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. 
  3. 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."
  4. Reduced anxiety: 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. 
  5. Hormone balance: When we consume large amounts of meat or undergo excessive stress, the amino acids cysteine and tryptophan are released into the blood stream 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 hyrolysate to the diet helps to even out the absorption of cysteine and tryptophan by releasing the amino acids glycine, proline, and alanine." 

So how and where can I get collagen?

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. You can find the recipe for bone broth three ways here

How can I use collagen? 

So glad you ask. You can use it in many recipes, including adding it to your bone broth and this pancake recipe but I also have a muffin recipe which I played around with and I think you'll enjoy!

chocolate chip, blueberry and walnut muffins

chocolate chip, blueberry and walnut muffins

Recipe for collagen muffins three ways.

Ingredients

  • 1 very ripe soft banana
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil 
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 scoop collagen (1.5 tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp almond, cashew or coconut milk
  • optional: 2 tbsp chocolate chips (allergy friendly can be found here), blueberries or walnuts

Equipment

  • mini muffin tin or regular muffin tin
  • whisk
  • medium sized mixing bowl
  • large mixing bowl

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Combine all dry ingredients in medium bowl (zest, flours, baking soda, salt and collagen) and give them a quick whisk. Combine all wet ingredients in large bowl and mix well to incorporate (vanilla, eggs, coconut oil, milk, maple syrup or honey). Gradually add dry ingredients and mix everything well to incorporate. Grease muffin tin with coconut oil and fill with batter. Add chocolate chips, blueberries or walnuts or all 3 (you'll get 6 mini muffins with each option) or combine them as you would like. Bake mini muffins for 15-18 minutes, or regular muffins for 20-25. Check with toothpick to ensure batter is completely cooked.