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 anyway?
I've touched on this in a previous post about gelatin but 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, 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.
Collagen for 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 blood stream.
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.
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 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:
Reduces inflammation: 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."
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.
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 where can you 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. 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.