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13 Health Benefits of Collagen And How to Naturally Boost Your Body’s Collagen Levels


Image Credit: Health Wholeness

By Shari Hussenbocus | Health Wholeness


Have you ever heard about the benefits of collagen? No? Are you sure?

I mean you’ve probably used beauty products or shampoos to make your hair thicker. Or perhaps you’ve tried some rejuvenating facial creams.

If you still have any of these products on hand, check the label. You’ll undoubtedly find bold statements that boast the benefits of collagen in the product.

But the thing the beauty industry fails to tell you is this. If you want to truly enjoy the benefits of collagen, you need to take it internally. Collagen will not do much if you apply it externally.

So, are the benefits of collagen backed by science? And how do you consume it? Or do you need to supplement? Plus, is collagen the same thing as gelatin?

I’ll answer all these questions in this article.

What is collagen?

Did you know that collagen is the most abundant protein in the body? It is found throughout your body in your:

  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Bones
  • Teeth
  • Joints
  • Organs
  • Tendons
  • Cartilage
  • Blood vessels
  • Digestive system

There are 16 different types of collagen in the body. Type 1 accounts for about 90% of the collagen in our body and gives our skin its firmness. Type 2 collagen is found in our movable joints.

Fun facts:

  • ‘Collagen’ comes from the Greek word ‘kólla’ which means ‘glue’. In a way, you could picture collagen as the fibrous protein glue that holds your body in one piece!
  • Gram for gram, Type 1 collagen is stronger than steel.
  • Our body produces collagen. However, this production starts decreasing at about age 35.
  • By age 40, our body’s collagen stores begin to diminish faster than the body can replace them. This is when ageing signs become more evident.
  • As we reach 60, over 50% of the collagen in the body will be long gone.

Dietary sources of collagen

Besides containing collagen, the following foods are also rich in various nutrients that help the body produce collagen. These foods also contain nutrients that protect our body’s collagen against stressors such as UV radiation, toxins, and microbes.

1. Tougher cuts of beef that contains a lot of connective tissue.

Beef chuck or shoulder, beef round (the hind leg of the animal), and similar cuts of meats are rich in collagen. Make sure to cook the meat long enough and slowly (that is, on low heat) – this will ensure that your body can enjoy most of the collagen in the meat.

2. Chicken

Especially the breast part. Again, you want to cook your chicken thoroughly on low to medium heat.

3. Eggs

Research indicates that hen eggs contain collagen especially the yolks and the thick outer and thin inner membranes of the egg.

4. Bone broth

Why do you think chicken soup is a famous remedy for the common cold?

Yes, it’s warm and easy to swallow when you’re sick. But, more importantly, animal tissue, especially bones and connective tissue, are terrific sources of collagen.

Check out this video if you’re not sure how to make your own bone broth.

How can collagen help with the common cold? I’ll cover this in a bit. But first let’s talk about gelatin.

Collagen vs. Gelatin: Same thing, different names?

Although collagen powder and gelatin look and taste almost the same, they are not the same thing. Put simply, gelatin is the product you get when collagen is heated (during cooking, for instance).

Why should you care?

Simple: if a recipe calls for gelatin and you use collagen instead, you’ll have an epic (liquid) fail. Because collagen does not thicken liquids at all. However, a single tablespoon of gelatin is enough to firmly congeal two cups of liquid!

How can you tell the difference between collagen and gelatin?

Don’t worry, there’s no testing involved. You can simply check the label.

If a product mentions any of the following, know that you’re dealing with collagen powder:

  • Collagen hydrosylate (most common alias)
  • Collagen peptides
  • Hydrolyzed collagen
  • Hydrolyzed collagen protein
  • Hydrolyzed collagen peptides
  • Hydrolyzed gelatin(e)
  • Hydrolyzed gelatin(e) collagen

What is collagen powder?

Collagen powder (hydrolyzed collagen) is made from collagen using a process known as hydrolysis. This process breaks down the collagen strands and chain of amino acids it contains into smaller pieces.

What is the difference between hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin?

While collagen and gelatin contain the same amino acids, the amino acid chains in collagen powder or hydrolyzed collagen are smaller due to the hydrolysis process. As such, the body may absorb over 90% of hydrolyzed collagen compared to about 27% or less in foods.

Moreover, pure gelatin will only dissolve in hot water whereas collagen powder will dissolve in both hot and cold water.

And as mentioned earlier, only gelatin will cause liquids to thicken – collagen will not. Just remember: only gelatin gels!

Now that you’ve been introduced to both collagen and gelatin, let’s have a look at the health benefits of collagen. Or is collagen just another food that has been over-mediatized?

Health benefits of collagen – you’ll probably be surprised

Since gelatin and collagen have the same amino acid profile, both products have similar health benefits.

1. Collagen is a helpful digestive aid.

Do you often have heartburns or feel bloated after eating? Or maybe you feel that your food just ‘sits’ in your stomach?

Well, these signs often indicate that you lack stomach acid. Taking collagen could help improve your digestion thanks to the glycine it contains. That’s because the amino acid glycine can normalize stomach acid production. In fact, supplementation with glycine was found to be therapeutic in cases of GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease).

Moreover, glycine also supports the production of bile which the body needs to digest fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

But that’s not all: collagen remains hydrophilic (water-loving) even when you heat it. Since hydrophilic foods blend well with digestive juices, collagen can help your body better digest cooked food.

2. Collagen can help heal the gut.

Have you ever heard of increased intestinal permeability a.k.a. leaky gut?

In a nutshell, the intestinal cells possess tight junctions which allow nutrients in the body. These tight junctions also prevent toxins, undigested food particles, and harmful bacteria from entering the body.

However, if the gut is unhealthy, the tight junctions will remain open when they shouldn’t. This increases the gut’s permeability and causes the gut to become ‘leaky’. If this happens, harmful substances will be able to cross over into the bloodstream where they can cause a host of health issues.

For instance, a leaky gut has been linked to increased risks of depression, acne, autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, and various food sensitivities. A leaky gut also weakens the immune system and can make you more vulnerable to the common cold.

So how can collagen help?

Collagen contains glutamine, an amino acid that can help rebuild the damaged intestinal junctions. This restores the integrity of the gut which, in turn, tones down inflammation.

A healthier gut also equals a calmer and stronger immune system.

Moreover, collagen absorbs water and helps keep liquids in your gut. This can help improve intestinal transit, the amount of time food takes to move out of the body.

3. Collagen can keep your ticker in good shape.

What do you think keeps your blood vessels strong? Healthy collagen, of course! The body uses collagen to repair damage caused to blood vessels.

However, if your body does not have enough collagen, it will be forced to repair blood vessels by using plaque patches. Yes, these are build-ups of fat in the arteries which cause arteries to harden and increase the risks of heart disease.

In other words, getting enough vitamin C (to help your body produce collagen) and increasing your intake of collagen can help protect your heart.

4. Collagen alleviates fibromyalgia and joint pain.

In a small clinical study, hydrolyzed collagen was found to dramatically reduce fibromyalgia and joint pain.

You see, our joints are lined with cartilage, a connective tissue that absorbs physical shocks and helps with motion. This cartilage is mostly composed of collagen which reduces friction between the joints and keeps them supple.

However, chronic inflammation, a marker of autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia and arthritis, can gradually damage this cartilage. This results in joint pain and stiff joints.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia and joint pain, increasing your collagen intake can help thanks to the amino acids glycine and proline. To boost the collagen’s effectiveness, try the autoimmune paleo diet which is effective at reducing inflammation.

5. Collagen repairs connective tissues.

Consuming collagen increases blood levels of collagen peptides (branches of amino acids that make up collagen). This, in turn, can help improve the composition and size of the fibers that make up connective tissues. Put simply, collagen can help strengthen connective tissues by enhancing their mechanical properties.

6. Collagen enhances liver function.

Collagen is naturally rich in the amino acid glycine which has been found to reduce liver damage caused by toxins or alcohol.

Glycine is involved in the liver’s phase II detox pathway where it binds to various toxins and facilitates their excretion from the body.

Check out this article if you’re interested in learning more about how to do an effective and natural liver detox.

7. Collagen can keep you full longer, naturally.

If you’re in a rush in the morning, you may want to add some collagen to a green smoothie. Research indicates that collagen proteins are 40% more satiating than other types of protein supplements. As such, consuming collagen may help you eat 20% less for your next meal.


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