Imagine your body is held together by glue; the glue keeps your skin flexible, covers the ends of bones to create cushioning, and even provides structure to your arteries. While the body doesn’t really have a sticky cohesive substance inside, it does have collagen, a protein that serves these functions.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a hard, fibrous abundant protein that is found in many different parts of the body such as the skin, bones, tendons, and muscles. The protein is composed of amino acids and has a triple-helix structure known as a fibril.
These molecules cram together to form thin fibers that are naturally attached to the end of bones and embedded in our skin and muscles. Collagen is also found in the dermis skin layer and helps new cells grow by restoring dead cells. Apart from this, it also forms protective layers around bones, muscles, tissue, and organs like the kidney.
While the human body creates collagen naturally, production slows as you grow older. Certain habits, such as smoking and high sugar consumption, can also degrade your existing collagen. To keep your body in tip-top shop, especially when it comes to bone and joint health, you may want to consider supplementing your collagen intake.
Why Does Collagen Matter for Bone and Joint Health?
Cartilage, the tissue that protects your joints, is composed largely of collagen. By creating a natural cushion, cartilage helps protects bones, ligaments, and tendons and supports the fluid motion of joints. By increasing collagen intake, you can support healthy joints and reduce inflammation and pain. Increasing collagen levels can even help alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis, a common degenerative joint disease.
When it comes to bone health, increasing collagen intake may help to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Collagen provides density, structure, and strength to bones, so when your collagen degrades, so do your bones, resulting in fractures and brittleness. Studies indicate that maintaining proper collagen levels can help the regeneration of healthy bone.
Increasing Collagen Intake
Eating collagen-rich foods will naturally increase your collagen levels. Foods packed with collagen include egg whites, meat, nuts, shellfish, and many fruits and vegetables. To help your body absorb collagen, it’s also important to get enough vitamin C.
If you find it challenging to increase collagen intake through your diet, you have plenty of collagen supplement options:
- You can take collagen in capsule form.
- You can take collagen powder straight by mixing it with water.
- Collagen powder mixes well with drinks like coffee or juice and can also be blended into smoothies.
- Some people prefer liquid collagen or collagen injections.
Beyond Bones and Joints
Since collagen is found throughout the body, taking supplements can help repair, restore, and support many different tissues and structures. Before talking to your doctor about taking collagen supplements, it’s good to learn about the benefits of collagen for your skin, hair, nails, gut, and heart.
- Better Skin– Taking collagen supplements can improve skin texture and elasticity and can help prevent the formation of wrinkles. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that women who consumed two to five grams of collagen over eight weeks exhibited softer and suppler skin.
- Improves Heart Health– Without sufficient collagen, arteries lose their structure and become weak, making them prone to rupture.
- Stronger Nails- Collagen improves nail strength and prevents brittleness caused by everyday activity. According to another study conducted by the NCBI, 25 people consumed 2.5 grams of collagen peptides for 24 weeks and then assessed by physicians. The study found a 12 percent increase in nail growth and a staggering decrease in broken nails by 42 percent.
- Healthy Gut– While more research needs to be done in this area, evidence suggests that because collagen supports gut health, it can help treat leaky gut syndrome.
- Lean Muscles– Collagen significantly contributes to muscle mass. In combination with exercise, collagen supplements may make it easier to build muscle.
Collagen and Overall Health
Because collagen has numerous uses and is spread across the body, paying special attention to your collagen intake can help promote your overall health. Especially as you age or start noticing symptoms like joint pain and brittle bones, it’s increasingly important to support your body’s natural collagen production.