To be completely honest, there was a time, not long ago when I associated collagen with beauty products, and that was all I knew about the subject. Luckily, I’m curious by nature so I decided to do some research on the topic.
It turns out, collagen comes with numerous health benefits we all should be aware of. In this case, I’m referring to the collagen we eat, either from foods or supplements, not the one usually found in moisturizers and hair conditioners.
What is collagen?
As always, we need to understand exactly what we’re talking about, in order to comprehend what it can do for our health. Collagen is a hard, insoluble, fibrous protein and also the most abundant one in our bodies, about 30 % of the protein in the human body. It is a large part of our skin, hair, nails, bones and connective tissues.
The term “collagen” is derived from the Greek word “kola”, meaning “glue” so in layman’s terms, it is the glue that holds the body together. It is also responsible for skin’s elasticity and strength and helps the production of new skin cells. On a side note, the Greek word of origin is pretty accurate – humans have been using animal connective tissue that’s rich in collagen to make glue since thousands of years ago.
The natural process of producing collagen decreases with age and the dreaded results are: wrinkles, saggy skin, brittle hair and weaker cartilage in our joints. Sadly, some of our daily habits can also have a negative impact on body’s ability to produce collagen: stress, smoking, a diet rich in sugar and too much sun exposure, among others.
Before we get to discuss about the health benefits of collagen I feel compelled to clarify one more thing: what is gelatin? The two notions are often used together or one instead of the other, especially when it comes to supplements. That’s why we should know what each of them actually is. Gelatin is the product we obtain by heating or boiling collagen. The two substances have very similar composition and the same health benefits.
Collagen rejuvenates skin
One of the most important benefits of collagen, and maybe the most popular one is improving the aspect and health of skin. Increasing your intake of collagen can make your skin firmer, more hydrated, less rough and with fewer wrinkles.
However, be careful of the product you use because collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through skin, as many of the cosmetic products promise and taking collagen supplements or eating collagen-rich foods is much more effective.
Another use of collagen is artificial skin construction for burn victims and for wound dressing because it helps the production of new cells. Just like the skin, hair and nails also suffer from lack of collagen. You may not know this, but splitting nails and dry, brittle hair could be the result of this deficiency and as a result, upping your collagen intake can help both your hair and nails become healthier.
And strengthens bones and joints
Bones and joints are next on our list of beneficiaries: In order to keep them healthy, we should maintain the optimal levels of collagen in our bodies. Studies confirmed collagen supplements can be effective in treating sore, swollen joints and also conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
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Collagen also improves digestion
Collagen is of great help if you are suffering from the leaky gut syndrome. It helps restore intestinal permeability and recover normal mucosal layer in the gut. It is also responsible for absorbing water, important for the functionality of the digestive tract.
And because collagen protects the gut lining, of course it aids digestion too. It stimulates the secretion of stomach acids so the food we ingest is broken down properly. This is a great benefit, since studies show that a great number of people are suffering from low stomach acid.
And it can help you sleep better
I bet you didn’t expect this, but another health benefit of collagen is a good night’s rest. Glycine, a compound of collagen and gelatin is responsible for this effect, because it reduces core body temperature, which leads to a better and longer sleep.
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Glycine is also the substance which helps the liver in its daily routine and for what it’s worth, it has a lot to deal with. Liver is a vital organ that has over 500 functions and we should try to keep healthy.
Although glycine is naturally produced by the body, a supplement is sometimes beneficial, especially when your diet is not the healthiest. A bone broth fast is the easiest way to detox your liver and cleanse your body.
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Speaking of bone broth, you should know that this is a great source of collagen, it is tasty and easily made at home. Next time you don’t know what to cook, think of a delicious and healthy chicken bone broth. Another dish rich in collagen is a slow cooked roast with a lot of connective tissue. But if you’re not much of a cooking person, or you eat only the muscle meat, there are collagen supplements easy to use and find. It is important to choose them wisely for best results.
And may aid your weight loss efforts
This one is pretty much common sense, but still needs to be mentioned. Collagen is a protein, so it can help you stay fuller for a longer time and prevent hunger pangs that could lead to overeating.
If you are looking for collagen supplements, make sure the source is grass-fed, pasture-raised cows (with no antibiotics). You can add them to smoothies, soups or even coffee and tea to enjoy their health benefits. There’s one aspect you should have in mind: collagen is not recommended for those with a known histamine intolerance.
Collagen as a supplement is considered safe for healthy individuals, but as always we recommend you ask for advice from your medical and/or holistic professional whenever you want to add any kind of supplement to your diet or make big lifestyle changes that could impact your health.
Have you ever taken collagen supplements and what were their effects? Did you experience any improvements in your health and/or appearance? Let us know in the comments section below, or send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. We’re always excited to hear from our readers! And if you’re on Pinterest, pin this article if you liked it, so you can easily access it later!
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