Collagen - More Than Just Healthy Skin?
When we think of collagen images of surgically enhanced lips and wrinkle-free skin come to mind. Thankfully, we don't have to go to those extremes to have a healthy look. Collagen is naturally produced by the body, and while it does help the skin maintain its youthful look and feel, it is involved in so much more. Joints, bones, muscles, blood vessel, intestines, connective tissue (the stuff that holds things together), cartilage, the immune system, liver, kidneys, hair and nails, are just a few, that owe their health in some part, to collagen.
Collagen is the body's most abundant protein and accounts for over 30% of the total protein. Sadly, as we enter our 30's, our collagen levels start to decline.
Causes Of Collagen Decline
While it may be difficult to hold off father time, there are some important strategies to slow him down and allow collagen levels to recede at a slower pace. Below is a list of common causative factors that increase the demise of collagen within the body.
- Stress produces the anti-stress hormone cortisol, which helps to calm the body and reduce adrenaline. Unfortunately, high amounts of cortisol from excessive stress, destroy collagen and lead to increased inflammation. This activates enzymes in the skin that break down collagen.
- Vitamin C Deficiency - vitamin C is an essential nutrient required by the body to produce new collagen. Low vitamin C = Low collagen.
- Zinc Deficiency - Zinc is essential in collagen synthesis and its deficiency leads to a significant reduction in collagen production. Zinc, along with vitamin C and copper, are essential to convert amino acids into collagen.
- Poor Diet rich in white flour products, sugar, food additives, artificial preservatives and flavours increases oxidative stress, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies and a greater susceptibility to stress. This deadly combination leads to the demise of collagen throughout the body.
- Antioxidant Deficiency - Antioxidants are select chemicals that protect cells, including collagen, from damage. Antioxidants containing anthocyanin found in red, purple and blue foods, helps to increase collagen levels. Not all antioxidants directly increase collagen, but they all help to protect it from the toxic effects of sugar, smoking, alcohol, inflammation, stress, chemicals and toxins. Antioxidants are found mainly in fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
- Oxidative Stress has the opposite effect to what antioxidants provide. Think of rusting steel; that's oxidative stress, it causes damage to cells. It occurs for many reasons including; inflammation, poor diet, alcohol, smoking, drugs, antioxidant deficiency, inadequate liver function, dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome. Oxidative stress indicates the body is low in protective antioxidants, which drives up inflammation and increases the breakdown of collagen.
- UV exposure, especially UVA, penetrates the dermis of the skin and breaks down collagen. UVA light is found in sunlight, black lights, tanning and mercury vapour lamps and some LED lighting.
- Smoking damages collagen in the skin, especially around the face and mouth. Smoking also depletes the body of vitamin C. It increases oxidative stress and inflammation, while reducing the body's total antioxidant content, which all combine to breakdown collagen.
- Alcohol increases inflammation, oxidative stress, depletes vitamin C and inhibits the absorption of zinc. All decrease collagen.
- Long-term inflammation - this is generally associated with ageing or long-term disease, it weakens and destroys collagens structure.
- Sugar produces end products called AGE's that stick to collagen, making it stiff and damaging to its structure.
- Lack of sleep causes fatigue, increases inflammation, compromises the immune system and drives up stress. This slows collagen production and increases its demise.
- Genetics - the genes we received from our parents play a part in all aspects of our health. This includes the ability of our collagen to continue producing as we age. The weaker the genes, the quicker we age.
- Collagen Vascular Disease is a group of diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and temporal arteritis that destroy collagen and inhibit its production.
Signs Of Collagen Deficiency
There are some tell-tale signs that indicate the body's collagen levels are declining. Some people may be affected by just one symptom, while other's can show multiple symptoms. Below is a list of the 11 most common signs that indicate the body is having trouble producing or maintaining healthy collagen levels.
Wrinkles and Skin
As we pass from youth into our older and more mature years, our appearance changes, in particular our skin. Unfortunately, it loses that youthful glow, becomes dryer and wrinkles form. Collagen maintains skin thickness, elasticity and hydration. It is also an essential component of connective tissue; a fibrous network that holds organs, muscles and other structures in place within the body. Reduced amounts of connective tissue in the skin will lead to wrinkles and sagging.
Hydrolysed collagen peptides from bovine, porcine and marine sources helps to increase skin collagen levels. This improves our skins moisture retention, elasticity and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Osteoporosis and Joint Pain
Our joints, when moving freely, allow us great movement and flexibility. Unfortunately, when our joint health deteriorates, they become stiff, inflamed, painful and swollen resulting in Osteoarthritis. Studies show that a daily serving of 10g of collagen peptides per day over six months dramatically improves joint health, pain, stiffness and movement.
Tendons connect muscle to muscle, while ligaments connect muscle to bones and all contain collagen. As collagen levels decline, the ligaments, muscles and tendons shrink, causing them to rub together and create friction, which can lead to stiff, swollen, inflamed and painful joints. Most of our body's supply of collagen is in our connective tissue, which helps to connect the ligaments, tendons and muscles to our skeletal system. As collagen depletes, these connections weaken, which can cause complications like muscle aches and pains.
Studies have shown that long-term (greater than six months) supplementation of hydrolysed collagen peptides helps reduce bone and muscle pain plus improve function, in people suffering from Osteoarthritis.
Cellulite occurs when fat protrudes into the layer of skin cells resulting in a dimpled, lumpy or golf ball appearance. Declining collagen levels and skin elasticity allows fat to gain easier access into the skin. Thankfully studies have shown that again long-term (greater than six months) hydrolysed collagen peptide supplementation, helps reduce the visible signs of cellulite.
Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
When people think of bone health, they usually think calcium. While calcium is essential, it is not the only nutrient that can make a significant impact on bone health. Collagen makes up one-third of the total bone mass. It provides the bones with flexibility and strength. Studies have shown that hydrolysed collagen peptides improve osteoporosis and osteopenia by increasing bone mineral density, increased bone formation and a reduction in bone deregulation.
Connective tissues are the ropes, wire and twine that hold all our organs in place and if they are diminished or lose their strength, our organs drop and prolapses form. Prolapses are common in the uterus, bladder, vagina, bowel and intervertebral discs. Studies show deficiencies in collagen is a leading cause of organ prolapse.
Hallowed Cheeks and Eyes
Looking back through old photos, you may notice that your younger self had a fullness in their face and smoother skin. Back then, our body's could easily produce collagen, but as we aged, that ability began to fade. The result of low collagen can cause the eyes to sink, the cheeks too thin and a darkening of the skin around the eyes. This results in a person having a gaunt and hollowed facial appearance.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Collagen is a component of the intestinal wall, in particular the tight junctions, which are the cement that hold the intestinal cells together. Studies have shown that hydrolysed collagen peptide supplementation can increase intestinal collagen and reduce tight junction dysregulation. This condition is known as intestinal permeability or Leaky Gut Syndrome and causes faulty tight junctions that allows unwanted substances to pass from the hostile environment of the intestines into the bloodstream.
Blood Pressure and Circulatory Problems
Collagen is a significant component of the heart and blood vessel walls. Altered levels of collagen from inflammation, stress, alcohol or smoking, may result in blood vessels changing their shape or vascular ability, which may result in a reduction of blood flow. This may lead to circulatory problems such as elevated blood pressure, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, and frequent headaches.
Brittle Hair and Nails
Collagen protein contains the amino acid proline, one of the main components of keratin, which is needed for healthy hair and nails. Studies have shown collagen supplementation can help harden nails and improve growth, as well as reducing hair loss and slow greying.
Weight Loss and Appetite Control
Collagen Vascular Disease
Collagen Vascular Disease is a hereditary or autoimmune disease that attacks the connective tissue of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), psoriatic arthritis, temporal arteritis and Sjögren syndrome are all forms of collagen vascular disease. Supplementation of hydrolysed collagen peptides has been shown to help slow the demise of collagen.
How To Increase Collagen Naturally
Even though as we age, our collagen production declines, there are some simple strategies and nutritional supplements that can help slow this process.
- Try and reduce any of the causative factors mentioned above.
- Eat well - increase the amount of antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. Antioxidants are essential to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. They also help increase and maintain the production of collagen. Bone broths are a good source of collagen, as is gelatin, so try incorporating those into your daily diet. It's essential to try to reduce or eliminate sugars and white flour products from the diet as they deplete essential nutrients and antioxidants as well as increase inflammation, all of which help to destroy collagen.
- Alcohol, smoking and recreational drugs contribute to increased inflammation, cortisol, oxidative stress and nutritional deficiencies, all of which deplete or hinder collagen production. Look at ways of reducing your dependence on these substances.
- Supplement with Zinc, Vitamin C, Copper and Antioxidants as they are the essential nutrients required to ensure proper collagen production. Deficiencies will result in low levels of collagen.
- Hydrolysed Collagen Peptides contains unique amino acids or building blocks required by the body to manufacture quality collagen. Multiple studies have shown that taking 10 to 30 grams of hydrolysed collagen peptides daily, improve collagen levels.
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The information provided in this blog '11 Clinical Signs of Collagen Deficiency' is general and intended for educational purposes only. We make no claims to diagnose, treat, prevent, alleviate or cure illnesses or diseases with any information or product stated. With any health issue, we suggest you consult your healthcare professional before undertaking any health treatment.
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