So you’ve heard about collagen supplements and you want to know more? Is collagen supplementation effective? Is collagen supplementation necessary? Well we’ve got the low down for you!
Collagen has exploded in popularity in the past 5 years, and we’ve been busy researching the best brands and distilling the facts from the lies so we can help you understand what collagen does in your body and if you need to consider taking it!
Here is what we’ll cover in this article…
(You can even jump to a particular section you’re interested in by clicking on the relevant link!!)
- What is Collagen’s Role in Our Body
- Collagen Benefits
- Types and Sources of Collagen
- How Long Should You Take a Collagen Supplement for
- How to Take Collagen
What is Collagen’s Role in Our Body
So collagen is a protein, well a peptide chain to be specific, and like all proteins it is made up of a string of amino acids, arranged in a specific order, that drives our body to do certain things with it. Collagen in our body doesn’t come straight from whole collagen sources in our diet – when we digest collagen, just like any other protein our body breaks them down to their constituent amino acids and puts them back together to form other peptide chains to complete the exhaustive list of functions that proteins are required for.
When we ingest collagen we take in an abundance of specific amino acids: glycine, proline and glutamine, which target specific tissues and functions. Predominantly we find collagen contributes to the structural integrity of bone and connective tissues, so whether preventing injury, recovering from exercise, or just preserving tissue, collagen is key.
It also makes up our fascia, a web-like network of collagen tubules that surrounds our entire body, under our skin in the form of fascial trains. This matrix of tissue transports nutrients and facilitates hydration and ease of movement in all our skeletal muscles. Supporting the fascial network is fundamental to staying healthy and mobile as we age, and we see the loss of this type of tissue in the fine lines and wrinkles in our face especially as collagen breaks down without being replaced.
Hopefully you’re starting to see why collagen is such an important protein and how much we’re excited by its potential health benefits. Collagen is a super fuel for our gut, brain, bones, hair, skin and nails, so now let’s break it down a bit.
Collagen for Joints
Our joints contain cushioning compounds that wear down over a lifetime of movement and exercise. As the cartilage and fluid-filled sacks start to degrade we suffer a more wear and tear at the bone ends, which is the most active area for bone synthesis, and yup you guessed it, collagen is primarily focused at the bone ends, preventing degradation and breakdown of the bone ends, and helping us to feel less stiffness in the joints too, as collagen is a fundamental structural component in the ligaments and tendons that surround the joint, who’s suppleness and elasticity is fundamental to healthy movement. Collagen supplements have been shown to accelerate healing after joint injuries, and in one study consumption of 16,000mg about 45 minutes prior to specific rehab-oriented training on the damaged area, has been shown to concentrate the collagen peptides found at the site in need of repair.
One of our staff tried and reviewed the Osteo Collagen supplement for their joints, do check it out!
Collagen for Skin, Hair, Nails
Collagen comes in lots of different forms, and type 1 collagen forms a fundamental part of the structure in our hair, skin and nails. The quality of protein, or lack thereof, is a big contributor to the quality, strength and thickness of hair, and often postpartum when women suffer thinning hair, collagen can be a great addition to a smoothie or breakfast cereal to restore the lost condition in hair quality.
As we said above collagen tubules are what form the entire fascial web, a transport network that brings hydration and nutrients to muscle. We see the decline in these structural collagenous tissues in our faces especially as we age, where the loss of plumpness, the appearance of sagging skin along with the emergence of fine lines and wrinkles is the first evidence of the breakdown of this key life supporting system.
Trigger warning!!! Collagen decline starts in our 20’s, dependent on our diet and lifestyle, and for most of us by age 50, we’ve lost 50% of our total body collagen. These averages are really working against us, but getting the best quality collagen in the form of supplements could be a great way to arrest this rather terrifying slide.
Taking a blend of marine and bovine collagen in rotation to help prevent aging in these tissues is a smart collagen supplement strategy for skin – 8000mg per day on top of good quality dietary protein is a decent volume to slow down the inevitable.
Collagen for Gut Health
When we think of bone broth we think nourishing soup for the soul right? Yes well also, that bone broth is really rich in gelatine and you guessed it, collagen! Bone broth is a traditional remedy used for healing myriad gut disorders, and we love when science catches up with tradition, because the glutamine contained in collagen is a great support for healing the gut.
Collagen for Sleep
As we’ve explored, collagen contains lots of glycine, an amino acid that does lots of jobs in our bodies, but one of the primary roles it plays is in our brains as an inhibitory neurotransmitter….ummm say what now?? Let us explain – this little amino acid slows down the rate of synaptic firing, reducing excitability in our brains, keeping us level headed in the daytime and easing us into a sleepy state at night.
Types and Sources of Collagen
So we’ve mentioned above how marine and bovine sources feed different types of tissues, so just a quick note on this one. Our body has around 5 types of collagen that it needs to consume, and from that base it creates a further 24 different types, each one representing a different sequence of amino acids that are twisted in specific ways so as to do different jobs in our bodies, fundamentally underlying most of our structural tissues in one way or another, and especially critical in that fascial network we described.
Type 1 Collagen
Type 1 collagen is found mostly in our skin, nails, hair and connective tissue – the best source for this is marine collagen, usually sourced from fish skins. When you’re picking a marine collagen, you want to be able to trust the source, as many extracts come from horrible overcrowded farming methods that are also damaging to the ecosystems they come from, and won’t provide your body with a high quality collagen to start with, and may come with concentrations of toxins from the unhealthy fish that sacrificed themselves for our collagen supplementation regime!! Planet Paleo sources from wild caught fish, which is a great way to feel better about the fish, the planet and your body.
Type 2 Collagen
Type 2 collagen is mostly found in our cartilage, our eyes and in scar tissues when our body recovers from tissue injury. So when it comes to marathon runners and triathletes, this is the primary collagen they need to focus on. Type 2 collagen is abundant in bovine hides, and we source ours from Planet Paleo who work with grass fed Argentinian animals, and Ancient & Brave who source from organically raised European animals to make up their super clean range of collagen products.
Okay to end this debate – no vegan collagen does not exist!! The reason vegans don’t die from lack of collagen is that your body makes its own collagen from fibroblasts, but its ability to do this over a lifetime degrades, and so supporting a vegan diet with certain amino acids – glycine, proline, arginine, glutamine along with vitamin C and Zinc will help to facilitate your own ‘in-house’ collagen production.
Ancient & Brave Vegan Collagyn is a combination of these nutrients designed to maximise the availability of these nutrients to keep your body supported. Those looking for a vegan collagen supplement will find Ancient & Brave Vegan Collagyn to be the perfect fit.
(We’ve got some good tips for vegan bodybuilders protein and supplement needs here. Do check them out if you’re a) vegan, b) looking for protein info and c) a bodybuilder or not!)
Dietary Sources of Collagen
So the consumption of bone broth and organ meats has declined more than 80% in the past 50 years, and let’s face it, you’re not eating liver and kidneys for breakfast either are you? Well if you are you can probably skip this bit as you’re already consuming the most collagen rich foods on the planet, but for the rest of us to know. It’s in the stringy connective tissues, the ones that don’t relinquish their nutrients without being slow cooked for 6-8 hours, that the collagen gold is found. Outside of that and the offal our dietary sources really start to dry up. But we can still consume the amino acids that our body can make its own collagen from. We just have to know where to get those amino acids from!!
Glycine rich vegan foods include: peanuts with 1.6g/100g, quinoa with .7g/100g, soya with .5g/100g and almonds with .6g/100g
Proline rich vegan foods include: wheat 2.5g/100g, soya 3g/100g, sunflower seeds 2.5g/100g
Lysine rich vegan foods include: soya (this is getting boring…) 3g/100g, chickpeas 1.4g/100g, hemp seeds 1.3g/100g
How Long Should You Take a Collagen Supplement for
Healing Your Gut with Collagen
Depending on what you’re looking to do with collagen, in a body that is constantly breaking down and rebuilding, its involvement in healing, repair and anti-ageing have a bearing on how long to take it for and how much you need to take to see changes/stop changes from happening as appropriate!!
When we talk about gut health, where the cells live for an average of only 5 days, requirement for protein and nutrients to build new tissue and fund cell replication are at an all time high. With our daily pool of amino acids, if our body isn’t given sufficient resources then the tissue breakdown can be seen pretty quickly. Daily we speak to clients who may have protein deficiency in terms of their dietary intake, and we find that guiding them towards supplementing with Digestive Collagen from Planet Paleo, packed with added glutamine, licorice, quercetin and L. Plantarum probiotics is a great way to support the repair and renewal of those fast living cells in their digestive tract.
Often when issues start with gut breakdown, the first symptoms are things like food intolerances, the result of macromolecules escaping across the gut barrier and presenting to our immune system in the bloodstream, triggering a defensive response which can look like anything from headaches, to cramps, to rheumatic pain, to diarrhoea. The conventional response is to limit the diet to reduce symptoms. This is like using sticking plaster to fix a hole in a dam. Reducing dietary diversity leads to a reduction in diversity of fermentable fibre intake, limiting the food sources and hence narrowing the spectrum of bacteria in the gut. The symptoms tend to start radiating out from the gut at this point, as the delicate balance of bacteria is disrupted, leaving opportunities for single species to dominate in a feature called dysbiosis.
Using healing collagen, rich in glutamine, glycine and proline to feed the cells lining the gut wall, leads to faster repair of the tissue, less immune activation and gut disruption and fundamentally better absorption and assimilation of the constellation of support nutrients that fund further healthy digestion.
Healing from Injuries with Collagen
If your problem lies with muscular injuries whether from a fall, accident or sporting misadventure, collagen supplementation should be paired with other healing nutrients and botanicals, such as magnesium, zinc, turmeric, MSM, CBD etc to soothe inflammation and speed the recovery.
A 2016 study looked at collagen supplementation to aid recovery from joint injury, and the outcome was really positive, with a 16,000mg dose of collagen taken 45 minutes before load bearing exercise designed to safely activate the damaged area actually supporting the circulation of collagen peptides to the site of injury during the subsequent workout.
If there’s a broken bone, the repair work can take a long time depending on your age and activity level – we would recommend a 12 week course to support your body after breaking bones. If the problem is associated with ligaments or tendons this might extend out to 16 weeks post injury. For more mild sprains or soft tissue damage 6-8 weeks could be ideal to give your body an injection of the necessary collagen peptides to get you back to peak health in the shortest time possible.
Healing from Surgery with Collagen
Healing from surgery is always tricky and it’s impossible to give a broad spectrum recommendation that is truly accurate, but some guideline for these difficult moments post-operation will be useful. If you’re between under 40 where your collagen reserves should be in good condition, then supplementing with around 8000mg per day for 8 weeks post operation is a reasonable rule of thumb.
If the patient is over 40, it might make sense to double both the dose and the timeline, as protein absorption will be reduced along with the available reserves of collagen to help in the healing process. So in this case taking 16000mg for up to 16 weeks is no harm to ensure your body has enough to supplement the additional requirements along with the fundamental daily usage of collagen needed for survival!!!
Using Collagen For Beauty
Most people who come to us asking about collagen supplementation, are most keen on supporting their superficial tissues, the nails, hair and skin. Well unfortunately some bad news here: your body doesn’t see these bits as truly essential so as our reserves drop off (remember 50% of our collagen stores are depleted by the age of 50!!), collagen peptides are reserved for use by the internal tissues that our body can’t live without – those in and around our skeleton, our capillaries and our organs. Last on the list for keeping us alive but top of the list for keeping our reflection smiling back at us in the mirror is our skin.
The collagen structures that keep our skin plump and prevent if from sagging are visibly deteriorating from our 30’s, and are accelerated by things like stress, smoking, excess sugar etc, so the key thing to make sure we have enough collagen for supporting our skin health regimen along with giving us thick, lustrous hair and and strong, smooth and shiny nails is to get in decent doses of collagen and other nutrients to support keratin production and to stimulate growth in these precious parts of our bodies.
Beauty supplements are often full of not-so-great ingredients, and so many collagen products aimed at this market contain TINY values of collagen, zinc, biotin etc, but the Primal Goddess product from Planet Paleo is a really high dose and clean composition collagen blend. We recommend taking 1 heaped tablespoon (around 7 grams) per day for about 90 days, taking a rest for about a month before going back to the same routine again.
Check out our staff review of Primal Goddess collagen product to see how it helped one of our staff!
This regime could be repeated as often as you like to ensure you start to see a slowing down of age related collagen depletion.
How to Take Collagen
Collagen consumption is a fairly simple thing really – and pure collagen powders like True Collagen from Ancient and Brave or Pure Collagen from Planet Paleo can be slipped into any drink either hot or cold as they won’t add or take away from the flavour. We love adding them to a morning coffee, especially with MCT powder (the Keto Collagen product is a great ready made combination of these two) to support our cognitive function in the morning and stabilise blood sugars throughout the day. Or you can try slurping them in an evening hot chocolate.
Other ideas include making protein balls using collagen powder (stick to the unflavoured pure collagen here for sure!), putting a spoon or three into your protein pancakes or even in soups!
We also offer convenient and delightful Ginger Turmeric Collagen Shots that are easy to carry and use.
At our health store, we take pride in offering some of Ireland’s finest collagen supplements. Feel free to reach out to us for a personalized consultation regarding your collagen supplementation requirements. You can also conveniently place an order online by searching for ‘collagen’ on our website and selecting the product that best suits your needs.