Collagen is getting a lot of attention these days. But why? It’s simple, really. We’ve learned how it correlates directly with aging and we’ve also discovered effective ways to address that. Just like omega-3’s weren’t a hot topic 20 years ago yet have earned their rightful spot as a practically-essential supplement, collagen’s story has been strikingly similar over the past few years. I’ve put together some key takeaways to help you understand the current collagen hype.
WHAT IS IT?
Collagen is a structural protein that basically holds our bodies together. It comprises 30% of the entire protein in our bodies and without it we’d be puddles on the ground. It makes up 70-90% of our hair, skin, and nails, which is what often comes to mind first when thinking about collagen, but it’s also found many other places! It’s more prevalent than calcium in our bones. It’s an integral part of connective tissue, gut lining, muscle, blood vessels, and more.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Our bodies produce collagen, known as our endogenous source. However, somewhere around the ages of 25 and 30 our production starts declining by 1% every single year. That brings us to the next option: exogenous collagen, or outside sources.
Now, in ancient times, our ancestors were able to get lots of collagen in their diet because they ate ‘nose to tail,’ meaning they consumed lots of connective tissues and organs of animals that we don’t today. For example, a chicken breast is not a source of collagen. We practically get zero collagen in our modern diet. Enter supplements…
Collagen creams aren’t particularly effective and certainly won’t yield full-body benefits. Injectables are losing steam in the market as well, so ingestible collagen is your best option and all forms are not created equally. Collagen is a huge molecule, so it’s not particularly absorbable across our gastrointestinal tracts. Therefore, a hydrolyzed collagen is the way to go. In this form, you’re not actually ingesting collagen itself, rather hydrolyzed collagen peptides instead, the building blocks that you’re able to absorb.
VITAMIN C IS ITS BEST FRIEND.
Vitamin C helps facilitate endogenous production of collagen and promotes its genetic expression. Furthermore, it’s a cofactor to the enzyme that stabilizes the amino acids that make up collagen. If collagen is Batman, vitamin C is Robin. Bottom line: If you take collagen you need vitamin C!
WHAT IS IT USED FOR?
Well, lots of things! Gut health (leaky gut), joint pain, autoimmune diseases, wound healing, maintaining muscle, and hair, skin, and nails health. But consider this: If you begin taking collagen for skin health, but also have some joint issues going on, you may see joint improvement before those skin and beauty effects are visible. Our bodies prioritize the use of collagen and that’s not a bad thing.
WHO NEEDS IT?
Well, there’s nothing bad about collagen. As we’ve covered, you’re simply replacing something that’s naturally diminishing over time. With that said, anyone above that 25-30 age range could likely benefit from collagen supplementation.
But also, you don’t need me to tell you to take it. That’s not the point here. Look at it like this: If you feel like it’s something that could bring you value, use it for 90 days and if you like it or notice positive change, keep it up. Simple as that. And if you’re using it for skin health, I recommend taking a before picture and see how things are looking after those 90 days. (I will say that if you’re in that bracket where you’re just starting to see fine lines, you’re better off to start now versus putting it off until those lines are not-so-fine.)
Also, collagen is not a miracle cure of any sort! As I always say, you have to do your part. You can’t expect your skin to appear hydrated if you’re not hydrating your body in the first place.
In closing, if you have a proactive approach to your health, I do believe collagen can be a very valuable tool for you. I was recently thinking, how often do folks wind up taking prescription meds for joint pain when a proactive approach with supplements like a high-quality omega-3 and hydrolyzed collagen could’ve prevented the issue from progressing as it did? I’m inclined to think that happens often.