By Christine Hronec
Collagen is by far the most abundant protein in the body, which comprises approximately 25% of your weight. It makes up our bones, tendons, muscles, and even skin. This structural protein gives the skin a youthful appearance by providing a firm, yet elastic texture. With age, the body produces less collagen resulting in wrinkled skin and aching joints. Collagen supplementation has been all the rage for “skin health” these days, but there are more science-based reasons to seriously consider including it in your daily routine.
Years before collagen became popular, I have been recommending it to clients to support gut health for those with food intolerances. Most people don’t realize that your entire gastrointestinal tract is made up of skin (aka structural protein). Unfortunately your gut health can be thrown off by bacterial imbalances, resulting in the degradation of the lining of your digestive tract. Now, a certain degree of permeability is needed for nutrients to be absorbed into the body, however poor diet and stress can cause the gut to be hyper-permeable, which is not good. “Leaky gut” (or intestinal permeability) is a condition where food particles, pathogens, and bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream due to the once sealed gut lining now being permeable (see image below).
This results in inflammation due to an immune response in the body, which is the root cause of an entire host of health concerns. Under normal circumstances, the cells in your intestines produce digestive enzymes, however when these cells are damaged, the body is unable to absorb essential nutrients, which can result in hormone imbalances and a comprised immune system. Signs that you may have a leaky gut include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Digestive issues (i.e. diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, etc.)
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Sugar cravings
Collagen supplementation can aid in restoring gut health by promoting healing and providing an internal lining of the gut which will prevent leakage. Eliminating refined sugars, gluten, and dairy are common approaches to improving ones gut health, however studies show that collagen can normalize the secretion of acids in the gut, it can restore stomach ulcers, and it can support improved digestion. The connective tissue that forms the lining of the gut is comprised of structural proteins (aka collagen). Including collagen in your diet will help maintain and restore a healthy gut barrier. The intestinal walls of the gut consist of microscopic villi and the amino acids naturally found in collagen literally seal the leaks by promoting tissue growth and by boosting cellular health. Whether you have a troublesome gut or a gut of steel, collagen supplementation is worth considering outside of its obvious skin health benefits.
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Hashim, P., Mohd Ridzwan, M. S., Bakar, J. and Mat Hashim, D. (2015) Collagen in food and beverage industries. International Food Research Journal 22(1): 1 - 8 (2015)
Johan D. Söderholm and Mary H. Perdue (2001) Stress and Intestinal Barrier Function. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 2001 280:1, G7-G13