Collagen: Types and Uses

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What is collagen?

When thinking of collagen, people tend to think of the reduction of wrinkles and occasionally about joint health too. But what exactly is collagen?

Collagen is a protein that makes up connective tissue all over the body from your skin to your bones. You might think of it as glue that hold the body together or the building blocks that make up the tissue. Whilst it is naturally produced by the body, over time like many things as we age, production slows down.

There are different types of collagen for different purposes. The main types used are type I, II and III. Type I and III work for the skin, ligaments and muscles whereas type II can be found in cartilage and the eyes.

The science

Firboblasts rely on amino acids like glycine, proline and hydroxyproline to manufacture collagen. As the body’s fibroblasts produce this amazing protein, it also produces the enzyme that breaks it down: collagenase. The process of breaking down collagen overtakes its production when passed the age of 25.

Hydrolysed collagen (collagen peptides) is easily absorbed and used due to the fact that is broken down in smaller parts (amino acids) making it the best way to supplement collagen. Without the process that makes hydrolysed collagen, it wouldn’t be able to survive the stomach acid and reach the small intestines where it needs to be in order to enter the bloodstream.

Other than supplementing with collagen, you can only acquire collagen through bone broths and organ meats. Therefore, supplementation can be a lot easier as you can take them in capsule form or add to smoothies, juices or soups.

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Skin

Being the most abundant structural protein in the skin, collagen is used to reduce wrinkles and increase hydration in the skin. It is found in the middle layer of the skin (dermis) and provides a full and plump, youthful complexion.

Factors such as smoking and too much sun exposure can damage the collagen and elastin resulting in ageing appearance on the skin.

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Bones & Joints

Joints are designed to naturally move freely and easily. They are lined with a small substance called cartilage which provides lubrication and shock absorption. The primary component of cartilage for example is type 2 collagen. With age, comes wear and tear on the joints and so the cartilage erodes. This exposes the collagen to the immune system which is then attacked causing inflammation and arthritis.

Bone broth is one way to increase levels of collagen. Chicken soup is known for inhibiting immune cells from reaching the site of inflammation, ultimately stopping destruction of cartilage. The collagen itself has been found in some investigations to support conditions that are effected by joint erosion. In fact, combining collagen with the more commonly used glucosamine and chondroitin for joint pain and function has had more positive results than taking them alone.

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Gut health

Collagen makes up the tissues in gastrointestinal tract and so is often used when a permeable membrane occurs (leaky gut). Many believe that all disease starts in the gut, so by ensuring the quality of the intestinal lining, you can be providing some preventative tactics for your body. When the gut lining develops holes, food particles, toxicants and bacteria can pass through to the bloodstream creating inflammation and eventually can cause diseases and autoimmune conditions. A healthy gut lining keeps nutrient absorption at an optimal state and keeps substances that need to be excreted out of the bloodstream. Glycine, one amino acid in collagen can increase stomach acid which can help break down food and kill unwanted invaders that enter through the oesophagus.

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