What is Collagen and Why is it SO Crucial to our Bodies?


What is Collagen and Why is it SO Crucial to our Bodies?

Do you ever wonder what keeps our bodies happy and healthy? It’s actually a protein called collagen, found in our tendons, muscles, skin, bones, and connective tissue. Collagen makes up about 1/3 of the total protein in our body, making it an extremely important asset to our overall health! Typically, as we age, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to produce enough collagen. Consequently, most people will turn to collagen supplements to combat this decline.

However, there are alternative ways to promote collagen production in the body – namely, bone broth! During the simmering process of about 12-24 hours, gelatin is released from the bones – this is the cooked form of collagen! Because we usually eat just the meat, we miss out on this great opportunity to incorporate naturally occurring collagen into our diet. Let’s face it – who would prefer some nasty, hard-to-swallow pills to a nice (and easy to make!) warm soup, stew, or gravy base?!

What are the types of collagen?

There are at least 28 types of collagen, which are classified into several categories. Types I, II, and III are the most common, and Type IV is found in tissues that undergo a lot of mechanical stress. Each type of collagen has a unique amino acid sequence, which determines its properties and function.

The main types of collagen are:

Type I: This is the most common type of collagen, and it makes up about 90% of the total collagen in the body. It is found in tendons, skin, bone, and connective tissue.

Type II: This type of collagen is found in cartilage and is important for its elasticity and strength.

Type III: This type of collagen is found in the walls of blood vessels and in the intestine. It is important for its structure and function.

Type IV: This type of collagen is found in the basement membrane, which is a layer of tissue that separates different tissues and organs from each other.

There are many other types of collagen, but these are the four main types. Collagen plays an important role in the body, and it is essential for the proper function of many tissues. Disruptions in collagen production can lead to a variety of health problems.

But What Does Collagen Really DO?

There are several known benefits of collagen including, but not limited to skin health/elasticity, bone density, hair health, nail health, organ protection, and even medical perks! Let’s break it down!

Skin Health/Elasticity

As discussed above, collagen is responsible for your skin’s stretchy quality. This is prominent in older adults, as it may minimize the progression of wrinkles by keeping the skin strong and tight while providing it with structure. In addition, collagen improves your skin’s overall hydration factor, contributing to the prevention of dry skin. Overall, collagen promotes a younger and healthier appearance!

Bone Density

We all know that with the aging process comes a decline in our bone density. This results in weaker bones that are more susceptible to injury and take much longer to heal. Collagen can be used to combat the aging process by improving your bone’s strength and durability and resulting in an overall increase in bone density. Collagen is also crucial in the creation and maintenance of new bone which helps prevent injury!  It has been shown in numerous research studies that higher collagen levels may reduce osteoarthritic pain by improving joint function and mobility! What’s not to like?!

Hair Health

Although collagen is not the major protein that makes up your hair (that would be keratin), it does provide 3 major amino acids used to make keratin – therefore collagen is still essential to your hair’s health!  Collagen makes up the majority of your second layer of skin (dermis), which is where your hair takes root. Maintaining higher collagen levels via diet has been shown to prevent hair thinning with age by keeping the dermis strong. This may inhibit men from balding in the future as well as help women avoid hair loss or thinning with age!

Nail Health

An abundance of collagen can also have positive effects on your nail’s health and appearance – nails are more prone to resiliency and growth with a solid collagen dietary intake! Research demonstrates that collagen promotes nail strength and consequently aids in preventing your nails from breaking or chipping as easily!

Organ Protection

Having the proper amount of collagen in the body can help protect the organs. Collagen contributes to the makeup of the lining of the organs, providing them with structure and support. This helps your organs remain strong and healthy throughout your lifetime! In a way, collagen acts as a “glue” holding your organs together!

Collagen…Medical Uses?

There are several medical purposes for collagen ranging from promoting wound healing to restoring skin elasticity. Collagen is commonly used to help blood clot when you have an open wound by attracting platelets to slow down the bleeding process. Collagen is also essential in maintaining your cartilage and bone health as it contributes to a reduction in joint pain. It has been shown that an increased amount of collagen in the body can reduce inflammation and provide an avenue for new tissue generation. Because collagen is such a key player in your skin’s health, it also plays a role in wound healing by restoring your skin’s elasticity post injury, so you aren’t left with nasty scars or loose skin.

But How Does Collagen Loss Even Occur?!

There are several causes of collagen loss or low levels of collagen in the body. One of the most prominent is the typical process of aging. As we age, our bones are naturally more brittle, and our skin becomes looser – it is imperative to find outside sources of collagen through dietary choices to prevent this process from being too drastic. Oxidative stress is another factor that results from everyday metabolic processes as well as lifestyle choices including, but not limited to, smoking, exercise, and/or diet. If, as a child or young adult, you spent a lot of time in the sun without proper protection, you may also be at risk for collagen loss as excessive exposure to UV rays may break down collagen in the skin. Genetic conditions may also contribute to collagen loss, specifically osteogenesis imperfecta or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

What can I do to Avoid Collagen Loss?

The easiest way to avoid collagen loss or low levels of collagen in the body is to ensure your diet is plentiful in fruits, veggies, and other prominent sources of collagen. Avoid processed foods if possible (or at least limit the amount you consume) as well as smoking as these may increase your oxidative stress levels. Wear proper sun protection equipment like hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc., and try to find creative ways to incorporate collagen-rich foods into your daily diet!

In Summary…

Collagen makes up about 30% of our body’s protein and plays an important role in maintaining our skin health, and keeping our bones strong, as well as having numerous medical uses. There are so many functions of collagen in our body, yet it is difficult to maintain healthy levels – as stated above, many people turn to supplements to promote collagen production. One easy way to ensure your diet is rich in collagen is through the consumption of bone broth – throughout the extensive simmering process, so much collagen is released! So save up your chicken and beef bones, grab some veggies, and get to cooking!

And that’s it! We are ready to make some bone broth at home! Let me know how yours turns out or if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!

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