Collagen: The basic building block of skin, hair, nails, bones and joints
By Susan Patterson – Certified Biblical Health Coach,
Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor
I tried something new this past month — an addition to my morning coffee elixir. My latest ingredient is collagen. Although I’m sometimes skeptical of alternative health fads, this one got my attention…and as you will see, it was worth my time. Collagen has now become a permanent addition to my morning coffee and has a prominent place on my supplement shelf.
If you’re plugged into the latest trends in alternative nutrition, then you’ve probably heard about bone broth. Bone broth is stock made primarily from the bones and connective tissue of animals or fish. Part of the reason for its popularity is because it contains collagen.
Collagen is primarily composed of the amino acids glycine, proline, alanine, and hydroxyproline. These amino acids are found in our bones, muscles, skin and tendons. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It gives skin its strength and elasticity and collagen helps replace dead skin cells.
When collagen breaks down, it becomes gelatin. For example, making bone broth releases an abundance of collagen from inside the bones. As the bones cook, the collagen-rich broth breaks down into gelatin.
While this may not sound appetizing, you don’t have to drink bone broth to enjoy the benefits of collagen. Collagen can be found as a powder supplement, referred to as collagen peptides. This makes me happy because I am not overly fond of the taste of bone broth.
But why should you add collagen to your diet? Here are just a few reasons why I quickly became sold on the value of collagen peptides.
Better digestion and a healthier gut
In ancient times, our ancestors used every part of an animal. But today, we primarily use just the muscle meat and skip the bones! As a result, our modern diet is significantly lacking in collagen. If you suffer from digestive issues like IBS, ulcerative colitis, leaky gut or Crohn’s, then you’ll want to add collagen to your diet. Collagen will help heal your gut by:
- Breaking down proteins and soothing the lining of your intestines
- Healing damaged cell walls and infusing them with amino acids
Collagen also keeps things moving in the digestive tract by helping with the absorption of water.
It’s good for your skin
Starting around the age of 25, the body begins to produce less and less collagen. We tend to lose about 1% every year, and by the time we reach 50, we don’t produce much at all. When collagen levels in your skin drop, the skin begins to droop, wrinkle and look dull. I noticed this starting to happen as I neared my 35th birthday. My skin started to get drier and had more pronounced lines and wrinkles despite the fact that I eat an ultra clean diet, exercise, don’t drink or smoke.
Some have referred to collagen as the ultimate anti-aging product. For younger, healthier looking skin, collagen helps:
- Regenerate skin cells
- Improve elasticity
- Regulate skin moisture levels
- Make skin smooth and supple
Similar to a bowl of Jello, collagen helps keep the skin buoyant. Taking collagen daily also reduces cellulite. This is something else I have struggled with, even when I am in awesome shape.
We need at least ten grams of glycine (one of the amino acids in collagen) a day for basic metabolic processes. Glycine plays a part in the formation of collagen, promoting the growth and function of joints, tendons and ligaments.
Approximately one-third of collagen is composed of glycine. Collagen is crucial for forming connective tissue that keeps joints flexible and able to withstand shock. That’s why if you exercise and put a lot of pressure on your joints, supplementing with collagen helps improve resilience.
As the collagen level reduces with age, the results are brittle bones, aching joints and worn-out cartilage. Our joints may swell or feel stiffer, and it may not be as easy to move ligaments and tendons as it used to be.
By taking collagen, you’ll not only help get those joints moving easily again, but you’ll lessen your risk for joint deterioration and reduce joint pain. One study out of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago found that collagen was useful for treating osteoarthritis and other joint problems.
Collagen promotes hair and nail growth
Hair and nails consist mostly of keratin, a fibrous protein, which requires amino acids to grow. That’s why many people take collagen to achieve longer, stronger hair and nails. If your body doesn’t get the amino acids it needs, it can result in weak, brittle and slow-growing hair and nails.
Collagen is a great source of protein. Consuming more protein helps one reduce overall food intake. Protein promotes a feeling of satisfaction and fullness, which in turn, can boost weight loss.
Studies have shown that collagen peptides consumed at breakfast are 40% more satiating than other proteins like whey or soy. This practice is also linked to a 20% reduction of food intake at lunch. Collagen supports weight loss in other ways.
- High levels of collagen can boost the metabolism, helping one burn more calories.
- Collagen aids in muscle development. More muscles burn more calories.
Promotes restful sleep
Glycine, abundant in collagen, is known to promote sleep and reduce feelings of stress. Human studies have found that 3 grams of glycine taken before bedtime helps improve the quality of sleep. Take the recommended dosage an hour before bed to enjoy a better night’s rest.
Collagen also reduces daytime sleepiness; collagen also helps improve memory during waking hours. I’m hopeful that after I take collagen for a while, I’ll actually be able to find my keys!
Boosts athletic performance
The amino acids glycine and proline help:
- Reduce inflammation
- Repair tissue
- Shorten recovery time after exercise
- Speed healing of sports-related injuries
Research has found that by supplementing with collagen peptides, athletes experienced a reduction of risk for ligament, tendon and muscle injuries. Collagen’s glycine and arginine content also helps improve athletic performance as well as aid in restoring and maintaining muscle mass. Arginine stimulates the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland, a process known to increase muscle mass.
Now that you know why you should add collagen to your diet, look for 100% grass-fed, hormone-free, pesticide-free, GMO-free collagen peptides. Collagen can be added to smoothies, coffee, tea, and practically anything else. It dissolves quickly and easily. Its taste is so subtle you won’t even know it’s there.
My Personal Test
As mentioned earlier, my favorite way to enjoy collagen is in this rich and tasty morning coffee-energy drink. Just as a side note, collagen doesn’t taste like anything or add any real texture to whatever you mix it with.
Morning Coffee Elixir
- 8 to 12 ounces fresh-brewed, hot coffee
- 2 tbsp grass-fed butter or ghee
- 1 tbsp Panaseeda oil
- 1 to 2 scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pinch sea salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon to garnish
- Add all ingredients except cinnamon to your blender. Blend on high speed for 30 to 60 seconds until frothy.
- Sprinkle cinnamon on top and enjoy.
For the past month, I have been enjoying my collagen-infused morning coffee daily. There have been several things I have noticed:
- My fingernails are stronger and longer. They look healthy and don’t break as easily.
- I have reduced joint pain in my knee. (I tore my ACL playing basketball in college many years ago). There seems to be less stiffness and reduced swelling.
- I have substantially more mental clarity. Yes, I no longer call my children by my dog’s names.
- I swear I look ten years younger. Well, maybe not ten years, but my skin appears softer, smoother, and more vibrant.
Takeaway: All in all, I am very impressed with what the addition of collagen has done for me. My plan is to continue to use it with the anticipation of more good things to come.
Some More Great Ways to Enjoy Collagen
If coffee isn’t your thing, that’s not a problem. Here’s another great way to add collagen to your diet and get your daily allowance.
Green Collagen Berry Smoothie
- 1 banana
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup frozen berries
- 1 tablespoon collagen peptides
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup baby spinach or kale
- 6 – 8 ice cubes, optional
- Add all ingredients in a blender. Blend to combine.
- Add ice cubes if you prefer a thicker, more dessert-like texture.
In a hurry?
While those recipes are simple, there are easier options to add collagen to your diet, too. If you don’t have a blender handy, just mix collagen into your morning coffee, tea, or even soups and stews.
I was also excited to find that if you are short on time or travelling, you can actually purchase a premade drink infused with collagen. Although I came across a few options, one in particular caught my eye. NeoCell® Beauty Infusion is available on Drugstore.com and appears to be a good option for on-the-go collagen and also includes hyaluronic acid, biotin, alpha linonleic acid and vitamin C, all of which are useful ingredients for strong hair and nails as well as healthy skin.
The bottom line is that we need collagen and as we age we lose it. As a result, we don’t quite function as efficiently as we used to. Adding collagen to your diet can help everything from the hair on your head to the nails on your feet! For me, adding a couple of scoops to my daily smoothies, soups, coffee or juices is a great way to reap all the benefits of this valuable nutrient.
I encourage you to pick up a container of collagen and try it for yourself!
Collagen’s not the only supplement that gives good skin—these herbs are also known to impart a particularly stellar glow. Or, try these oil that help replenish moisture and soothe irritationand itching. Ready for some next-level skin help? Blend up your own beauty-boosting drink.