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Collagen – The Elixir of Youth

Because beauty comes from the inside

Before diving into the wonders of collagen, let’s run through a simple crash course on the human body and how it works.

Protection from the onslaughts of the outside world is predominately our skin and digestive tract, which provide a physical barrier to prevent entry of foreign invaders. Going further than protection – our bones, joints, ligaments and tendons are required for physical structure and movement and our blood vessels and heart keep our blood and nutrients moving around the body.

All of these aspects while playing different roles have one major thing in common. They are made up of, amongst other things – collagen!

Starting with childhood one of the major occurrences during this period is growth.  Healthy growth sets the health stage of a child for the rest of their life, with many bones growing until age 35, most of this happening between 5 and 15 years.

Looking into bone health – 90% of the bone matrix (think the scaffolding of the bones) is collagen, alongside important minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Now while dairy associations worldwide have made you aware of the latter, where is the focus on the collagen???

Beyond the bones, collagen constructs the tendons, ligaments, skin and teeth – all of which are torn, stretched and broken throughout a healthy childhood.

The cardiovascular system also relies on collagen allowing the heart to grow as well as the blood vessels which provide fuel to the growing body. Some studies have even shown collagen assists time taken for children to get to sleep – are any more reasons needed to bring it into your child’s lives?

Collagen is even more exciting when it comes to fussy children. While it is a component of animal-based protein, if you’re dealt a pasta/bread/potato loving monster, collagen powder is one of the easiest ways to ‘treat’ them healthy – simply add it to smoothies, milkshakes, soups, yoghurt, juice, and due to its heat resistance cookies, muffins, cakes – anything really!

Continuing on with the immune benefits, I’ve mentioned the gut as being the interface between the inside and outside world. In saying this good integrity is vital as well as a killer army of microbes to metabolise or ward off anything we don’t want sneaking inside causing havoc. The breakdown of either of these elements can be the start of allergies, inflammation, chronic disease or autoimmunity.

Ask any naturopath about gut healing and one of the first nutrients they’ll respond back with is usually glutamine. Recent studies into collagen peptides however have shown it is more effective than glutamine in protecting the intestinal barrier, reducing inflammation and reversing any mucosal dysfunction that has come about by pathogen, or even the detrimental effects of the standard Western diet. This effect was seen to be more efficient the more water soluble the form of collagen with hydrolysates proving most effective.

Diving deeper into the immune system, you can think about it being broken into two different arms or subsets being Th1 and Th2. Th1 is predominately responsible for fighting pathogens like bacteria and viruses and if left on or overactive can drive the onset of autoimmunity. Th2 on the other hand, while sometimes seen an anti-inflammatory, again when overactive is responsible for allergies and atopic conditions.

Ideally the two should balance like a seesaw though when I mention them being fired up or overactive it means the seesaw has dipped in one direction, in which case we need to support the other arm to bring it back into harmony.

Collagen supplementation has shown to promote proliferation of Th1 cells reducing and suppressing the Th2 mediated allergic response. Further to this, collagen promotes the production of T-reg cells, which as the name suggests are regulators that hang out in mucosal surfaces amongst other places – think digestive tract, nasal passages or anywhere else exposed to the outside world. Their presence prevents inflammation, allergies and IgE production (the guy responsible for sneezing, snot, itching, cough, tight chest, watery eyes, diarrhoea and vomiting in response to allergen exposure).

Continuing further on in the life cycle, collagen starts to show up in reducing joint degradation or degeneration, aches and pains, stiffness, and osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis. Part of this is due to providing the joints with raw materials they need to regenerate and the other mechanism of action is due to collagens positive effect on the gut with a strong connection between the status of the gut and inflammation.

Within the microbiome resides inflammatory and anti-inflammatory species, when inflammatory species are being fed (usually through poor diet) this inflammation can spread to other parts of the body – in this case the joints. Beyond just repairing the structure of the gut, the peptides in collagen feed the good guys which start to crowd out the bad eliminating the inflammation at its source.

Finally, a discussion about collagen wouldn’t be complete without talking about how it can make us more beautiful. Our skin is the largest organ of the human body providing immune defence protecting us from pathogens, chemicals, smoke, pollution and UV radiation. While also regulating body heat, sensory input and endocrine hormone production.

Making up 75% of the skins dry weight, collagen has shown to improve skin integrity, modulating ageing, increasing hydration, elasticity, roughness and density in just 6-8 weeks with improvements retained even after treatment periods. With this comes better wound healing, fewer wrinkles and even reductions in cellulite! This benefit extends to the nails too with 50% fewer breakages after regular collagen consumption as low at 2.5g per day.

With so many ways to incorporate collagen in the diet – from your morning cup of coffee or smoothie, bowl of soup at lunch time or cheeky after dinner treat, I’ve never seen a better way to grow up strong and stay up strong through all phases of life. This is nutrition made simple!

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Because beauty comes from the inside Before diving into the wonders of collagen, let’s run through a simple crash course on the human body and how it works. Protection from the onslaughts of the outside world is predominately our skin and digestive tract, which provide a physical barrier to prevent entry of foreign invaders. Going […]

Collagen – The Elixir of Youth

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