Collagen: The Facts
Collagen is the most abundant natural protein in our bodies, making up around 30% of our body mass. I’ve written before about how collagen is the plumping agent in our skin responsible for its strength and elasticity and how our body’s production of it drops off around 1% every year from around the time we reach mature adulthood (around 21). Yes, that’s depressing news.
But collagen is not just responsible for a youthful, peachy skin. The rest of that 30% is found in our hair, bones, joints, muscles and other types of connective tissue. It is the glue that holds our ligaments, joints and bones together. As we age, either our body’s production of it slows down and eventually stops or the quality of the collagen produced deteriorates (no-one seems to be quite sure). Either way, this lack of quality collagen contributes to all sorts of degenerative disorders. These include osteoarthritis, brittle bones (osteoporosis), aching muscles and vascular disease. Not to mention wrinkled, saggy skin.
So how to increase our collagen levels?
The scientific community has universally rubbished the application of facial creams containing collagen. Collagen in creams cannot be absorbed into the skin: the molecules that make it up are simply too large to pass through the skin barrier
But more has been made recently of collagen supplements and their supposed benefits – from youthful skin to pain-free joints. Yet the scientific evidence supporting these supplements remains shaky. It seems that useful collagen is stuff that cannot be taken as a supplement but something that is produced by our bodies.
So what can you do if you want to stimulate your body’s collagen production naturally?
Five ways to stimulate collagen production
Massage and facial tapping
Since stress hormones break down collagen, relaxation techniques such as facial tapping and massage help reduce stress and prevent wrinkles. Massage also stimulates blood circulation which is linked to collagen production.
Vitamin C and protein
Combine eating protein-rich foods with foods rich in vitamin C. When your body makes collagen it needs vitamin C (found in fruits such as kiwis, mangos and citrus fruits) to interact with amino acids – nutrients you get from protein-rich foods such as beef, chicken, fish, beans and eggs. Quinoa is one of the best of these as it is a rich source of five different amino acids.
Cut out sugar and simple carbohydrates
Sugar bonds with proteins in your body in a process called glycation. Simple carbs cause your insulin levels to spike which increases inflammation in the body. The sugar-bonded proteins produce free radicals and inflammation produce enzymes: both of these destroy your collagen.
Bone broth is having a moment (for non-veggies at least)! Considered to have nutritional and healing benefits, bone broth is rich in the amino acids required to make collagen – they leach out of the bones in the cooking process.
Recent studies have suggested that aloe vera taken as a drink or supplement can have a measurable effect on collagen production. It is also anti-inflammatory, so helpful in counteracting the harmful effects of sugar and carbs on collagen.
So there you have it. Why waste your money on supplements when a good diet can do it better instead?
Next time: Look out for an amazing bone broth recipe I’ll be posting that provides a maximum collagen boost!