Collagen, the most abundant protein found in our bodies, is hard, insoluble and fibrous. It is considered the glue that holds our body together; in fact, the word comes from the Greek “kolla” meaning “glue”. It is found in our muscles, bones, tendons, and skin; it is what gives our skin strength and elasticity.
How to Help?
You CAN improve collagen production by eating it and the foods that support its natural production, through supplements, and/or medical treatments. You can also decrease loss by following some simple guidelines.
For more information, review the tabbed content below…
Overwhelmed? We can help. Our 12 week, hands on, FirstLine Therapy program significantly aligns with the things that support and maintain collagen production; plus a whole lot more.
10 Ways Collagen Helps
Collagen protein is the building block of teeth and bones. Osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly referred to as brittle bone disease, results from a significantly decreased level of collagen.
As collagen production naturally declines with age, skin loses the elasticity it once had, causing sagging skin, and the formation of lines and wrinkles. Further, because your skin is now thinner, fatty tissues push up through fibers in your skin’s upper layer create what is known as cellulite; no more hiding what’s happening below the surface.
Give your Workout a Boost — Gylcine, an amino acid found in collagen, helps pump sugar into your body’s tissue to increase energy levels. It also helps in muscle development — which helps your metabolism since muscles, even sitting still, burn more calories than fat.
Collagen protein is the building block of your hair and fingernails. Brittle nails that are soft or tear easily and limp lifeless hair, are tangible indicators of insufficient collagen.
If you suffer from leaky gut, a condition where bad-for-you toxins are able to pass through your digestive tract, collagen is very helpful. It helps break down proteins and soothe your gut’s lining, healing damaged cell walls and infusing it with healing amino acids. It will also help absorb water, keeping things moving freely in the digestive tract.
Collagen production is necessary in maintaining healthy tendons –tissues which attach muscles to bones—as well as in strong ligaments. When we lose collagen, our tendons and ligaments start moving with less ease, leading to stiffness, swollen joints, and more.
If you’re looking to detox, collagen is extremely helpful. That’s because glycine, an amino acid found in collagen, helps minimize damage your liver experiences when it absorbs foreign substances that shouldn’t be passing through it.
Glycine, an amino acid found in collagen, can positively affect the production of brain neurotransmitters; which are necessary for maintaining healthy brain function and emotional health.
Glycine, an amino acid found in collagen, has been shown to improve sleep quality and is often used to help fight off symptoms of sleep deprivation. Read more in this 2007 study published in the Journal of Sleep and Biological Rhythms.
Proline, an amino acid found in collagen, is known for supporting healthy arteries, which can, in turn, support a healthy cardiovascular system. More specifically, proline functions to help the walls of arteries to release fat buildup into the bloodstream, decreasing the size of fat in the arteries as well as decreasing the pressure build up due to the fat accumulation.
- Women produce less than men.
- Collagen is lost at 1% per year.
- Environmental factors play a role.
- Ignore cosmetic claims.
- Production can be stimulated through laser therapy.
- Type I is stronger than steel.
- 30% of our body, 80% of our skin.
- 2nd most common substance in our bodies, next to water.
- Made up of proline, glycine, glutamine, and arginine.
- Medical collagen is derived from humans, cows, pigs, & sheep.
Our ancestors chowed down on quite a bit of collagen as a natural way of life, since earlier traditional diets incorporated whole-animal eating. Simply put, they ate many animal parts, like skin, tendons, and ligaments that we reject today.
Beyond the Collagen benefits, bone broth is a great way for your body to ingest important minerals and nutrients that aid in digestive healing, reduces joint pain and inflammation, inhibits infection caused by colds and flu, can reduce PMS symptoms, increase libido, improve sleep, and promotes strong, healthy bones.
Gelatin was one of the first foods used as medical treatment in ancient China. It is also great for people with food allergies or sensitivities and even helps their bodies manage other foods better.
You might have heard collagen and gelatin mentioned in the same breath. That’s because gelatin is derived from collagen — when collagen breaks down, it becomes gelatin. A great example of this is found in bone broth: the bones are loaded with collagen and, as the broth cooks, it breaks down into gelatin.
Eat the Foods that Support the Natural Production of Collagen
SuperFoods that Support Collagen Production
Collagen, like all proteins, is made up of amino acids. There are nine amino acids essential to collagen production that must be obtained through diet. These are largely acquired through the consumption of animal products, such as cheese, eggs, fish, milk and poultry, but fruits and vegetables can also play a key role.
While it has been known since the 1930’s that vitamin C is essential to the manufacture of collagen, the process is only now yielding to inquiry and it appears that vitamin C is involved at every step. Anything beyond 500mg per day loses additional value rapidly.
Top 10 foods with high levels of vitamin C are:
- Red & Yellow Bell Peppers (341mg/1)
- Guava (125mg/1)
- Kale (80mg/cup)
- Kiwi (64mg/1)
- Broccoli (81mg/cup)
- Strawberries (97mg/sliced cup)
- Oranges (70mg/1)
- Tomatoes (56mg/2 cooked)
- Peas (20mg/10 pods)
- Papaya (96mg/1 small)
Additional benefits of vitamin C include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, and eye disease.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, turnips, horseradish, wasabi, and cauliflower provides our skin with glucosinolates, which fight the free radicals that attack our collagen.
Cruciferous vegetables are also linked to a reduced risk of cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis along with increased serotonin levels (better mood), and help with weight loss.
The body uses proline to make collagen and, if the body does not have enough proline, it is unable to make adequate levels of it. There are many food sources of proline including gelatin foods, egg whites, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, beef, cabbage and soy.
Proline also plays a critical role in the production of cartilage, tissue repair, arteriosclerosis prevention and blood pressure maintenance.
Lycopene and Anthocyanidins
Both Lycopene and Anthocyanidins are widely known for their antioxidant properties and have been shown to have a positive effect on collagen. Antioxidants are remarkable for their healing power inside the body. These chemicals prevent the oxidization of certain compounds and fight attacks on the body from harmful chemicals. Foods high in Lycopene and/or Anthocyanidins include: watermelon, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, red and black grapes, red wines, grapefruit, cranberries, cherries, red cabbage, red onions, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, and eggplant.
While it is still under scientific study, antioxidants are thought to play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease.
Copper is vital in the production of collagen and contributes to skin’s tone. Current recommendations are to get at least 2mg daily, but caution not to exceed 10mg.
Top 10 foods with high levels of copper are:
- Oysters (2.4mg/6 oysters)
- Kale (1.0mg/cup chopped)
- Mushrooms (0.65/4)
- Sesame Seeds (1.14/ounce)
- Cashews (0.62/ounce)
- Chickpeas (0.29/half cup)
- Prunes (0.4/half cup)
- Avocados (0.38/1)
- Goat Cheese (0.42/2 ounce)
- Tempeh (0.47/half cup)
Copper also supports the growth and development of strong bones AND helps the body utilize iron properly to support nerve function for a healthy central nervous system.
Your diet should include a small amount of manganese daily to support healthy collagen production; recommendations are 1.8 milligrams for women and 2.3 milligrams for men. It doesn’t take much, and the typical American diet is well above the recommendations. You should easily hit your goal when you include brown rice, nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, macadamia, cashews, and pistachios) or green tea in your regular diet.
Manganese also functions as an antioxidant in skins cells and other cell types. It helps protect skin against oxygen-related damage and also against damage from ultraviolet (UV) light.
Collagen supplements, like “Collagenics” or collagen protein powder, are another easy way to increase your collagen intake. If you are using the powder, make sure that you get it from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows (with no antibiotics or chemicals). Collagen powder can easily be mixed into smoothies, soups, or even into baked goods to provide collagen’s healthy benefits without adding any taste to your favorite meals.
In order for collagen to be activated and ensure absorption in the body, it needs to be coupled with amino acids and vitamin C. Often these are a part of the supplement, but if not, consider lean red meats, poultry, fish, quinoa or soy as an amino acid and anything from our list of those foods high in vitamin C.
The Metagenics supplement we offer, DOES include both.
Lasers, Radio Frequency, and Microneedling
When skin is injured, collagen production is increased as part of the skin healing process. Aesthetic equipment such as carbon dioxide and Fraxel lasers (like our Titan and Genesis), radiofrequency modalities, and Microneedling (SkinPen) all work by subjecting the skin to controlled damage, so that collagen renewal can be stimulated. All of these methods work very well to tighten the skin and improve its appearance.
We see excellent results with everything we recommend, but a benefit Microneedling has over laser and RF is that it goes a step further by creating channels that allow product to penetrate deeper into the skin, often resulting in better efficacy; it can also be less expensive.
LifeStream has incorporated a laser, called the Mona Lisa Touch, designed to stimulate collagen production, among other things, and restore vaginal health. The results have been extremely positive. Find out more>
Skin care products that have antioxidant properties, such as green tea extracts, coffeeberry and DHEA have been shown to be effective skin treatments that help with aging; their effect on collagen is still debated. Certainly we would recommend their use as beneficial, though not necessarily as a collagen enhancer.
Prescription products with retinol, a Vitamin A derivative, sometimes known as Retin-A, works to both stop collagen degradation from the effects of UV exposure while boosting collagen production. The product known as Refissa contains a moisturizer to combat the drying that retinoic acid can cause.
While many creams claim to revitalize skin by adding collagen, the collagen molecules in these topical products are too large for your skin to absorb; see more in the “controversy” tab.
By briefly freezing the outer layer of skin over the entire body, the deep layers of collagen are disrupted and respond by creating more collagen. As a result the skin regains elasticity and appears both younger and smoother. Those who are experiencing cellulite have also reported a clear visual improvement as a result of the treatments.
Whole body cryotherapy has been shown to reduce inflamation in the body easing many chronic ailments, repair muscles (improving workouts), elevate mood (endorphin rush), reduce weight (increased metabolism), and much more.
(LifeStream no longer offers Cryotherapy, but still regards it very highly. Groupon often has some pretty attractive “try it out” rates nearby.)
Injections of collagen are used to erase relatively superficial defects including frown lines, crow’s feet and smile lines. More extensive defects are usually filled with substances such as fat, silicone or implants. The use of collagen injections declined by 70 percent between 2000 and 2007 and is now rarely used because soft tissue fillers such as Restylane have been proven safe and last longer than collagen treatments.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA)
The key component of the brands Restylane and Juvederm is hyaluronic acid, naturally found in the skin, this is a water-binding component of the skin that helps stimulate collagen production by surrounding fibroblasts – the skin cells that produce collagen – with plenty of water. Further, HA also appears to be protective of the existing collagen in the area. HA is injected into the targeted areas immediately filling and plumping out the lines and wrinkles. The effects of the filler are enhanced by the collagen stimulation, so patients tend to need repeat sessions less frequently.
Sugar Consumption —
Avoid starchy foods and sugary substances; this helps reduce inflammation, which interferes with the body’s natural collagen production processes. All carbohydrates, like potatoes, bread and pasta, break down into sugar in the body, but added sugars (i.e. – soda, muffins, condiments, candy, and jam) should be avoided or limited.
Many of the chemicals present in tobacco smoke damage both collagen and elastin in the skin.
Ultraviolet rays in sunlight cause collagen to break down at an increased rate, damaging collagen fibers and inducing the accumulation of abnormal elastin. Abnormal elastin leads to the production of an enzyme that can also break down collagen.
Nobody wants to be sick, but when you’re sick, under stress, or otherwise unhealthy, your body may not be able to produce enough of the amino acids, such as proline and glycine, necessary for collagen production. Anything you do to help reduce sick time, improves collagen production.
At LifeStream, we feel it’s important to present the facts, as best we know them, and let you decide what to believe; this is why we highlight the controversy here. We encourage you to do your own research and we identify ourselves as a partner with you. When we alter our opinion, we will update the information on our website accordingly and modify the products and services we offer to align with what we truly believe in.
Creams and Serums
There has been a lot of unbiased research in this area and we believe that it is clear… most collagen molecules applied to the skin in lotion, cream or gel forms are far too large to be absorbed into the dermis – they merely lie on the surface and get washed or rubbed off. There are some companies that are selling micronized collagen which are meant to be small enough to be absorbed into the skin, but it is unlikely these micro molecules would be in any form useable by skin cells. It is also highly likely that any collagen that actually manages to penetrate the skin would be challenged by the body’s immune system as a foreign body. They would either cause an allergic reaction or simply be destroyed by the white blood cells before they manage to be of any benefit to the skin whatsoever.
Previously we detailed some supplement options; our preference is that you always find your health and wellness through food and exercise, but supplements can bridge the gap for our busy lifestyles. The questions are fair, “are supplements better than nothing?” and, “is this just the latest version of hope in a jar?”
Clinical research indicates that there’s something real to the claims. To address this question, we point to the large double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in early 2014; women took 2.5 g of a particular hydrolyzed collagen peptide once a day; after 8 weeks, researchers measured a 20% reduction in wrinkle depth around the women’s eyes. Even more significant, levels of the body’s own procollagen (the precursor to collagen) were significantly elevated, with production up by an impressive 65%. It seems that, however improbably, the pills in this study could make a woman’s skin behave like a younger version of itself.