Should you take collagen supplements for gut health?
This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.
Collagen – you might have heard about it over on social media, but exactly what is collagen, and do you need to take collagen supplements for gut health or irritable bowel syndrome?
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and is the second most abundant substance overall after water! So it is pretty darn important.
Collagen is found in our connective tissue, which means in our bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails. It’s the protein that gives the structure to all of these tissues.
In addition to providing structure to the body, collagen also helps maintaining healthy blood vessels and healing wounds. Most people seek out collagen for either bone and joint health or for beauty purposes (skin/hair/nails) or both!
Collagen is often used in the beauty world to claim anti-aging properties. However, the collagen particles are generally too large for the skin to absorb topically, so the positive benefits tend to be more attributable to the moisturizing properties of the product. That being said, collagen is important in maintaining skin strength and elasticity, it just needs to come from our diet instead.
Like all proteins, collagen is made up of various amino acids, which in this case are namely glycine, lysine, and proline. These amino acids need to be converted into a special form by enzymes to create collagen, a process that requires vitamin C. Therefore sufficient vitamin C is extremely important for the formation and maintenance of healthy collagen.
Other minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, and sulphur are also cofactors for collagen production and maintenance.
Factors negatively affecting collagen production
- general aging – our collagen breaks down over time
- high sugar intake levels
- excessive sun exposure
- smoking / second-hand smoke
- autoimmune disorders
- repeated physical stress on a part of the body
Sources of collagen in the diet
The best source of collagen itself is through consuming something like bone broth. Bone broth is made from cooking animal bones, including the cartilage, for a long period of time so that it breaks down and turn the broth gelatinous. The yolks from chicken eggs also contain collagen.
Other ways to boost your collagen is through consuming foods rich in the cofactors needed by your body to produce healthy collagen. For example:
- citrus or berries for vitamin C
- salmon or pumpkin seeds for zinc
- leafy greens for chlorophyll which is shown to increase the precursor to collagen
There are also some collagen supplements on the market, generally as a powder that can be mixed in with cold or warm liquids. Take care if you are using collagen as a protein powder in smoothies or shakes as it is not a complete protein; it could still be beneficial to add in some high quality whey powder along with it.
Do I need to supplement with collagen for IBS?
Are you a generally healthy person following a healthy diet? Then no, you don’t need to supplement with collagen.
The best way to ensure healthy collagen levels in your body is to consume collagen containing foods, or foods with the needed cofactors, rather than relying on a supplement.
That being said, it could be helpful to supplement with collagen during recovery from injuries or surgery.
But the most documented benefit of collagen supplementation is an improvement in skin, joint, and bone health through a reduction in pain and inflammation.
When it comes to gut health specifically, there’s not enough evidence to support collagen supplementation for IBS specifically. More research into this area is definitely needed.
First and foremost, for the average, healthy person, it is always best to start by focusing on a general healthy diet, one that is going to be giving your body naturally the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals it needs. Any supplementation should only come after this is achieved.
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