In ancient Rome, tubs for bathers in the spas were filled with crocodile dung to preserve the youth of anyone who would take a dip. Face masks of the same substance were also used to infuse the visage with youthfulness. In the Victorian era, women would apply mercury directly to their skin to heal blemishes and minimize wrinkles. The mercury was, of course, literally corroding the surface of their skin. However destructive the process was, it favored a beautiful result.
Ancient Egyptian men applied crocodile, goat, and lion fat to their scalps in their best effort to stop the process of balding with age. The one thing that connects each of these peoples across their respective barriers of time and culture is the pursuit of youth. The question of whether or not everlasting youth is possible has plagued our species for thousands of years, and it may continue to, even with the advances of modern science, medicine, and technology.
I’m not too sure about a “fountain of youth” out there anywhere, but I do know a few secrets and tricks that may help restore the youth and fluidity that your skin and joints have been missing. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of collagen, but it should definitely be on your radar. You may have encountered it previously if you’ve researched common botox treatments.
It’s been picking up a lot of popularity in the nutrition and wellness fad world recently, but make no mistake. Collagen isn’t any fly-by-night supplement. It is figuratively, and literally, the glue that holds us together. Don’t believe me? The word collagen literally originates from the Greek word kolla, which translates to “glue.”
Breaking Down Collagen
So what is this stuff anyway? According to amymyersmd.com, Collagen is “the fibrous protein found throughout your body, organs, muscles, skin, hair, nails, teeth, bones, blood vessels, tendons, joints, cartilage, and your digestive system.” The protein itself contains 19 different amino acids, both essential and nonessential. There are actually 16 different types of collagen found throughout your body, but the majority of collagen in your body can be categorized as “Type 1.” (Type 1 includes 90% of the collagen found in your body, to be exact.) This most common type of collagen is found in your skin, bones, organs, and eyes. It basically is responsible or wound healing, makes your skin stretch, and keeping your tissues from falling apart.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of collagen and your skin isn’t falling off, you obviously aren’t in dire need of a collagen supplement. So where are we getting it from? As it turns out, foods that are rich in protein will be your main source of collagen. Think: beef, chicken, fish, and oddly enough, eggshell membranes. Each of these sources provides different amounts of some of the various types of collagen. For example, beef collagen (bovine collagen) is made almost exclusively of Types 1 and 3 collagen, and is useful for building muscle. Meanwhile, chicken collagen is more beneficial for building cartilage, while it contains mostly Type 2 collagen.
While beneficial to ingest collagen, something called collagen peptides have been created to make this supplement even more bioavailable and easily absorbable than before. However, their increased bioavailability doesn’t in any way decrease the amino acid or nutrient content. The process of hydrolysis breaks down the protein chains of collagen and makes them shorter, and by doing so, makes the resulting supplement easier to digest and completely dissolvable in hot and cold water. So rather than boiling bones for hours on end, you can get all the same benefits of normal collagen from a vanilla powder that you mix into your morning coffee. Try Vital Proteins’ Pasture Raised Collagen Peptides or Vital Proteins’ Collagen Creamer Coconut.
Why do I need collagen?
Collagen can boost your health in a myriad of ways, and while you may not be deficient, your body can still use it. The body beings slowing collagen production around age 35, and after that point, if the joints and cartilage are not supplemented for, they can begin to be very painful as the collagen layer breaks down. Collagen is like a smooth gel that helps all the appendages move around properly. The earlier you begin supplementing collagen, the greater your chance for reducing pain later on.
Collagen supplementation improves the health of skin and hair. In fact, the number one benefit of taking collagen is known to be an improvement in skin health. Deterioration of skin health is a natural part of aging. Your skin will become looser, more wrinkled, and suffer a general loss of elasticity. Taking collagen supplements can help remedy that.
“Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies investigating the anti-aging properties of collagen have found that 2.5-5 grams of collagen hydrolysate used among women aged 35-55 once daily for eight weeks significantly improved skin elasticity, skin moisture, transepidermal water loss (dryness) and skin roughness.” Additionally, rudimentary research has begun to show that collagen may even be a potential therapeutic target for areas with hair-loss. Try Hair/Skins/Nails Ultra from Pure Encapsulations.
Taking collagen can reduce joint pains and degeneration. If your limbs ever feel extra stiff and cause you pain when you move around, you are probably suffering from a loss of collagen. Think about a creaking door hinge that wails until you oil it. Our joints are the creaking door hinge, and collagen is the life-saving oil (not literally, of course; it’s a protein). “Researchers at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston investigated benefits of collagen and found that supplementing with Type 2 collagen helped patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis find relief from painful symptoms by decreasing swelling in tender joints.”
Additionally, another study from the International Journal of Medical Sciences told of people with osteoarthritis joint pain finding a significant enhancement of activity, including walking up and downstairs, sitting, or sleeping, and general quality of life after supplementation of Type 2 collagen. For joint health and maintenance, try Designs For Health’s H-S-N Complete collagen formula.
Collagen also has comprehensive digestive benefits. When you consume more collagen, it helps to form connective tissue, and by doing so, heals the portions of your gut or intestinal walls that may have been damaged. Your intestinal walls are comprised of microscopic folds, or “villi.” These villi are actually built of collagen. Collagen supplements can also help heal damaged cell walls by infusing them with amino acids.
A 2003 study found that in the gut flora of patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, serum concentrations of collagen are decreased compared to those from average patients. Because collagen supplements can build back up the intestinal walls, they can help restore balance to the digestive systems of those suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders by thus keeping things moving out of the body. Try Hydrolyzed Collagen Plus from Douglas Labs.
How do I take it?
Is this starting to seem like a supplement you’re interested in? If so, the good news is that collagen is very easy to incorporate into your diet, especially in it’s more easily absorbable forms. You can even bake with some kinds of collagen peptides! A sure way to get your daily dose is from bone broth.
You can boil the bones for 18 hours yourself, or you can buy it from someone else who did all the work and reap the same benefits. Try Beef Bone Broth from Bare Bones. If hot drinks aren’t your thing, try powdered collagen in your smoothie bowl. I love Vital Proteins’ Pasture Raised Collagen Peptides. You can mix them in hot or cold drinks.
Just a note:
Though bone broth holds immense collagen benefits, some doctors still have concerns about the safety of the substance itself. It has been voiced that the ground-up hooves, bones, and parts may act as sponges and thus carry contaminants you wouldn’t otherwise expose yourself to.
“Dermatologists and consumer groups have also said they were concerned that those ground-up hooves, hides, and nerve tissues, particularly if they come from cows, could carry diseases like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.” When you are shopping for any type of collagen supplement, be sure to check the labeling for heavy metal testing, and if the product hasn’t been tested, DO NOT purchase it.
While maybe not a veritable fountain of youth, collagen holds the secret to softer skin, stronger nails, hair growth, skin elasticity, and reduced joint pain. Collagen is literally and figuratively the glue that holds your body together. Incorporating a collagen supplement into your daily routine could make all the difference in 10 or even 20 years.
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