Whilst the beauty industry has expounded the benefits of collagen for years, claiming products containing it can help us look younger and healthier, there are actually a lot of other benefits to be had that are beyond skin-deep. If you’re concerned with better hair, skin and nails, you may already have items containing collagen, but what if your concern is improving and maintaining the health of connective tissue, building muscle and healing injuries? Yep, that’s exactly what collagen is for too….
The Collagen-Connected Body
Collagen is the main structural protein in connective tissue, and the most abundant tissue within all mammals – including all of us. Made up of combinations of amino acids, it is most abundant in tissues like skin, ligaments and tendons. Whilst collagen is indeed abundant within these specific parts of the body, modern anatomical studies have shown that we’re actually entirely covered and made up of connective tissue, so the benefits become ever more wide-spread. The connective tissue we’re talking about it called fascia – a web-like substance that covers the whole body and wraps around and within all the internal organs. Fascia can vary in consistency from thin to thick, it weaves in and through muscles, and some experts would say that muscle is actually fascia, and that the whole body is really one cohesive, connected single piece of fascia itself.
The latest buzzword in the health industry, fascia can become knotted and stiff, and the best ways to keep it and all the other tissues of the body healthy are to move regularly, get some sort of bodywork like massage or Rolfing, drink enough water, and consume a diet with good amounts of protein and collagen. As well as muscles and tendons, collagen is also found in bones, blood vessels and digestive system. In the simplest terms, it’s the ‘glue’ that holds us together.
The quality of our collagen is at its best when we’re very young (think of soft, supple baby skin), but generally starts declining at age 25. This is why so many ‘anti-ageing’ products contain collagen – it helps improve the strength and appearance of hair, nails and skin, as they become more elastic, supple, less wrinkled and more youthful. The science behind it is that collagen is the building block of hair and surrounds each strand – the better quality collagen, the more protected and healthier the hair. When looking for a collagen based product for improving any part of the body, look for type 1, as it’s the type we need for healthy skin and hair, and strong connective tissue.
Speaking of hair; the quality of collagen isn’t just obvious in the drying out of skin and general downward-moving momentum of everything from bust to bottom as we age, its also linked to age-related hair loss. Research scientists in Japan found that taking collagen away from hair follicles caused hair loss, and that supplementing with collagen provides amino acids to produce keratin protein, which makes up hair and promotes its growth and re-growth! The same goes for aging skin – ‘drying out’ is linked to aging, and collagen can help replenish moisture and suppleness of skin. As skin is the body’s biggest organ, protecting this part of us has a knock-on effect to all other parts and systems of the body, thus encouraging greater wellbeing all-round.
So we know collagen is good for improving outward appearance, but what about the strength and performance of the body’s connective tissues and joints? The ligaments and tendons around muscles and joints is primarily made of collagen, so if you’re looking to build strength or maintain any sort of healthy movement practice, consuming enough collagen is important for rebuilding and enhancing tissue – as a bonus side, movement stimulates the production and laying down of healthy new collagen proteins, so keep on moving!
If your issue is linked to injury – whether this is muscular or an aching, damaged joint, collagen is one of the first things to opt for when going through a process of healing. As we know, collagen production declines once we hit roughly age 25, which is why it often takes longer to heal injuries the older you are. The body naturally produces collagen, but if we want to improve it, or if we’ve taken ourselves to a place the body can’t handle (thus causing injury), obtaining an outside source can help speed up healing time and reduce the risk of re-injury.
Collagen contains the amino acids proline and glycine, which are natural anti-inflammatories and remarkable immune system enhancers, and as the immune system is the first to respond when it comes to healing anything from a cold to a damaged knee, it’s important to maintain the strength of this system. These amino acids can help reduce any damaging inflammation around an injury so it can start healing, and in terms of ageing, this is also a process strongly linked to inflammation, so the anti-inflammatory components of collagen are once again supportive in this life-long process.
Collagen is found in bone broths and collagen and gelatine supplements, as the only true form of collagen comes directly from those bones, tendons and ligaments of other mammals. Since we can’t eat bones in their whole form, and simmering bone broth isn’t something we’re all able to do every day, a collagen supplement made up of these bones, tendons and ligaments is something quick to use and incredibly effective at maintaining a strong, healthy body, protecting it from injury and ageing, and healing when damage occurs.
The type 1 collagen found in the Love Life Supplements Primal Collagen + Vitamin C is the very thing needed for healthy connective tissue, and identical to the collagen and bones found in the human body. This collagen is bio available (meaning the body can actually absorb and make use of the nutrients straight away) and with the addition of vitamin C, becomes utilised even more effectively. If you’re not into simmering bones and waiting hours for your collagen fix, the good news is that this supplemental collagen is unflavoured (so no sugar here!) can be scooped straight into water or a smoothie, and consumed right away.