Collagen supplements have gained a lot of popularity recently, but most people don’t really understand what it’s used for or the benefits it can provide. Some people assume it’s a beauty-related product, but collagen can actually provide you with a lot of other perks as well.
You may not realize it, but one-third of our body is actually made up of collagen. Collagen exists in our bones, skin, joints and connective tissues. As a woman that may already be eating healthy and maintaining a regular exercise routine, collagen may be the supplement you need to take your healthy lifestyle to the next level.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein in the body that is responsible for healthy joints, skin elasticity, bone health, blood volume and much more. We can consume collagen in a variety of food sources, but our bodies will produce less and less of it as we age. That’s where supplementation comes in. If you can’t pack in additional collagen-rich food sources every day, there are some really high-quality products you can use to fill in those gaps.
Foods That Contain Collagen
There are some collagen-rich food sources that you can keep in your home when you would like to increase your collagen intake. Most of them are very easy to obtain and they’re really nutritious.
Bone broth contains a bioavailable form of collagen that can be used immediately by the body. Bone broth is made from cooking down the ligaments, bones and joints in the carcass of an animal for many hours on end. This allows the collagen to be released into the broth. It’s also really rich in nutrients, protein, electrolytes and amino acids. Choose beef bone broth for type 1 collagen, which supports skin health. Chicken and turkey contain type 2 collagen, which supports the joints.
Wild salmon contains high levels of zinc, which is a mineral that activates proteins in the body that are needed for collagen synthesis. It’s also very rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, which improve the health of your skin. Our bodies aren’t able to create omega 3’s naturally, but that’s where a healthy diet comes in. Other fish that are beneficial for collagen production includes tuna, mackerel, eggs and grass-fed meat.
Sold in powder and tablet form, chlorella is a single-celled algae that is a great source of collagen and beta-carotene. It contains specific nutrients that contain RNA and DNA, which tells our cells to repair themselves, regenerate and produce collagen.
Greens are extremely high in a multitude of nutrients that are beneficial to the body, but they can also increase the production of collagen in the body. Leafy greens are potent in chlorophyll, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body from free radical damage.
Citrus fruits contain vitamin C, which helps to link together amino acids in the body that produce collagen. Vitamin C also boosts immune function and protects our bodies from breaking down collage in the first place.
Eggs and eggshell membranes contain high levels of collagen. They also contain sulfur, which is a trace mineral that is used in the production of collagen.
The Health Benefits of Collagen Supplements for Women
While both men and women have collagen in the body and can benefit from increased collagen consumption and production, women may focus on collagen a bit more from the perspective of their appearance. Let’s look at some of the other ways that collagen benefits the female body.
#1: Could Improve Skin Health
Collagen can improve the overall quality and condition of your skin. Not only is it added to beauty products, but you can consume it to achieve youthful, glowing skin. Collagen can prevent your skin from sagging and developing wrinkles. Supplementation can make everything look tighter and healthier. Because we produce less collagen as we age, we start to develop signs of aging on our skin as early as our 30s. Collagen is one ingredient that can boost your skincare regimen very early on, so you look younger longer.
#2: Could Help With Weight Loss and Muscle Gain
Collagen makes up ten percent of our body’s muscular tissue, so it’s a very important part of muscle gain. Collagen molecules are made up of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. They are used to synthesize creatine in the body, which is an organic compound that delivers energy to your muscles during exercise. When you have more muscle, your body will be able to burn calories more efficiently, leading to weight loss.
If this is something you're interested in learning more about, you may find our best collagen powders for weight loss buying guide very useful.
#3: Could Prevent Bone Loss
With aging comes decreased bone density. When your bones aren’t as strong as they once were, this can put you at risk of fractures and breaks. You can also develop osteoporosis. Our bones are mainly made up of collagen, so proper collagen production and consumption is imperative.
#4: Could Relieve Joint Pain
Connective tissues in our joints are made up of collagen. If we have decreased collagen intake and production, pain, inflammation and arthritis can occur. A collagen supplement can provide the nutrients necessary to replenish the cartilage and keep your joints healthy. As we age, you can use collagen supplements to retain your mobility.
#5: Could Strengthen Hair and Nails
Collagen is used by our skin, hair and nails to keep everything strong, healthy and firm. Collagen can help reduce fine lines, prevent wrinkles and maintain proper hydration of the skin. You can also boost the growth of your hair and make your nails stronger with collagen supplements.
#6: Could Promote Heart Health
Collagen is present in the walls of our arteries. This is what gives them rigidity and structure. When not enough collagen is present, arteries can weaken and become more fragile. Supplementing collagen can boost heart health.
Other Health Benefits
In addition to the health benefits that I’ve listed above, there are some other benefits of collagen supplements that you might not be aware of.
- Collagen supplementation can help to repair a leaky gut. It’s an incredibly important part of maintaining a healthy gut lining. A leaky gut can cause skin issues, food intolerances, fatigue, gas and bloating.
- Collagen also boosts liver function. Our liver is incredibly important when it comes to our body’s ability to detox and cleanse itself.
Is It Good To Take Collagen Every Day?
For optimal results, collagen should be taken on a daily basis. It’s likely that your diet doesn’t change too much from one day to the next. If you’re not getting enough collagen from your diet, you should be supplementing regularly. It is recommended that you take approximately ten grams of collagen each day to see results.
Side Effects and Dangers of Taking Collagen Supplements
While collagen supplements are generally very safe when taken as directed, there is a handful of people that will experience and adverse reaction to these products. Some things to watch out for include:
Bad Taste in Your Mouth
A lot of store-bought collagen supplements are made using marine or bovine sources. If you were to take collagen without mixing it into anything, this could result in a bad taste or odor that you don’t find pleasant. To combat this, you can mix your collagen powder into a smoothie or beverage.
High Calcium Blood Levels
Hypercalcemia can occur when you’re taking collagen supplements. If you have too much calcium in your body, this can result in bone pain, arrhythmias and constipation. This typically occurs in collagen supplements that come from shark sources, so you may want to avoid these types of products. You should also speak with your doctor if you’re concerned with raising your calcium levels too high.
You can have an allergic reaction to a collagen supplement if you’re allergic to the product that it was sourced from. You can also experience allergy hypersensitivity when taking collagen. Watch out for common signs of an allergic reaction, such as:
- Itchy throat
- Trouble breathing
- Itching in your mouth
How Long To See Results?
You’ll need to consume collagen on a regular basis for about three to four weeks before you notice any major changes in how you look and feel. Of course, there is a lot going on inside of your body before that point. The first benefits you may take note of include less joint pain, increased mobility and clearer skin. After taking collagen twelve weeks or more, you’ll see more dramatic results.
Alternatives to Collagen
Collagen simply might not be something you’re interested in because of where it’s sourced or the side effects that it can cause. That doesn’t mean you can use other supplements to achieve the same results. If you’re looking to improve the quality of your skin, hair, nails, joints, bones and circulatory system, these are some of the supplements that I recommend.
We talked a little bit about the need for vitamin C for production of collagen. If you boost your vitamin C levels, you may find that your body is able to produce more collagen naturally. You’ll also notice that vitamin C supplements can keep your skin clear, help your immune system function more efficiently and control inflammation in your joints.
Ginseng is a plant root that can decrease enzymes in the body that decrease collagen breakdown. It can also increase collagen production in the body.
Aloe vera contains a sterol compound that boosts the production of type 1 and type 3 collagen. It can also decrease the breakdown of collagen in the body. We all know about the potent skin benefits associated with aloe vera as well.
The Bottom Line: Should You Consider Taking a Collagen Supplement?
The reasons why a person is contemplating taking a collagen supplement will vary, but generally this supplement benefits joint health, skin health and the heart. If you’re interested in boosting collagen production because you don’t think you’re ingesting or producing enough, researching some different product types will be beneficial.
Make sure you’re choosing a product that comes from a very clean and safe collagen source. Follow the directions carefully and maintain a regular regimen in order to see results in as short an amount of time as possible.
Tips for Success from the Nutritionist
Ready to purchase a collagen supplement to fill in nutritional gaps and boost your health? Here are some of my tips for choosing the best collagen supplement possible.
Stick to a Simple Supplement
The main ingredient in the product should be collagen. There may be other ingredients added, but make sure that you know what they are. Stay away from artificial ingredients and additives.
Choose Hydrolyzed Collagen
Hydrolyzed collagen peptides are much smaller when it comes to their molecular size. This means that they can be absorbed more easily by the body. You’ll see a better production of collagen with a hydrolyzed product and better results overall.
Know Where Your Collagen Comes From
Your dietary preferences may determine what kind of collagen supplement you want to purchase. Bovine and marine sources are the two most common collagen supplement types. If you’re looking for a vegan method of boosting collagen production, the alternatives that I talked about earlier are safer options that won't require you to consume any animal by-products.
Spend Enough Time Doing Research
With so many collagen products being sold on the market right now, it’s going to take some time for you to figure out what you want to purchase. Don’t feel like you have to rush in order to make a decision quickly. Investigate different types of products, how they’re manufactured, what they’re made out of and the reputability of the company you’re thinking about buying from.