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Our collagen levels decline as we age but we can increase them naturally
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body! It’s in your hair, your teeth, eyes, skin, and bones. Though unfortunately, it declines as you age, promoting wrinkles, cellulite, joint issues and weak bones.
Collagen is essential for a lot of things like your gut health and healing, detoxification, bone health, sleep quality, skin, hair and youthful good looks.
Collagen is long-chain amino acid made up of many proteins that are important for different functions. In particular, the amino acid glycine is one of the best and is found in bone broth. Glutamine is also great for the gut lining because it helps to heal the enterocytes in the GI tract to improve absorption.
Glycine is also essential for phase two of detoxification, assisting the liver and other eliminatory organs to remove waste from the body and help our cells run more efficiently. It’s also really good at modulating cortisol at night so you can get better quality and duration of sleep.
It’s also essential for bone health. Rarely known is that 50% of our bones are made from protein and the majority of which is collagen.
What it’s better known for is it’s contribution to maintaining and creating tight, youthful and glowing skin. The greater level of collagen we have, the greater your skin integrity. Once we hit age 30 we start to lose 1-2% of collagen in the skin per year with further decline as we get older.
This reduced ability to break down collagen as we age is the reason we need to supplement, eat foods that promote collagen production and avoid triggers that drain its supply and production.
Collagen reducing factors
There are a number of factors to avoid when it comes to optimising your collagen production and maintenance of existing collagen.
Excess sun exposure is one. Depending on your skin complexion, you will need between 10-30 minutes of sun exposure per day in summer to gain optimal health benefits from the sun. Someone with fair skin will only need 10 minutes, someone with very dark skin may need up to 30 minutes. Excess sun exposure in summer would definitely be direct exposure of more than 30 minutes.
Other things to avoid are the more obvious ones such as smoking, sugar (refined sugars and carbohydrates), chemicals (pesticides, additives, MSG etc.), and transfats.
Collagen producing foods
Whole foods such as carrot, sweet potato, rock melon and oranges are packed full ofvitamin Awhich restores and regenerates damaged collagen to renew the skin, bones, and the gut.
Berries and Bulbs
Berries are rich in antioxidants that reduce the breakdown of collagen, and phytochemicalsthat keep the collagen fibers strong.
Bulbs such as onions and garlic have Vitamin B and sulfur, which are critical components of creating collagen.
Greens and Acidic Fruits
Greens such as kale and spinach are high in vitamin C, which stabilises the messenger enzymes that break down collagen and speeds up the healing mechanism of our cells.
Other foods that are high in vitamin C are citrus fruits -- lemons, grapefruits, and limes -- but also acidic fruits such as kiwis and strawberries, which also help the proteins lysine and proline covert to collagen.
Red wholefoods contain large quantities of an antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene protects the skin from free radical damage and helps to boost collagen levels. So eat more foods such as tomatoes, chillis, capsicums, and beetroots.
As collagen is a protein, there are some essential amino acids needed to make it. Easily digestible proteins such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and foods particularly high in omega-3s such as walnuts, flaxseeds or fish.
Supplementing with collagen
As mentioned, our ability to produce enough collagen to maintain healthy bones, joints, skin and stave off the signs of aging is reduced as we age. It’s also even more difficult to make when we have gut issues, or when you find collagen-producing foods difficult to tolerate. This is where supplementation comes in. To give your gut the healing boost it needs while amping up then collagen production for the rest of your body.
Supplemental forms, including bone broth, are hydrolyzed and in their peptide form. This makes it easier to absorb. Also, some collagen products contain zinc - a natural building block of collagen -- and vitamin C which is especially good for skin healing, repair, and firmness.