Especially if you follow a Keto Diet, you’ve likely heard or seen ads raving about how important collagen is for your health. They boast it will solve many issues: gut problems, nail skin and hair growth, bone health, and more. It’s true, collagen has many benefits and is important, but what is it really used for and who really needs it?
Do YOU really need it?
First of all, let’s get clear on what Collagen is and isn’t.
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body. It’s made up of a few specific amino acids: specifically glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. Collagen supplements are typically derived from bovine (cow) connective tissue or fish skin.
Collagen helps make your skin more elastic and promotes hair and nail growth, which is why it is used in many beauty products.
(I’ve used a collagen supplement myself and seen my nails grow at extraordinary rates!)
Studies show that collagen has additional benefits like preventing bone loss, relieving joint pain, and helping to restore the gut lining.
The human body makes its own collagen, so normally we do not need to supplement if we have a healthy nutrient-dense diet. If you’re younger than 30, have a healthy gut, and no issues with nutrient malabsorption, I wouldn’t worry about taking collagen.
Supplementation of collagen can become more important as we age. Studies show that our production of collagen goes down as we grow older and drops 50% by the time we reach 60. This is why our skin starts to sag and bones get more brittle.
Studies have shown collagen supplementation can help with Arthritis. It’s used to boost cellular repair and even stimulate the growth of new joints.
If you have a gut disease (like leaky gut), Collagen might be something you ask your doctor about. However, as far as I’ve read, the studies on collagen’s effect on issues like leaky gut have not been done on humans or sufficiently proven. I would direct my attention more towards what you should REMOVE from your diet, rather than what you should ADD to your diet when it comes to digestive disorders.
Though Collagen is one of the most prolific proteins in the human body, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something you need to supplement.
It’s useful as you grow older, especially for those suffering from Arthritis, and if you want to use it to improve the glow and elasticity of your hair and skin, by all means- go for it!
One thing Collagen is NOT is a good source of dietary protein. (Dietary protein is the kind that keeps you full longer and balances your blood sugar levels.) Although you might see 10 or 12 grams of protein written on the back of your bottle of collagen, don’t be fooled.
Collagen is NOT the kind of protein you need to build muscle!
While collagen has a few important amino acids, it is low in the kind we cannot make- known as the “essential” amino acids. So, I’d mark it a complete zero count for protein macros on your nutrition tracking app.
You may be wondering, why does a protein source need to contain all essential amino acids?
Amino acids are what make up proteins. They’re vital for many of our body’s processes. Although amino acids are most recognized as being necessary for muscle growth, they are much more important than that. They support many of your body’s main functions, like hormone regulation, digestion, and immune function (which should get your attention at a time when the Corona Virus is a concern).
There are 20 of them that we need. However, just 9 of those are the ones our body cannot produce on its own. These are the ones we need to supplement. They are known as the “essential” amino acids. That’s why ensuring you get all 9 on a daily basis is important for your health, especially if you want to tone up and build strength!
To answer the question of whether we should be supplement with collagen is to be answered on an individual basis. But, in general, if you’re healthy and under 60 years old, I would say no.
Collagen is a protein that our body naturally produces, so you should have enough unless you have an underlying problem.
Even then, if you are under 60 years old and you’re suffering from digestive issues, inflammation, and/or brittle skin and nails, the first place I would look is your daily diet, not supplementation.
Most of the time, these kinds of issues are better solved by removing toxic foods from our diet and adding in more nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods.
Supplementation cannot make up for a poor diet!
Many individuals have specific food sensitivities and allergies created by even healthy foods, or even mold in their homes.
These issues won’t be solved by supplementation, but by finding the cause of the issues and removing them from one’s diet or living space.
I’ve worked with clients who are looking for the next best supplement to solve their problems only to find that nothing changed until they removed inflammatory foods like fried foods and sugars from their diet, or even a food that they thought was healthy but caused them problems.
If you feel you’re relatively healthy and considering supplementation, I would always start with your diet before adding extras. Make sure you are getting adequate COMPLETE proteins, lots of fruits and vegetables, enough water, and lowering your intake of sugars and processed foods.
If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough of each of these things or want further support with your nutrition, you can connect with one of our coaches here. We’ll be happy to help you create the health you want!
Stay healthy and strong and keep learning!
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