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What’s the big deal over Collagen?

What's the big deal about collagen?

... and why should we care?

Over recent years, interest in collagen has skyrocketed!  Which is no surprise when, as we age our collagen levels start to drop we start to feel and see the signs of aging in our skin, joints and hair!

So what's the big deal with collagen and why should we care?

Collagen is an abundant protein found within your bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage and the skin, making up 30% of your bodies protein.

Over 20 different types of collagen molecules exist!  The five main types of collagen are:

Type 1: Used to structure our skin, bones, tendons and ligaments … (this type makes up to 90% of your body’s total collagen)

Type 2: Found in cartilage to provide joint support.

Type 3: Found in muscles, arteries and organs.

Type 4: Found in the layers of the skin

Type 5: Found in the cornea of your eyes, some layers of skin, hair and tissue of the placenta.

Collagen production within the body...

Proteins are made out of building blocks, namely the 20 plus different amino acids, which are connected through peptide bonds that link the differing amino acids together to form longer protein chains.    There are nine amino acids that are classed as essential, meaning that we need to consume them through our diet as the body cannot naturally ‘manufacture’ them.

Collagen is formed from three main amino acids: proline, glycine and hydroxyproline, which when synthesised, create fibrous polypeptide alpha chains in a strong triple helix shape.  The body also needs adequate amounts of vitamin C, zinc, copper and manganese to help make the triple helix and stabilise it.

Oestrogen is also key to the production of collagen and elastin, as we age produce less oestrogen due to the stages of menopause.  (Find out more on Menopause and your skin here!)

Collagen also goes through a cyclical process, with a half-life within our bodies of several month’s before dying off; so it’s important that we support our bodies through this process by eating enough protein to create the amino acids needed for our bodies to produce fresh collagen, especially as we age.

Why collagen matters...

In the skin, collagen helps fibroblasts to form in your dermis which helps new skin cells to grow and gives structure, strength and elasticity to our skin.

Environmental exposures, such as excessive UV light can damage collagen fibres reducing their thickness and strength, leading to wrinkles on the skin’s surface. 

In bones, ligaments and muscles a lack of collagen can cause weakness in the joints and cartilage damage.

Collagen production drops most quickly due to excess sun exposure, smoking, excess alcohol, lack of sleep and lack of exercise and a poor diet.

How to boost your collagen supplies...

1) Nutrition:

Produce that has in itself got connective tissue, such as meat or fish, naturally contain collagen, so by consuming meat based products you are by default eating collagen!   In addition both animal and plant based produce do contain the raw materials your body needs to produce it’s our own collagen, such as: eggs, dairy, legumes and soy.

As mentioned above, collagen production also requires an ample supply of other compounds too including:

Zinc found in:  Shellfish, legumes, meats, nuts, seeds, whole grains

Vitamin C from: Citrus fruits, berries, leafy green, bell peppers and tomatoes.

Copper found in: Oysters, sunflower seeds, 85% dark chocolate, chickpeas, avocado and wholewheat pasta

2) Supplements!

So although natural collagen production is very definitely achievable through a healthy and balanced diet, there are a plethora of collagen supplements on the market.  

Obviously, it’s advisable to check with a health practitioner or the supplement representative before adding a supplement to your diet to ensure it is safe for you and going to give you the desired results.

They are recent studies (and more emerging!) that show ingesting collagen regularly for at least a minimum of 3 months, either through collagen peptides or collagen hydrolysate (which are tiny pieces of collagen that get absorbed into the blood stream and carried to the rest of the body) can improve the quality of the skin.

By taking the collagen in this form, the body is tricked into thinking some damage has been done and it needs to be repaired.  Thus,  collagen production is stimulated!   For example: the fibroblasts in the dermis layer of your skin are kickstarted to produce more collagen to repair the perceived damage.

These supplements are often (not always!) from bovine or marine sources, so come from the bones and connective tissues found in animals. However, studies show that marine sources tend to be less inflammatory and more easily absorbed into the body.  

But what about vegan options?  For the most part, vegan options contain the important nutrients to help the body produce collagen, so rather than giving the body extra collagen, the supplement is providing the key ingredients the body needs to make more collagen naturally!  These include but not limited to:

Aloe vera – increases collagen production and accelerates skin healing

Biotin – otherwise known as vitamin H, is a B vitamin that can be found in bananas, seeds and nuts

Vitamin C – needed for the maintenance and protection of collagen

Zinc – to help repair cells and protect collagen

3) SPF!

Wearing a good quality SPF all year round will help to protect the skin from losing excessive amounts of collagen due to UV exposure.  The more exposure you have, the more the skin and it’s collagen are damaged.

4) Enough sleep daily!

Several studies of prolonged sleep deprivation suggest that collagen production is hindered when we don’t get enough sleep.  This is because sleep deprivation lowers the bodies immune response, which in turn seems to lower the production of collagen.   It’s during our resting state, that our skin repairs, rebuilds and collagen forms.

5) Avoid Smoking

Studies have shown that collagen production is impaired by tobacco as it increases the production of ‘matirx metalloproteinases’ (MMP) which degrades collagen and other dermal connective tissues, resulting in pre-mature aging to the skin.

6) Reduce stress

When we are stressed our bodies enter into the ‘fight or flight’ mode and our stress hormones such as cortisol are released into our blood stream.  Recent studies have shown that cortisol not only hinders the production of collagen, but also has an adverse affect on the enzymes needed to form all the differing types of collagens needed by the body.  

Relaxation breathing is one of the quickest and simplest ways to soothe the nervous system, lower cortisol and protect your body.  Click here if you’d like to learn more!

7) Exercise!

Studies show that by increasing circulation through exercise, nutrients can reach the skin cells more readily and thus provides the perfect conditions for collagen to be produced. 

In the face, this can be very simply achieved through facial exercises, acupressure and massage!

If you’ve not tried Face Yoga before, come along to Face Yoga Friday in the Qetello Community Facebook group, or sign up to the Face Yoga Friday newsletter to receive your free video in your inbox every Friday!

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