If you have been to health food and grocery stores at all in recent years, you've likely seen a host of products on the market containing collagen. Collagen is a protein that is abundant in our bodies---primarily found in hair and skin, it also helps to retain youthful cell structures and boost blood clotting mechanisms. But one of the sad things of getting older means a loss of this very helpful protein. So, what is collagen to begin with, and how can we maintain our health and vitality by boosting our natural production of it? Read on to discover more about collagen, its benefits, and what we can do to regain it as we age.
Collagen, The Super-Protein
Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body; it accounts for almost 30 percent of protein composition in all of our tissues. It is a primary building block of bone, skin, tendons, muscles, and other body parts including blood vessels, skin, and teeth. Even the corneas of your eyes contain collagen, so maintaining healthy levels and reducing its loss during the aging process are essential for good health and vitality. Collagen is like a glue that holds your entire body together.
What is Collagen's Role in the Body?
Researchers have found at least sixteen different types of collagen present in the body; these are classified into four types of proteins. Each of these types has a specific function and purpose:
Type 1: Over 90 percent of your body's collagen is classified as type 1; it provides the densely packed, fibrous structure needed for muscles, tendons, bones, connective tissue, skin, and teeth.
Type2: Type 2 collagen is not as densely packed; it provides the structure for connective tissue found in between joints; this type of collagen supports our movement and flexibility.
Type 3: Type 3 collagen supports the building and structure of muscles, organs, and arteries running throughout the body.
Type 4: Type 4 assists the body with filtration systems and is most abundant in the skin.
As we age, unfortunately, we produce less and less collagen. The most visible sign that this is taking place is sagging and wrinkling skin; collagen structures break down due to wear and tear, oxidative processes, and stress. Maintaining adequate collagen levels in the body is essential to reap its benefits.
People have long known about the ability of collagen to protect skin health and promote the growth of healthy, strong hair, but recent studies continue to shed light on additional benefits to be had from boosting collagen levels. Some of these benefits include:
- Assisting with muscle building and protecting lean body mass
- Helping to regulate blood pressure
- Protecting and in some cases rebuilding bone density
- Helping to prevent cancer
- Protecting heart health
- Protecting and restoring joint health
With all of these systems and structures being protected by collagen, it is necessary to prevent its loss to protect health.
What Happens to Collagen Levels As We Age?
Around the age of thirty, our bodies become less able to produce collagen on their own; this process of reduction accelerates greatly through our forties and beyond, and lower levels of collagen affect nearly every system in the body.
First becoming noticeable on the hair and skin, your body gives you signs that "things just aren't what they used to be". Your lean body mass and bone density change, joint mobility, and flexibility are affected, and you may find yourself feeling fatigued and stiff as a result of all of these changes. To maintain good health as we age, it is necessary to replenish our stores and perhaps stimulate the body once more to begin producing all-important collagen. How do we do that?
Gain your Collagen Back
In his blog "Can You Rebuild Collagen", Dr. Richard Maloney states that collagen levels can be improved by supplementing properly and avoiding behaviors that can lead to its breakdown. Let's take a look at some of the things you can proactively do to boost your collagen levels, as well as to slow down the aging process. Follow these tips and tricks to gain some of that collagen back:
1. Consider hyaluronic acid - Hyaluronic acid is a compound that is most commonly used on the skin to boost collagen production. It is also present in foods that contain amino acids. Eating more root vegetables, beans, and products containing soy can all increase hyaluronic acid levels in the body; when used in combination with skin care products containing this powerful compound, you'll see anti-aging effects soon after incorporating this into your diet and care routine.
2. Increase your vitamin C intake - Vitamin C is an underused and under-appreciated element in protecting and preserving the body. Increased levels of vitamin C can boost immunity, protect the skin from free radical damage, and increase the body's own collagen production. You can either find a powerful C supplement to take daily or get more from the following foods:
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
3. Eat and drink foods rich in antioxidants - Foods that are rich in antioxidants help to protect the body from free radical damage and help to facilitate all types of cellular renewal. Some powerhouse antioxidant foods to include both for health and for their delicious flavor include green tea, berries, cinnamon, mulberry extract, and licorice root. Just think about the flavor combinations you can experiment with for antioxidant power!
4. Take a good supplement - Many excellent products exist on the market that boosts collagen production. From protein powders to bone broth, you need only to ask at your local health food store for a collagen-rich supplement, and you'll be given several options for ideal supplements that you can easily incorporate into your health regimen. When taken consistently, these supplements help to replenish lost collagen as well as to restore the body's own production of it.
5. Take preventative measures to reduce oxidative damage - Taking preventative measures to stop collagen loss is relatively simple. Follow a healthy diet, refrain from excessively drinking alcohol and smoking, and living a healthy lifestyle are just a few of the ways that you can inspire your body to function with youth and vitality in mind.
When considering supplementation to boost collagen production, do some research, and know your sources before you purchase. You'll get what you pay for, so make sure any supplement you choose comes from a reputable company, and that it performs as promised.
Knowledge is the key to prevention; your collagen levels are a reflection of your youth and vitality, and protecting them is essential to being able to create good health. Following these simple tips will help you to supplement and live in such a way that you hang on to your collagen reserves, helping you to feel and look younger, longer. Here's to your best health!