Collagen: The Secret to Aging Gracefully

Summary: Collagen, the body’s most abundant protein, is crucial for maintaining skin, joint, and overall health. Incorporating collagen-rich foods and supplements can support vitality and combat signs of aging, making it a key ingredient in the quest for graceful aging.



I’ve always been pretty athletic and love any excuse to get my heart pumping, especially outdoors. A few years ago, I was hitting the gorgeous hills around my hometown. That runner’s high in the beautiful countryside was everything to me. My happy place, for sure. But then, after a couple of runs, my left knee decided to rebel in the worst way. It started giving out randomly, almost sending me crashing to the ground during totally mundane tasks.

The pain was so intense at times that I was worried I’d have to eventually give up working out altogether. Well, that was not an option for me, so instead of giving up, I was determined to find a natural way to get my body back into peak condition. That is when I started researching different whole foods, supplements, and anything else that could help.

One thing kept popping up over and over—collagen. I wondered whether increasing my levels could actually help strengthen my poor, overworked knees. Still, I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect much at first. Because I ate a solid diet and took other vitamins, I didn’t think my body was lacking anything, not realizing age alone could be depleting my collagen production.  

I researched various dietary options to naturally boost collagen production. I looked for foods rich in collagen like bone broth and those that stimulate the natural production of collagen like foods packed with vitamin C.

As I was exploring the different types of collagen peptides and supplements, I found this super delicious collagen-infused matcha drink. I figured I could introduce collagen to my diet in this manner and gauge how my body would react to it before supplementing with a collagen peptide.  

Well, incorporating this into my routine was a game-changer. It felt like a revelation. I don’t know if it was the placebo effect1 or what, but after about a month, my knee pain was gone, and my joints didn’t ache anymore. I also had a ton of energy. This is when I knew it was time to incorporate the collagen peptide.

Doing this felt like I’d finally given my body the key ingredient it was craving. I could exercise again without that looming dread of paying for it later with soreness and stiffness. I could truly feel the difference. I have never really experienced anything that worked so fast.

It all made sense, though, because I learned that collagen plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of cartilage, the connective tissue that cushions joints. Even though everything I read said there was not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of increasing collagen for leg or knee pain relief, I am here to say that I am living proof it helped with mine. I think with time and more research they may find that it does help in more areas than we know.

In addition to the pain relief, I noticed a serious glow-up in other areas, too. My skin looked more plump and radiant, and my hair seemed to grow super-fast, feel thicker, and look shinier and healthier. I just had this overall sense of vitality that made me feel like I’d discovered the fountain of youth or something! I knew it wasn’t just the placebo effect because people would randomly comment about my skin or ask me what hair products I used.

Seriously, collagen has been a total game-changer for helping me feel good about getting older. I have so much confidence, and I am even happy to share my age with anyone who asks. I want everyone to see that getting older is a beautiful thing! I honestly love that I am able to stay active and feel so energetic.

I’m not a beauty influencer or anything—I’m just a woman sharing her experience and spreading the word about this potent anti-aging protein! Of course, do your research, talk to your naturopath or doctor, and figure out if collagen is right for your body and needs; if you’re looking for a way to help combat the signs of aging naturally and support an active lifestyle, it may just be the missing link you’ve been searching for.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up 30% of the total protein content2. That’s about a third of the total protein compounds keeping everything firm, smooth, and healthy. It quite literally provides the building blocks for all your connective tissues—your skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and even your teeth!

Collagen gives your connective tissues their strength and structural integrity while still allowing them to stretch and move without tearing.

While preserving every last bit of our natural collagen stores gets tough as we get older, learning how to boost and replenish our levels can work wonders for combating signs of aging from the inside out.

Why does collagen decrease as you get older?

As we age, our natural collagen production starts to decline, typically beginning in our late 20s3. This is a natural part of the aging process. However, numerous external factors can quicken this decline, including:

  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Chronic Stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

When collagen levels start to drop, the body’s tissues and structures begin to weaken and degrade. This manifests in various ways:

  • Skin loses elasticity and develops wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging
  • Joints become stiffer and more prone to pain and osteoarthritis
  • Bones become more fragile and prone to fractures
  • Muscles and tendons lose strength and flexibility
  • Hair and nails become weaker and more brittle

Even though the body is constantly working to repair and replenish its collagen stores, this process becomes less efficient as we age. By the time we reach our 40s, the collagen deficit becomes more pronounced, and the visible signs of collagen loss become evident.

Sufficient collagen levels are vital for preserving the health and function of our tissues and organs. The body demands a constant supply of collagen to keep up with the ongoing repair and replacement needs. Addressing collagen deficiency through dietary changes, supplements, and lifestyle modifications can help lessen the effects of aging and support our overall health and well-being.

What are the Types of Collagen?

Research has identified at least 29 different types of collagen4; in this post, we are going to focus on types I, II, III, IV, and V5.

Just like the diverse personalities in your friend group, each type of collagen has a unique role to play in your body’s well-being. While they may seem similar at first glance, these collagen varieties are like sisters—each with their own specialties.

The Overachiever

Let’s start with the leading lady, Type I Collagen. She’s the ultimate multi-tasker, making up a whopping 90% of your body’s collagen. From keeping your skin taut and radiant to fortifying your bones and teeth, Type I is the true overachiever of the bunch. If you’re looking to maintain that youthful glow and combat the signs of aging, she’s the one you want on your side.

The Athlete

Next up is Type II Collagen, the athletic sister. She’s all about keeping your joints happy and healthy, providing the cushioning and flexibility they need to perform at their best. Whether you’re an avid runner, a weekend warrior, or just someone who enjoys an occasional dance party in their living room, Type II is the MVP when it comes to joint support.

The Unsung Hero

Type III Collagen may seem like the quiet one, but she plays a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity of your muscles, blood vessels, and organs. Think of her as the unsung hero, working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep your body functioning at its best.

The Glue

Last but not least, Types IV and V—the glue that holds it all together. These varieties, which are found in your skin, corneas, hair, and even the placenta, are like responsible siblings, ensuring that your collagen fibrils are properly assembled and organized, keeping your body’s structure intact and strong.

Understanding the unique personalities and roles of each collagen type can help you tailor your approach to address specific health concerns. Whether you’re looking to boost your skin’s elasticity, ease joint discomfort, or simply maintain overall well-being, knowing which collagen sister to call upon can make all the difference.

Sources of Collagen

Collagen can be found in various foods, making it super easy to incorporate into your everyday meals and snacks. Here are some excellent sources of collagen to consider:

  • Bone Broth: Rich in collagen, bone broth is made by simmering animal bones (beef, chicken, or fish) for an extended period, allowing the collagen and other nutrients to be released into the flavorful liquid. You can also buy pre-made liquid or powdered bone broth at just about any grocery store these days.
  • Animal Skin and Connective Tissues: Collagen is abundant in animal skin, tendons, and connective tissues. Be sure to incorporate chicken skin, pork rinds, or gelatin (derived from animal collagen) into your meals.
  • Fish and Shellfish: Certain types of fish and shellfish, such as sardines, salmon, and shellfish, are excellent sources of collagen.
  • Egg Whites: Egg whites contain small amounts of collagen, making them a great addition to your collagen-boosting diet. They are also extremely versatile, so incorporating them into various meals is a breeze.
  • Citrus Fruits: While not a direct source of collagen, citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges are rich in vitamin C, which supports collagen production in the body.
  • Leafy Greens: Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are packed with nutrients that support collagen synthesis, such as vitamin C, copper, and zinc.
  • Carrots: They are rich in beta-carotene which gets converted to vitamin A during digestion. Vitamin A slows the breakdown of collagen. Vitamin A and beta-carotene may help reduce the risk of skin aging by improving elasticity, hydration, texture, wrinkles, and age spots. Carrots also contain vitamin C, which is essential for collagen production.

Incorporating these collagen-rich foods into your diet can be effortless and enjoyable. Here are some tips to make it a seamless part of your routine:

  • Start your day with a warm mug of bone broth or collagen-infused coffee or tea.
  • Add chicken skin or pork rinds to salads or use them as a crunchy topping for soups and stews.
  • Incorporate egg whites into your breakfast omelets or smoothies. Make a yummy egg white wrap. Quick and simple!
  • Enjoy a refreshing citrus salad or squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over your meals. Making salad dressing with citrus is so easy, too!
  • Sauté leafy greens with garlic and olive oil as a side dish, or add them to your favorite protein dishes.
  • Experiment with gelatin-based desserts like homemade gummies or delicious panna cotta.

Exploring Non-Animal Sources of Collagen: What Are the Options?

Since collagen’s amino acids are unique, finding alternatives is tricky. Vegan collagen, made from genetically modified yeast and bacteria that mimic collagen, is in the works. Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits, veggies, and plant-based proteins might help your body produce more collagen.

The Benefits of Supplementing with Collagen Peptides

Collagen peptides6, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, are derived from various sources, such as bovine (cow), marine (fish), or poultry. These peptides are formed when the long chains of collagen proteins are broken down into shorter chains or individual amino acids, making them easier for the body to absorb and utilize.

Studies7 have shown promising results regarding the effectiveness of collagen peptides and supplements:

  • Youthful, radiant skin: Collagen is a crucial component of the skin’s structure, providing elasticity and hydration. Research suggests that supplementing with collagen peptides can combat visible signs of aging, leaving you with a radiant, glowing appearance that emits confidence and vitality.
  • Stronger, suppler joints: Collagen is a key component in cushioning and lubricating your joints, allowing for smoother, more fluid movement. By replenishing your body’s collagen reserves, you can experience reduced joint discomfort, improved flexibility, and the freedom to pursue your active lifestyle without limitations.
  • Healthier bones and muscles: Collagen plays a crucial role in supporting the strength and integrity of your bones and muscles. By maintaining optimal collagen levels, you can enjoy improved bone density, reduced risk of osteoporosis, and enhanced muscle recovery, particularly in postmenopausal women. Collagen peptides contain specific amino acids that may support muscle recovery and growth, especially when combined with exercise and a balanced diet.
  • Improved gut health: Collagen can help soothe and repair the lining of your digestive tract, promoting better nutrient absorption and reducing inflammation, which can lead to a host of digestive issues.
  • Thicker, stronger hair and nails: Collagen is a key building block for the proteins that make up your hair and nails, contributing to their strength, thickness, and overall health.

Keep in mind that collagen peptides should not be viewed as a magic solution but rather as a potential complement to a well-rounded, balanced diet and healthy, active lifestyle. By making informed choices and listening to your body’s needs, you can determine if collagen peptides and supplements are an effective addition to your self-care routine.

Practical Uses and Incorporation

Incorporating collagen into your daily routine can be effortless and enjoyable, making it easier to stick to a consistent regimen and experience the long-term benefits.

Here are some simple yet satisfying recipes and meal ideas to help you seamlessly integrate collagen into your lifestyle:

  • Collagen-Boosted Smoothies: Start your day with a power-packed smoothie by adding a scoop of unflavored collagen powder to your favorite blend of fruits, veggies, and plant-based milk or yogurt. This simple addition can provide a collagen boost without altering the taste.
  • Bone Broth Sipping Cup: Sip on a warm, comforting mug of homemade bone broth, a natural source of collagen derived from simmering animal bones. Add your favorite herbs and spices for extra flavor and nutrition.
  • Collagen-Boosted Baked Goods: Enhance your baked goods with a collagen boost by incorporating collagen powder into your favorite recipes for muffins, pancakes, or even homemade energy bars.
  • Collagen Gummies: For a fun and tasty treat, try making your own collagen-infused gummies using unflavored collagen powder, fruit juice, and a gelling agent like gelatin or agar-agar.

Remember, consistency is key when it comes to seeing results from collagen supplementation. While individual experiences may vary, many people (including me) report noticeable improvements in skin elasticity, joint mobility, and overall vitality after several weeks or months of consistent collagen intake.

Start small and focus on sustainable changes that fit seamlessly into your lifestyle. Over time, these small efforts will compound, and you’ll be well on your way to a well-nourished, radiant, and vibrant you.

Considerations

When it comes to incorporating collagen into your self-care routine, it’s important to note that while many studies show promising results, the effectiveness of collagen peptides and supplements can vary from person to person. Please remember that you are unique, and what works for you may have different effects on someone else.

Our bodies are complex and can respond differently to various supplements and treatments. It’s essential to approach this journey with empathy and an open mind, both for yourself and for others. Factors such as age, overall health, and individual metabolism can influence how the body responds to collagen peptides or supplements.

Before embarking on any new regimen, including collagen, it’s highly recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a licensed nutritionist, naturopath, or primary care physician. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific health history, dietary needs, and any existing conditions or medications you may be taking. This step ensures that you’re making an informed decision and minimizing potential risks or adverse reactions.

Additionally, it’s crucial to listen to your body’s signals and respect its wisdom. While collagen supplements are generally considered safe for most people, some may experience side effects like digestive discomfort, allergic reactions, or other adverse effects. If you notice any unusual symptoms or changes after incorporating collagen into your routine, don’t hesitate to discontinue use and seek medical advice.

Remember, your well-being should always be the top priority. Approach collagen supplementation with patience, moderation, and a willingness to adapt as needed. Every person’s journey toward optimal health and vitality is distinctive, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Embrace what works for you, and don’t hesitate to make adjustments or seek professional guidance when necessary.

By being mindful, listening to your body’s cues, doing your own research, and consulting with experts, you can navigate the world of collagen supplementation with confidence and peace of mind. This will ensure that your self-care journey is both enjoyable and beneficial for your overall well-being. The last thing you want to do is cause harm while you’re trying to feel better!

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Sources

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