Oral Collagen Hype or Hero? Part II

In this article I want to propose natural ways to boost collagen as a alternative to taking oral collagen supplements due to the fact there isn't enough conclusive evidence and products cannot truly be guaranteed to be clean. Unless the manufacturer is managing the animals that are being sacrificed for their collagen and there is testing and third party surveillance there can be no true guarantee of the purity of the product. 

In 2016, the FDA prohibited the use of some cow parts in dietary supplements to “address the potential risk” of the presence of BSE. (Human consumption of BSE-infected meat has been linked to neurological disorders.) The FDA exempted gelatin -- a key collagen source -- from the ban, “as long as it is manufactured using specified industry practices.”

Dietary supplements vary widely in quality and are generally not regulated very rigorously and this raises my concern about purity.

While there are some studies on oral collagen supplementation that show some promise in speeding up wound healing and providing some relief to swollen joints there isn’t enough clinical research to demonstrate overwhelming proof that oral supplements can slow down the degradation of collagen in the skin. 

Personally, there are too many factors involved in the manufacturing chain to trust that the end collagen product is going to be pure and efficacious. I prefer to rely on food. That is my personal choice. 

Thankfully, you don’t need to take collagen supplements to produce collagen because your body does this naturally using amino acids from whichever proteins you eat.

So, let’s look at how we lose collagen in order to understand what we can do to slow down the loss of it.

Our bodies are constantly producing collagen, however with age collagen production slows down. After 40 the rate of an enzyme (MMP) which degrades collagen is left unchecked because of the decline in the inhibitory enzymes that choke off MMP enzymes.

Circulation begins to slow down after about the age of 25. The decrease in circulation is caused by the gradual decrease in the production of nitric oxide.  By the time you hit menopause circulation to the skin slows down by 25%. Reduced circulation means less nutrients and oxygen are available to the Basal Cell layers of the epidermis. Blood flow is critical for cell turnover and for proper functions within the dermal (deep) layer of the skin where collagen and elastin levels are maintained. Slower circulation contributes to the thinning of the epidermis and this leads to greater water loss in the epidermis. To make matters worse once menopause sets in almost a third of collagen is lost within 5 years and collagen loss continues at the rate of 2% each year once your postmenopausal. 

Some of the aging that takes place can be attributed to estrogen. The decrease in estrogen levels cause the skin to produce fewer glycosaminoglycans which holds water within the skin layers. This causes the outer layer to become less efficient at holding water. Keep in mind circulation slows down with every passing year and this exacerbates the physiological issues caused by menopause. 

Glycosaminoglycans (GAG’s) are important because this polysaccharide is a water binding substance and together with water create a fluid that fills the space between collagen and elastin which is found in the dermal layer of the skin. This fluid forms the foundation of the skin and gives skin turgidity (bounce).  Glycosaminoglycans come in the form of hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, keratin sulfate, dermatan sulfate and heparin sulfate.

Clearly you can see that collagen production is being affected by all these internal processes and the best remedy is to increase circulation and eat a lot of foods that provide the support to the body to repair and rebuild collagen.

Before we look at how we build collagen let’s acknowledge the most damaging lifestyle habits you must make sure not to engage in if you want to help your body build collagen. 

1. Environmental Pollution - Pollution is a soup of free radicals that land on your skin and in your lungs and can diminish collagen production and reduce skin elasticity.

2. High Sugar Consumption - Sugar increases the rate of glycation which is known as advanced glycation end products. Glycation damages proteins when it crosslinks with sugar and weakens collagen making it dry and brittle. 

3. Sun Exposure -  UVA rays go right through the skin to the dermal layer where it breaks down elastin fibers . Collagen is also damaged and this contributes to wrinkle formation and a loss of firmness.

4. Smoking - Tobacco is one of the most sprayed agricultural plants and the chemicals used show up in cigarettes and cigars. These chemicals are inhaled with every puff and they seriously damage collagen and elastin. Nicotine also restricts the blood vessels decreasing oxygen and nutrients to the skin and nothing will age skin more than poor circulation. It's a double whammy.

It is much more difficult to support collagen repair and production if you are roasting in the sun, eating a high sugar diet, smoking and living in the midst of air pollution.  So, here is what I suggest for those interested in supporting collagen production naturally. Ditch the oral collagen supplement and incorporate the following suggestions into your life.  

1. Omega 3   - Go direct to the source of Omega 3 - ALGAE. Fish oil supplements are commonly taken and they are the worst form of Omega 3 in my opinion. First because fish oil is an animal fat and it goes rancid rather quickly. Once rancid it has an inflammatory effect. Second, fish don't produce Omega 3 they ingest it from algae. Algae is the source of Omega 3, so how and who came up with the idea to extract if from fish instead of the source is beyond my comprehension. So, I take algae-sourced omega 3. Take 2000mg in the morning and 2000 mg at night to keep it flowing constantly feeding the body. This will help to support collagen and healthy skin and brain function.

2. Chlorophyll - Take a chlorophyll supplement. Research shows that it stimulates collagen by increasing the precursor to collagen. Take 1500 mg in the morning and 1500 mg in the evening.

3. Green Vegetables  - Load your diet with raw and cooked spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula and other salad greens rich in antioxidant and nitric oxide boosting ingredients. An added bonue is that these vegetable are also rich in chlorophyll.  

4. Fresh Aloe Vera  - Studies show that extracted aloe sterols taken orally doubled the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid. Don’t bother with bottled aloe juice, it’s missing the live phytochemicals/enzymes that support collagen production. Aloe grows like a weed when in the right conditions. It grows indoors in pots on a window sill or in a garden. I have dozens of beautiful plants I grow in my garden and filet a leaf and add to a blended drink or blend and add to oatmeal. It would be ideal to add 1/3 of a cup to your diet every day or every other day. 

5. Vitamin C - Vitamin C is essential in collagen production. Take a supplement and eat foods rich in vitamin C to support the body’s production of hyaluronic acid and collagen Foods that are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, broccoli and green, leafy vegetables like cilantro

6. Amino Acids Glycine, Proline and Arginine  - Proline is converted into hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline in order to help form collagen. Collagen is formed by linking and winding together branches of amino acids, mostly glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine. Together these amino acids create longer collagen fibers that form tissue. Without these amino acids collagen cannot be created. Consume foods rich in the key amino acids. 

-Gelatin

-Legumes, tofu, peanuts, lentils, kidney beans, and peanut butter.

-Whole egg

-Seaweed

-Seafood

-Asparagus and cabbage

-Bone broth

7. Red light laser therapy   This low-level laser is non-invasive, safe and can improve skin elasticity and stimulate collage production. This works but has to be done for 30 minutes four times a week or more. If you’re not consistent it won’t add much in the way of stimulation. 

8. Physical Activity    Exercise Increases circulation and can help reduce visible signs of aging. Good blood flow translates to increased nourishment to the skin which protects collagen and maintains your skin, bones, muscles, and joints healthier for longer.

9. Nitric Oxide      Nitric oxide stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the major source of energy produced by your cells. When your cells get more oxygen and nutrients, this greatly enhances ATP, giving your skin the necessary energy to repair and rebuild. Robust blood flow delivers oxygenated blood rich in nutrients and hormones to every cell, tissue and organ in your body. The skin being the largest organ in the body benefits immensely. Good circulation slows down with age and this is the major cause of disfunction in the skin.  

Eating green vegetables will help increase nitric oxide but it isn’t enough. Considering by the age of 50 you’re producing about 55% of the amount produced at 20 a supplement is necessary to make up for a 45% deficit. Get on a high quality nitric oxide supplement.daily.

10. Nuts   Include nuts containing zinc and copper, both of which boost the body’s ability to create collagen. Cashews have the highest amount of zinc and copper.

11. Infrared Sauna      This is one of the healthiest and most pleasurable things you can do to stimulate collagen production. Infrared Sauna (IR) is made up of broad spectrum of near, mid, and far spectrum of infrared light. Each wavelength supports skin health in specific ways. The mid and far spectrum of infrared light penetrates deeply into the soft tissue of the body. This radiant heat penetrates the epidermis of the skin and when it makes contact with hemoglobin in the blood it triggers the body to produce nitric oxide. This increases circulation and a host of other beneficial biochemical responses as internal temperatures increase. 

The skin appears remodeled and plump with vibrant color. One session will have an immediate effect and take years off your face, although the effect is temporary. Regular IR sauna sessions will help to rebuild collagen, restoring it to a more youthful level over time. I recommend three, 40 minute sessions a week.

In Part 3 I will discuss how to build your collagen from a topical standpoint. The suggestions I have won’t be conventional. Stay tuned.