The Power of Collagen
If you've noticed changes in your skin's elasticity, experienced joint discomfort, or want to maintain your youthful glow, understanding how to support collagen production is the first step towards revitalizing your overall health and appearance.
Collagen isn’t just for your skin–it plays a vital role in the health of your hair, nails, teeth, hormones, and even your metabolism! As we get older, our collagen levels naturally decrease. But the good news is we can slow down this process by giving our bodies the right fuel.
While you may not realize it, collagen is an incredibly abundant protein in our bodies–making up around 30% of your total protein content. It’s found throughout our system, taking on many different roles and locations.
This protein is like the glue that holds our body together, providing support and strength to various tissues. However, as we age, the body's natural collagen production process begins to slow down, leading to collagen loss, and paving the way for various signs of aging to surface.
What Causes Collagen Loss?
Have you ever wondered why collagen loss occurs? Well, there are a few crucial factors contributing to the decline.
Our Body's Processes
Some of us are predisposed to produce less collagen. Specific gene variants can make this process harder from the start. Fluctuations in hormone levels, especially during menopause, can lead to collagen loss and noticeable changes in skin texture.
Changes Over Time
As we age, our bodies undergo natural changes, and one of the most significant impacts is on collagen production. Starting in our mid-20s, the body produces around 1% less collagen each year, leading to a noticeable difference in skin firmness and joint function over time.
Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices
Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet high in sugar and processed foods can contribute to collagen loss. These harmful lifestyle choices generate oxidative stress, which interferes with collagen synthesis and accelerates its degradation. And chronic stress releases cortisol, a hormone that can negatively impact collagen production and hasten its breakdown.
Air pollution isn’t just about the visible particles floating around; it’s the invisible particulate matter—nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons, and ozone that can trigger oxidative damage and collagen loss. Environmental pollutants and free radicals are abundant in our surroundings. They latch onto collagen molecules, causing them to weaken and break down more easily.
Do Collagen Supplements Actually Work?
Collagen supplements usually come in two forms: pills or powder. But keep in mind–it can’t be directly absorbed in its complete form. It must be broken down into smaller amino acids to be effectively utilized. That’s why collagen supplements aren’t pure collagen but a mix of components already broken down into a form our bodies can absorb. While they won’t cause harm, there’s no guarantee they’ll work, either.
One review of 19 studies with 1,125 participants found that those who took collagen supplements saw an improvement in the firmness, suppleness, and moisture content of the skin. However, there’s a catch: most of these trials used supplements with other ingredients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So, we can’t give collagen all the credit. If you’re wondering whether a collagen formula is worth adding to your routine, first consider vitamins and minerals proven to support collagen production.
6 Nutrients That Support Collagen Production Naturally
By giving our bodies the right tools, we can effectively slow down the decline and improve our overall health.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin that supports protein production, immune health, and neurotransmitter function. This vitamin works behind the scenes, maintaining your bones, blood vessels, muscle, and cartilage. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to produce the collagen your body needs to move.
Vitamin C is the catalyst that kick-starts your body’s production by converting the amino acids proline and lysine into collagen. Vitamin C fights against free radicals that damage your skin’s collagen and speed up aging. So, not only does it boost production, but its antioxidant properties also protect the collagen you already have. And, Research has shown that taking vitamin C supplements does wonders for your skin.
Natural Food Sources: When giving your body a vitamin C boost, think of leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, mango, and bell peppers.
Choosing A Supplement: You can choose from capsules or opt for a powdered formula. The important thing is to make sure you have the bioavailable form, known as ascorbic acid. That way, you can be confident you’re getting everything you need.
2. Omega Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fats–important for your heart, brain, and metabolism function.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which prevent collagen degradation and preserve its elasticity. Omegas can tone down and regulate the body’s inflammatory response, which may alleviate joint conditions and cartilage loss. Low levels of a specific omega-3 fatty acid called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) have been associated with the development of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that impacts your joints, causing bone and cartilage damage. Since collagen is made up of amino acids, it makes sense that consuming omega-rich sources can supercharge its production.
Omega-6 fatty acids act as building blocks for collagen production, providing the necessary raw materials for forming new collagen fibers. Omega-6s maintain your skin’s moisture barrier by locking in hydration and preventing moisture loss. By keeping the skin well-hydrated, they promote a smoother, more radiant complexion.
Natural Food Sources: Omega 3: Lean meats, wild-caught salmon, eggs, flaxseeds, nuts, and legumes are all great choices to include. Omega 6: Incorporate dietary sources of omega-6s like hemp seeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, evening primrose oil, avocado, and safflower oil into your meals
Choosing A Supplement: While omega-3 fatty acids are required for health, our bodies can’t make them on their own. When searching for the perfect source, consider a 100% plant-based formula that includes everything you need: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, DHA, EPA, and vitamins A and E.
3. Vitamin A
A specific type of vitamin A, known as retinoids, can work wonders for your skin. These powerhouses are often found in anti-aging beauty products, and for good reason. They help protect your collagen by preventing its breakdown and promoting the production of new collagen proteins. Vitamin A may stimulate angiogenesis, the creation of new blood vessels. This means improved nutrient delivery and circulation to your tissues. And when nutrients flow correctly, your skin reaps even more benefits.
Vitamin A plays a role in fighting off harmful Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). MMPs break down the proteins in your extracellular matrix (ECM), which gives shape and structure to all the tissues and organs in your body.
Natural Food Sources: Leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, red bell pepper, cantaloupe, mango, beef liver, fish oils, milk, eggs
Choosing A Supplement: To make the most of vitamin A, pair it with a fat to activate it, like Omega-3s. These nutrients enhance its absorption and utilization in the body, helping your cells use vitamin A more effectively.
Zinc is a trace mineral that plays a vital role in protein production, DNA synthesis, and immune function. Zinc acts as a cofactor, meaning that it steps in to “activate'' certain proteins needed for collagen production.
This nutrient supports over 100 different enzymes, including one special enzyme called collagenase. Collagenase helps the body break down old or damaged tissues to make room for new, healthy collagen. Zinc promotes cell growth, builds proteins, and aids tissue repair.
Natural Food Sources: You can find zinc in a variety of foods, including beans, nuts, whole grains, legumes, hemp seeds, spinach, and broccoli.
Choosing A Supplement: Choose a well-balanced product sourced from a pure, stabilized form of zinc lactate.
Copper is a mineral in your body that supports various functions, including energy production, iron metabolism, and connective tissue production. Copper has the power to activate enzymes known as lysyl oxidases, which are responsible for collagen maturation and the growth of your tissue fibers.
A 2015 study discovered copper peptides may reduce pesky fine lines and wrinkles by boosting collagen proteins. Copper stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans, molecules responsible for maintaining moisture and hydration levels in our skin.
Natural Food Sources: Seeds, nuts, mushrooms, leafy greens, whole grains, and chocolate are copper-rich sources you can add to your grocery list.
Choosing A Supplement: Taking zinc or copper alone without considering the other can throw off your body’s delicate balance. So, when you’re considering adding these minerals to your routine, choosing a product that offers both in the correct ratio is essential.
Manganese is a trace mineral involved in bone formation, immunity, and the metabolism of amino acids, cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrates. Wound healing is a complex process that relies on increased collagen production.
Manganese plays a role by activating an enzyme called prolidase. This enzyme supplies the amino acid proline for collagen formation in our skin cells. Manganese is the preferred cofactor of enzymes called glycosyltransferases. These enzymes help make proteoglycans, which are critical for building strong cartilage and bones.
Natural Food Sources: Some of the best dietary sources of manganese include whole grains, pecans, legumes, brown rice, green tea, and many spices, such as black pepper.
Choosing A Supplement:This trace mineral is usually found combined within a multi-mineral formula. Look for one that is highly absorbed.
Frequently Asked Questions: FAQs
What are the signs of low collagen?
Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but some signs may indicate a need for added support. If you’ve noticed a decline in skin elasticity, increased joint stiffness, thinning hair, or brittle nails, it’s worth exploring collagen-boosting options.
Is it possible to restore collagen?
Yes! While we can’t turn back the clock entirely, we can take steps to replenish levels. There are various ways to support collagen production, such as incorporating collagen-rich foods, using skincare products containing beneficial ingredients, and taking high-quality nutrient supplements.
How long does it take to build collagen?
The timeframe for building collagen can vary from person to person. Factors like age, lifestyle choices, and the specific body area can all play a role. But, on average, it may take around four to twelve weeks of consistent action to notice visible results.
Staying strong, healthy, and happy
Understanding the factors contributing to collagen loss can help you take proactive steps to boost its production. By picking the right supplements and including nutrient-rich foods in your daily routine, you can fuel your body with the essential building blocks it needs.