Collagen is a substance formed by combining amino acids (from our food) into fibers, which become the main component of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, and skin (1). With keratin and elastin, it is responsible for skin strength and elasticity, joint and ligament maintenance, and other functions (2).
Its primary function is to provide structural integrity and strength for our body (3). Sadly, the amount of collagen we produce decreases over time, which is why we start to get wrinkles, poor nail growth, and other health changes as we age.
Collagen forms part of our vascular system’s basement membrane, which essentially acts as a backbone for our blood-transporting system (4). Several types of collagen are essential for aortic and capillary functions, and lack of it can undoubtedly contribute to various cardiovascular problems.
The best-known application is in our skin!
While collagen has various effects and functions, skin health is the number one application of collagen and related supplements (5). In the end, we humans are vain creatures, and the light and age-related damage to our skin has created a niche market for hydrating, boosting, and skin-rejuvenating products.
Some disorders related to abnormal growth and lack of collagen
Collagen vascular diseases are autoimmune disorders that occur when our immune system attacks collagen and other connective tissues (8). An example of this is systemic scleroderma when abnormal collagen growth results in swelling, spider veins, joint pain, and may cause kidney disease and heart failure in severe cases.
Even Rheumatoid Arthritis is connected to our collagen and other joint connective tissue constituents. In this disorder, our bodies’ immune cells attack the membrane around joints (it can also affect the heart, lungs, and eyes), causing inflammation (9).
Typically produced by myofibroblasts in the intestine, it can become dysregulated (the myofibroblasts make too much or too little collagen), resulting in an inflamed bowel wall (10). The symptoms of this condition are similar to irritable bowel disease and other digestive problems.
Type V collagen over-expression has been shown in patients with cancer, inflammation, atherosclerosis, skin/lung/kidney fibrosis, and liver disease (11). It has many unrecognized effects on our body because it provides the strength and support required by many organs and transport systems.
When It is over- or under-expressed, health problems are diverse and range in severity, symptoms, and effect. It even impacts our vocal cords because it contributes to the viscoelasticity of our vocal tissues (12).
Available therapies for collagen-related health problems
Some of these amazing new technologies include bioartificial tendons, artificial scaffolding, and other synthetic substitutions (13). Biomedical scientists have been developing materials that mimic human tissues, often made from plants, animal materials, or other natural sources (13). These flexible replacements are still under development.
So, here’s how to get your daily dose.
Initially, our ancestors would’ve eaten ligament-filled foods like oxtail, rabbit, neck, ribs, and whole fish (yes, including the eyes and bones). This provides a significantly larger amount of collagen than our current diet, which consists of pure, ligament-free meats or no meat at all. If you’re vegetarian, foods like Jell-O that are high in gelatin might be a suitable solution for you.
High-quality bone broth (usually not the store-bought cheapest varieties, mostly salt, and color, but broth from boiling bones for several hours) is a great collagen source. However, for vegans, it can be trickier. Some “Collagen-Boosting Vegan Foods” exist (these prompt our body to make more collagen), but no vegan sources of collagen have been found. Some supplements can be taken in powders to boost your collagen, but many of these are not vegan (14).
You can take collagen at any time of day!
While medical professionals and patients alike have reported different times working better for collagen absorption, a “best time” doesn’t seem to exist. It depends on your body cycle and what works best for you. Powdered supplement swirled into your coffee or smoothie, a steak for supper or hearty fish lunch all serve up a good dose of collagen, and no way is the best way.
Particularly if you are vegan, it’s essential to make sure you’re eating collagen-boosting foods to ensure optimal health! But, you can take it in any form any time of day. Just listen to your body, and find the best time and sources for you, and enjoy healthy skin and feeling better, without those expensive drug store pills and creams.
You might be interested in “When is the Best Time to Take probiotics?”