What Is Collagen Good For? A Complete Guide
“I’m noticing changes in the cellulite on the back and side of my thighs. They look sooo much smoother!”
I penned those words in my journal on Day 7 of our bone broth detox.
Think about that for a second. In just 7 days of following the detox, I noticed a significant difference in the way my skin appeared. How did I do it? It was all bone broth. More specifically, it was all the collagen found in bone broth.
I first heard about collagen via Mark’s Daily Apple about four years ago via one of his “Dear Mark” posts. At that time, I was really struggling with some serious digestive and skin issues and was looking for natural sources of gut healing foods and supplements. Thank goodness for that post which eventually led me down the path of daily bone broth consumption which helped heal all of those issues in addition to smoothing out my cellulite.
If you’ve been floating around the paleo and ancestral health communities, then you’re likely no stranger to this super protein. But, have you ever thought about what is collagen good for?
I wager that if you read all the way to the end of this post, not only will you find out, you’ll learn at least 5 new things about the benefits of collagen.
Collagen is a Buzzword & For Good Reason
Your body’s collagen is essential from your bone health and muscle mass to skin, nails, and hair.
In the skincare and beauty industry the major collagen benefits touted are:
- Anti-aging effects for your skin
- Improving skin elasticity
- Reducing skin roughness and cellulite
Collagen is naturally found in bone broth, but is heavily marketed and sold in many different forms including liquid, capsule and powder supplements. You may see it with terms such as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate. You can also find it in the form of skin firming creams and serums.
In order to understand just why it’s become the darling of the cosmetic industry and more recently, the gut-healing communities, we’ve got to take a couple steps backwards and break it all down.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein, the most abundant protein found in the human body. It’s found in our connective tissues and in animal connective tissues, such as:
- Animal bones
- Animal hides
- Fish skins
- Fish scales
You name the connective tissue and I promise you, you’ll find collagen inside.
What is Collagen Good For?
In order to answer that question, you first need to know that collagen isn’t just one thing – there are 28 known varieties of collagen to date. Most collagen falls under type I, II, or III, and type I alone accounts for over 90% of human collagen.
The human body is a complex system with many different collagens. And, each unique collagen type does a lot. The structures they form have one common purpose – to fortify the body’s connective tissues. That being said, there are some unique qualities that set types I, II, and III apart.
Type I collagen is:
- Found in highest concentrations in beef bone broth.
- The richest and most robust type of the three (listed here) found in the human body.
- Found in tendons (ligaments, bone, skin and organs) which connect muscles to bone, where colossal tensile strength is required to withstand enormous forces so that it can be stretched without tearing.
- Gram for gram…stronger than steel.
- A big player in wound healing.
- Key in bolstering bone formation.
Type II collagen is:
- Highest in chicken and turkey bone broth.
- The primary collagen in cartilage.
- Principal for immune system and digestive support especially in repairing and sealing the gut lining (leaky gut).
Type III collagen is:
- Highest in beef bone broth.
- Found in connective tissues such as the skin, lung, uterus, intestine, and vascular system.
- What gives skin its resilience and firmness.
- What forms our blood vessels and cardiovascular tissues.
When you cook these connective tissues (as we do in our 100% grass-fed bone broth) the collagen transforms into gelatin. Collagen is the raw form and gelatin is the cooked form. If we didn’t put it through the cooking process, you’d have to gnaw on a bowl of raw ligaments and bones for dinner. That’s a heck of a lot less appetizing than a nourishing mug of bone broth.
Collagen comes from connective tissues which are the very thing it helps to rebuild and strengthen when it’s consumed. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to run, jump, tumble, climb, or swing and would basically be immobile.
What is Collagen Made Of?
We’ve dug beneath the surface, but let’s dig a bit deeper and talk about collagen’s amino acid profile.
Amino acids are are the building blocks of proteins. Collagen is a type of protein called a structural protein.
Collagen’s amino acid profile is special because of proline, glycine, glutamine, and arginine – four amino acids with impeccable inflammation reducing and healing properties. From a technical standpoint, they’re considered to be “conditionally essential.” That means that the body does produce them, but only in small amounts and only under the right conditions. However, when you get sick or find yourself constantly under stress your body will stop producing them. So, it’s incredibly important to get the from dietary sources like bone broth.
In essence, the more bone broth you consume, the less likely you’ll find yourself susceptible to the serious issues that can arise when those four amino acids (key to collagen formation) get depleted.
Proline, glycine, glutamine, and arginine are the most heralded amino acids found in collagen. They also provide a plethora of powerful skin, hair, and gut-health reinforcing properties which you can read all about in this post.
Here’s a simple breakdown of collagen’s structure when it’s been cooked:
- COLLAGEN (is a type of protein which transforms into gelatin when it’s cooked)
- GELATIN (is the cooked form of collagen)
- PROTEIN (is the macronutrient umbrella under which collagen and gelatin fall)
- AMINO ACIDS (are the building blocks of proteins)
Make sense? Cool.
My immediate takeaway from learning about this lovely little protein was that collagen production is extremely important to the health of my skin, connective tissues, and gut health, so I knew that if I could supplement my collagen levels, it would be a win. Fortunately, I found bone broth right at the start of my search, and it ended up being the perfect collagen supplement for my lifestyle. There are other options out there, like protein powders, collagen powders, or collagen peptides, but bone broth is very easy to integrate into any diet.
“When you drink bone broth, you’ll mainline the building blocks of collagen straight to your cells, ‘reinflating’ them…You’ll build strong, resilient skin cell walls…and you’ll reverse inflammation with anti-inflammatory foods. Plus, you’ll load your body with nutrients that protect against photoaging…you can have beautiful skin at any age. It all happens with food.” – Dr. Kellyann Petrucci
Clearly, it held true for me and my skin health, as well as, for the arthritic patients I mentioned above (in the section about type II collagen) and their joint health. Collagen production might become lacking with age or your particular genetic profile, so keep in mind that collagen helps with a wide variety of parts of your body, from issues like osteoarthritis to skin strength. Get some bone broth into that diet!