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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. Now you might be thinking, “Ok, big deal…” Ya, exactly – it is a big deal! That is no small feat! Those are the speedy and effective results that collagen crazed celebrities pay big bucks for at the plastic surgeon’s office!

too much collagen
The definition of a collagen crazed celebrity.

How did I do it? Well, I assure you it wasn’t botox (I can’t stand needles) and I didn’t do any special DIY cellulite coffee scrubs either (although, I’m not opposed to them, they just weren’t part of the protocol).

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

what is collagen

Collagen for skin, collagen for hair, collagen, collagen everywhere!

In the skincare and beauty industry the major collagen benefits touted are:

  • Promoting skin anti-aging
  • Improving skin elasticity
  • Reducing skin roughness and cellulite

I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how you were first exposed to the word.

Collagen is naturally found in bone broth, but is heavily marketed and sold in many different forms including liquid, capsule and powder supplements. 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. Not just any protein, but 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
  • Skin
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments

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… collagen isn’t just one thing:
“There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80 – 90 percent of the collagen in the body consists of types I, II, and III.” –Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix

That’s right! The human body is a complex system with many different collagens. And, each unique collagen type does a heck of 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 (which is what we make!)
  • 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 much so that it can be stretched without tearing!)
  • “Gram for gram…stronger than steel.” (Molecular Cell Biology)
  • 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
  • Shown (by this study) to decrease joint inflammation in patients with severe, active rheumatoid arthritis

Type III collagen is:

  • Highest in beef bone broth (which is what we make!)
  • Found in connective tissues such as the skin, lung, uterus, intestine, and vascular system (Collagen Type III)
  • 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, organic 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_gelatin

Both collagen and gelatin support all of our connective tissues (hair, skin, nails, bones, etc…) holding true to The Doctrine of Signatures, an ancient European philosophy which states that foods resembling a part of the body can be used to treat issues for that same part of the body. Collagen comes from connective tissues which are the very thing it helps to rebuild and strengthen when it’s consumed. Neat, eh?

Without it, we wouldn’t be able to run, jump, tumble, climb, or swing and would basically be immobile. #collagenisyourbestfriend

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 (think stacked, interwoven, wood Jenga-blocks used to build a Jenga-tower).

collagen jenga

Collagen is a single type of protein, usually 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. BUT, when you get sick or find yourself constantly under stress (which, let’s face it, is a chronic issue in this country) 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 provide 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.

Final Thoughts

So, after reading about all the things that collagen can do for your body, is it any wonder why I was seeing such big changes (in particular a decrease in cellulite and an increase in skin elasticity and firmness) in as little as 7 Days (which was literally only one week into the detox…)?! Nope.

“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.


Delfina bio picDelfina is the spirited health coach, recipe developer and alternative health blogger behind Code to Wellness. You can drop her a line on Facebook and get lots of #eatmovethink inspiration on Instagram + Pinterest. Reach out! She’s super friendly and wants to hear from you!

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