You may have heard the word ‘collagen’ before. As a common ingredient in anti-aging skin care products, it truly seems to be everywhere these days. Plus, now there are even drinks and supplements designed to increase the amount of collagen in your body. Since your body has more collagen protein than any other protein, it quite literally holds your body together.
As we age, collagen production slows down. This causing well-known aging signs such as crow’s feet and laugh lines. But it can also affect the inner workings of your body, such as your bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. As a protein, collagen provides strength, structure, and flexibility for your body. So when collagen breaks down and slows in production, it can cause a number of health problems.
What Is Collagen?
The collagen protein is hard, insoluble, and highly fibrous. In the body, collagen molecules are packed tight and form long and thin fibrils. And as a protein, these chains of molecules contain different amino acids – the building blocks of protein. Collagen is the most common protein in mammals, and it makes up 1/3 of all protein in the human body. Basically, collagen is very abundant and has a lot of responsibility.
Where Is Collagen Found?
Collagen is found almost everywhere in the body, with high concentrations in the skin, bones, and connective tissues. For the most part, collagen provides structural support for your cells to reproduce and receive nourishment. In the dermis layer of the skin, collagen gives structure to your skin cells. And this allows space for the skin cells to renew and grow. When you don’t have enough collagen in the skin, wrinkles, cracks, and creases form. As having limited collagen also limited the amount of moisture your skin can retain. It is also abundant surrounding certain delicate organs as structural protection.
What Damages Collagen?
There are numerous things that can damage your natural collagen production. And most of them are directly related to how youthful your skin looks. Some of the reasons are due to medical conditions, while others depend on your lifestyle. These include:
- Diet – refined sugars, processed foods, and a general western diet can make your skin look and feel older. These foods dehydrate the skin and cause collagen to become dry and brittle.
- Sun Exposure – by now, we all know that UV radiation is bad for your skin. But did you know that it can break down collagen at an increased rate? With enough damage, you can even develop solar scars.
- Tobacco Use – smoking in particular can damage the collagen and elastin production centers. Plus, nicotine shrinks the blood vessels which reduces nutrient and oxygen delivery to the skin.
How To Use Collagen Supplementation
Wound dressing – Applying collagen topically can stimulate new skin cells, while also promoting healing and the growth of new tissue.
Skin Fillers – You can receive injections of collagen to remove various types of aging signs on the skin. The collagen in the fillers is typically from a human or bovine source. And they can cause severe allergic reactions.
Anti-Aging Creams – Many skin care products contain collagen molecules. However, they are not all created equally. If you want to start a skin care regimen to stop and reverse signs of aging, choose a product with whole collagen molecules.
How To Increase Collagen Production Naturally
You can use your diet to achieve better looking skin, or to even heal wounds faster. If you know that your collagen production is slow, try adding these nutrients to your diet:
- Vitamin A – Found in both animal and plant based foods. Dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, fish carrots, and squash all contain high levels of this vitamin.
- Proline – Foods that are high in this nutrient include egg whites, cheese, meat, and soy.
- Anthocyanidins – This nutrient gives blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and raspberries their dark colors.
- Vitamin C – Oranges, peppers, broccoli, and most citrus fruits contain this vitamin.
- Copper – Safe tap water, shellfish, nuts, and red meat should contain high levels of this metal.