[A note from Emily: I've written extensively before about gelatin as a superfood for beauty, and in this post my fellow acupuncturist, Leslie Murphy, takes it a step further with the health benefits of collagen supplements – one of my favorite ways to reap the benefits of gelatin.]
I try to make every dollar stretch as far as it can so when it comes to buying a supplement, I want it to be beneficial, effective and simply all-around SUPER. And if a supplement turns out to have multiple benefits for improving my health—well, that is a slam dunk.
I initially started taking a collagen supplement to heal my abdominal connective tissue which had been overly stretched due to two pregnancies and weakened from diastasis recti. Yet only after I started taking it did I realize what a truly SUPER supplement it was.
Yes, collagen can help with smoother skin, thicker hair and stronger nails, but I was amazed by the health benefits of collagen beyond a pretty face.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a protein found in our bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin and cartilage. Essentially, it’s the building blocks that keep us in one piece! But, it naturally declines with age (as do most things) leaving us vulnerable to achy joints, sore muscles, wrinkly skin and brittle bones.
If you haven’t heard of collagen you probably know of its counterpart – gelatin. Basically they are the same thing just in slightly different form.
Gelatin is collagen that has been cooked. It’s why bone broth congeals after it’s been in the refrigerator and what gives jello its jiggle. Collagen hydrolysate or collagen peptides (two names it’s commonly called) is collagen that has been broken down to a smaller molecular weight, making it more bio-available and easier to digest.
Below are six surprising health benefits of collagen that have earned it a permanent place in my kitchen.
#1 – Repairs joints and connective tissue
If you’ve ever nursed a repetitive strain injury like me, you know that it takes time to heal those injured joints, sore muscles and overworked tendons and ligaments. Now, rather than just relying on rest and time, I can actually heal my injury from the inside – putting collagen to work to repair the integrity of these tissues.
So weekend warriors and CrossFit gurus listen up. Got sore joints? Been aching after your workouts? Try collagen!
Less pain means you’re less likely to reach for anti-inflammatory pain killers, which is a big win in my book.
#2 – Improves sleep
I've shared my tips about how to fall asleep faster, because sleep is one commodity that I know I cannot live without. So the fact that collagen can also improve sleep quality is enough to shoot this supplement to superstar status.
Not only does it help me fall asleep AND sleep deeper, it does so without making me feel groggy the next day like many sleep medications or even melatonin. (source)
#3 – Calms anxiety
The secret behind collagen’s anti-anxiety superpower is the itty-bitty amino acid, glycine. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, a chemical in the brain that stops the fight or flight response, calms the brain and balances mood. (source)
Anti-anxiety medications work the same way, targeting the body’s inhibitory neurotransmitters for the same effect, so why not try this natural boost?
#4 – Strengthens bones
As a woman, the health of my bones creeps higher on my radar screen as my years in age increase (ahem!). I know that calcium supplements are not for me but keeping my bones strong is a priority.
Since bones are actually 90% collagen (what?!), my daily dose of collagen is actually helping to prevent potential bone loss. In fact, studies have shown collagen “to support bone health through increased bone and mineral density, increased bone size, less brittle bones, and the stimulation of osteoblast activity.” (source)
#5 – Reduces appetite, naturally
While breastfeeding I had to find ways to keep my energy level up which often meant eating more protein. I am not a fan of meal replacement drinks as they can be high in sugar, additives and unhealthy fillers. Adding a serving of collagen to my daily diet however gives me over 10g of added healthy protein and a much needed energy boost.
For those looking to manage their weight, or even shed a few pounds, collagen is again a great option over meal replacement drinks or other protein powders. Whey protein powder has shown to increase blood sugar levels similar to those after eating white bread, only making your insulin level spike and hunger surge—not great for that weight loss strategy! (source) Soy isolate protein is no better as an option as it comes with its own dangers. (source)
One research study however showed collagen to be 40% more satiating than other protein sources (whey, casein and soy). In fact, those who took a collagen supplement at breakfast actually ate 20% less food at lunch. (source)
#6 – Heals leaky gut
Leaky gut syndrome is a growing problem that leaves one feeling bloated, tired and moody among other troubles. These unwanted symptoms occur because toxins, undigested food and harmful bacteria leak through the intestinal wall creating an autoimmune reaction.
Collagen and gelatin act like secret agents, working to re-establish the integrity of the intestinal lining to heal leaky gut. Drinking homemade bone broth is the go-to, first line of defense suggested to those suffering from this condition. If bone broth is not your thing, or sends your kids running in the opposite direction, then using a collagen supplement is a great, easy alternative.
How to take a collagen supplement
Collagen supplements come in powder form which is tasteless and odorless. Because it does not require a heated liquid medium like gelatin, it is an extremely easy supplement to take. Simply mix it into any liquid (hot or cold) or sprinkle it onto any food.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Mix it into your smoothie, giving it an added protein boost
- Add it to your morning lemon water or tea
- Mix it into your morning oatmeal
- Add it to your bone broth for an extra boost of collagen goodness
For even more ideas on how to incorporate collagen and gelatin into your diet, I highly recommend The Gelatin Secret, by Sylvie McCracken which is chock full of knowledge and must-try recipes.
What to look for in a collagen supplement
Because most people limit themselves to the muscle meat of animals, instead of eating all the animal parts available to us (organs, feet, skin, etc), we no longer get a steady supply of collagen through our diet. And sorry vegetarians, you’re not getting it either as collagen is only found in animals.
Unless you are drinking bone broth every day you need to look elsewhere to supplement this vital protein to benefit from its vast array of superpowers.
The most important thing when selecting a collagen supplement is its source. Avoid collagen supplements that have any additives, contaminants or unwanted fillers and those sourced from grain-fed cows treated with antibiotics. I only recommend collagen sourced from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows to ensure the highest nutrient density like this one, which ounce for ounce is the most affordable, well-sourced collagen on the market.
There are collagen supplements sourced from fish or shellfish but these have shown to increase your calcium to unsafe levels. Collagen may also create a histamine reaction so it’s best avoided for those with a known histamine intolerance.
And if you think you’ll just grab these health benefits of collagen while using a collagen cream, think again. The collagen in those beauty creams is not bioavailable. The molecules are too big to be absorbed through the skin, so basically they are a big waste.
Ready to get started with this SUPER supplement?
In addition to FREE shipping on an order over $99, my favorite supplement supplier – Perfect Supplements – is also offering a special coupon code ONLY for Holistic Squid readers… 10% off any order when you enter the coupon code SQUIDXO at checkout!
Click here to order collagen with these special savings!
Leslie Murphy is a licensed acupuncturist who is passionate about helping others live healthier, stress less and become free of pain. Follow her at Balanced Health Acupuncture.