Collagen vs. glutathione: Which works better for gut health?

Skin products typically contain collagen and glutathione to give you a glowing, youthful appearance. While having perfect skin is great, these two have a more essential role in your body other than making you look good. 

Though it may not be apparent when you buy supplements in the local market since its marketing focuses on skin enhancement, collagen and glutathione can also greatly improve your overall gut health, particularly your digestive functions and gut problems. Collagen and glutathione have their unique and healthy contribution to your gut health – the thing is, which one works better?

The difference between collagen and glutathione

To know whether collagen or glutathione works better, let’s start understanding each separately. First, collagen is a type of protein in your body that gives you 30 percent of your overall protein.

Generally, collagen helps in structuring your cells and tissues and can be found in connective tissue, skin, tendons, bones and cartilage. It has around 28 known types, where Type I collagen makes up 90 percent of your body’s collagen.

Additionally, collagen primarily consists of 19 amino acids, including glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Some sources of collagen are animal flesh, such as meat and fish, plant foods, and supplements. 

Moreover, our own body can actually produce collagen by itself. However, there are several factors that affect collagen production, such as stress, smoking, sun exposure, excess alcohol and lack of sleep and exercise. As you age, your body’s capacity to produce collagen decreases, which also affects collagen production [1]. 

Next, glutathione. Similar to collagen, glutathione consists of amino acids, but they are only three non-essential ones, such as cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid, that serve as building blocks for proteins. Additionally, glutamic acid can turn into glutamate, which aids in transferring information to your nervous system. 

A reduction or oxidation of glutathione can occur in every cell in the body. Having a balance of reduced and oxidised glutathione can protect you from oxidative stress. In fact, you can tell that your cell is healthy when they contain 100 times more reduced glutathione than oxidised [2]. 

Which one works better for gut health?

Collagen and glutathione have their own health benefits for your gut. The answer to the question of which one works better among them ultimately depends on the specific function you want to improve in your gut health. 

Collagen works better in aiding the digestion of food particles and nutrient absorption. Its presence in your gut can help you digest food without problems.

Collagen from foods and supplements can also help in your natural collagen production, which can benefit your overall health. Another aspect where collagen works better is healing leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Through collagen amino acids, your leaky gut can be restored, and it can also improve your gut wall integrity. Collagen can also help in promoting a healthy weight. 

Glutathione is a natural antioxidant glutathione commonly referred to as GSH. 
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On the other hand, glutathione works better in reducing cell damage if you have liver disease. Production of glutathione inside cells may help the liver protects itself from harmful oxidative reactions. Glutathione can also improve insulin sensitivity, especially for those with diabetes.

As diabetes stems from your eating habits, it is essential to have high levels of glutathione to decrease oxidative stress and insulin resistance. It can reduce further damage when you have ulcerative colitis by preventing cell damage. Additionally, glutathione helps in the detoxification of digestion and healing of the gut lining as well.

Collagen benefits for gut health

The presence of collagen is essential for your gut to function at its optimal level. There are several gut health benefits that you can get from consuming or producing collagen in your body. Some of these are:

With billions of people finding a way to retain their youthful look, collagen has become a top-selling supplement all around the world
Photograph: YuliaLisitsa/Shutterstock
  • Aid in digestion and nutrient absorption

Collagen can smoothly move your consumed food to your gastrointestinal tract as it assists with breaking down proteins and carbohydrates. It also aids in nutrient absorption and prevents you from being bloated. Collagen can promote healthy levels of stomach acid production, which can result in the removal of excess gastric juices that, over time, may lead to indigestion, ulcers and stomach pain.

  • Aids collagen synthesis 

Over time as you age, your capacity to produce natural collagen is reduced. However, your body must maintain enough amino acids that are required to build, store and synthesise collagen. Hence, taking foods that are rich in collagen or collagen supplements can aid collagen synthesis. 

  • Healing leaky gut syndrome and ​​irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

The leaky gut syndrome is a digestive problem where your small intestine’s lining is damaged, making your consumed and undigested food particles, waste products and even bacteria leak through your intestines into the bloodstream. 

Moreover, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic digestive problem where you may feel constant stomach cramps, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. These are two major gut problems that collagen can help you deal with. With collagen’s healthy amino acids, you can heal and improve your gut lining [3].

  • Boost amino acids needed for healthy gut function 

Collagen is made up of 19 amino acids, like arginine, cysteine and threonine, that can boost your intestinal tract’s immune functions. Glutamine can also reduce inflammation which can also be found in glutathione. Serine, proline and methionine from collagen, together with arginine and threonine, can all support intestinal mucosal healing.

  • Helps repair the intestinal lining

Collagen aids in healing, sealing and improving the integrity of the intestinal lining. Studies have shown that collagen can speed up the process of healing and repairing your gut lining. It’s a key component to repairing and healing the stomach lining. 

  • Promotes healthy weight 

With collagen’s amino acids, you can improve your muscle mass and may also help in increasing your metabolism. Glycine, which is found in collagen, can help build muscle by converting glucose into energy. 

Glutathione benefits for gut health 

Glutathione has impactful benefits for those suffering from specific gut problems. The following are some of these:

Glutathione serves many purposes in the body and is recognised as one of the most potent antioxidants.
Photograph: Yury1964/Shutterstock
  • Reduces cell damage in liver disease

Detoxification and metabolism are the primary functions of the liver, and oxidative stress brought by harmful substances can cause damage to it. With glutathione present inside the liver’s cells, it can protect itself from harmful oxidative reactions. 

  • Improves insulin sensitivity

When the levels of sugar in the blood are high, you may experience oxidative stress or, worse, insulin deficiency or resistance. Research shows that low levels of glutathione can lead to increased oxidative stress and insulin resistance. Hence, glutathione can help people with diabetes improve their insulin sensitivity. 

  • Reducing ulcerative colitis damage

Oxidative stress is one major factor causing inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis. When you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, your antioxidant production is lowered.

Glutathione is an essential antioxidant that is part of the therapeutic process by preventing cell damage. Hence, having enough glutathione levels can enhance cell function in inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis. It prevents further cell damage by protecting against the harmful effects of oxidative stress.

  • Detoxification

Detoxification is important for you to have a healthy gut, especially for those with autoimmune conditions. People with gut and autoimmune issues may have difficulty in detoxification because the pathways are blocked by some genetics and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). Having enough glutathione in your gut can support the detoxification pathways so that you can eliminate toxins and other harmful substances in your body. 

  • Healthy inflammatory responses

Another benefit of glutathione in your gut is it can actually block inflammatory cytokines from forming. As a result, your body can efficiently heal your gut issues and reverse your autoimmunity.

  • Strengthens the gut lining

Similar to collagen, glutathione can also help improve and strengthen your gut lining. The gut lining has a crucial role in protecting your body from harmful toxins, bacteria and particles from digestion that can leak into your bloodstream. Having adequate glutathione contributes to the healing and regeneration of cells [4]. 

Is it safe to take collagen and glutathione together?

If you are thinking of why not just take them together? Well, that can be a good idea.

Generally, it is safe to take collagen and glutathione together at the same time [5]. There are no studies proving that there are fatal health consequences or harmful side effects that may occur.

In fact, the majority of supplements of collagen or glutathione have each other as an ingredient. These two are even more impactful to you when combined as they complement each other. 


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