The ultimate guide to collagen and gut health

Did you know that collagen can help improve your gut health? Yes, collagen is not only for skin’s elasticity and joint pain management, as its widely-known benefits but it is also for nourishing your gut and preventing yourself from getting digestive issues.

It is true that you can have firmer, smoother and more youthful skin with collagen. At the same time, collagen as a protein in your body plays a vital role in numerous aspects affecting your overall health, especially your gut health. 

How does collagen work in your body?

Understanding collagen first can give you an idea about how it works in your body. Collagen is basically the most abundant protein found in your body. In fact, collagen is about 30 percent of proteins in your body. As a protein, collagen is primarily made up of amino acids, such as arginine, glycine, hydroxyproline and proline.

It has a fibre-like structure that makes your connective tissues healthy, strong and resilient. And of course, it aids connective tissues in their firmness, suppleness and continuous renewal of skin cells, leaving your skin looking younger. 

Naturally, collagen can be found in mammals’ flesh and connective tissues. As years go by, many kinds of research and studies prove that collagen is an excellent help for the body to become healthy, especially in the skin.

Collagen first appeared as a primary ingredient in skin creams and serums [1] and was eventually used in nourishing joints. Think of it as a “glue” that binds your body together. 

How does collagen work in your body?
Photograph: YuliaLisitsa/Shutterstock

Overall benefits of collagen to gut health

Collagen must be present enough to function in your gut at its optimal level.  Many factors apparently contribute to your gut health, and one of them is collagen. Some of the major benefits of collagen are as follows:

Aids in digestion and nutrient absorption

When you consume collagen, in whatever form, it goes to your digestive system, where it is surrounded by water and stomach acid. Collagen is considered a hydrophilic molecule, attracting water molecules and acidic molecules.

As it moves through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, collagen assists with breaking down proteins and carbohydrates. Therefore, collagen helps smoothly move your consumed food to your GI tract.  

Significantly, easy-to-absorb collagen supplements can help in the digestion of nutrients for your body as well. Collagen aids in nutrient absorption and prevents you from being bloated. 

Aids collagen synthesis 

The process of collagen synthesis takes place intracellularly and extracellularly in fibroblasts’ cells – these cells are specialised to primarily function in synthesising collagen and stroma. 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. 

Repairs your gut lining 

Two major benefits of collagen to your gut health are supporting your gut wall integrity and repairing your gut lining. In order to fulfill these two major functions (ensuring strong gut wall integrity and repairing gut lining) in your gut health, your body needs collagen synthesis.

Whenever there is damage in your gut, new muscle cells should be made. When this happens, your collagen production is in action to help generate new muscle cells to heal and repair the damages. 

In general, collagen plays a vital role in rebuilding and strengthening your digestive lining with its amino acids, particularly glycine and glutamine. Studies show collagen peptides can ameliorate gut barrier dysfunction and enhance tight junctions. 

Consuming a collagen supplement or foods rich in collagen that is easy to digest can give your body enough amino acids. One of the amino acids from collagen is glycine which can aid in producing the antioxidant glutathione – this antioxidant helps your body protect cells.

The acquired amino acids from collagen may then be distributed to your gut areas that need repair. It can start the healing and repairing process to damage parts of your intestinal lining, causing GI distress [2].

Heals leaky gut syndrome and ​​irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

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

Some of the evident symptoms of leaky gut syndrome are chronic diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, headaches, confusion, difficulty concentrating, acne, eczema, joint pain and widespread inflammation. On the other hand, irritable bowel syndrome or IBS refers to a chronic digestive problem where you may feel constant stomach cramps, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.

Generally, IBS is often a lifelong condition. However, its symptoms may change over the years. It can also be managed with the right practices and medications. 

As collagen contains healthy amino acids, it can significantly help heal and improve your leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These are two major gut problems that collagen can help you deal with. 

Moreover, researchers found out that those with lower collagen levels in their bodies have high tendencies to experience digestive imbalances. People who struggle with inflammatory bowel diseases have less collagen in their intestinal lining. 

In addition, collagen is composed of two essential amino acids that can heal and repair your gut lining so that your leaky gut and IBS can be treated. These are glutamine and glycine, which is 30 percent of collagen. Therefore, collagen can help restore the lining of your stomach and intestines and further improve your absorption of nutrients [3].  

Boosts amino acids needed for healthy gut function 

Collagen is made up of many amino acids, not only the ones stated above. It also has arginine, cysteine and threonine, which can boost your intestinal tract’s immune functions. And, of course, glutamine can also reduce inflammation.

Furthermore, some other collagen’s amino acid compositions are serine, proline and methionine. Together with arginine and threonine, they can all support intestinal mucosal healing.

In total, there are 19 amino acids that can be found in collagen, and each has its specific functions aside from helping produce new collagen molecules. Taking collagen supplements and eating collagen-rich foods that boost your healthy gut function. 

How to choose the right collagen supplements for gut health?

Now that you know the benefits of collagen in improving your gut health, choosing the right type of collagen is a must. Some people can be susceptible to collagen when they take it, and some do not have the same effects on them. Hence, selecting collagen can be that tricky. 

You better start taking collagen supplements with their recommended dose and observe whether it is working for you or not. Take note that not all collagen supplements are created equal and have the same ingredients. So, better check its nutritional content first to know whether it is suitable for your gut health. 

How to choose the right collagen supplements for gut health?

The primary factor to check is its absorption rate. Collagen supplements with a very low absorption rate are basically not good for your gut health. Take those collagen supplements that are easy to digest and absorb by your body. 

Another way to choose is through its form, and collagen in its whole form is a no-no. The individual collagen molecules are way too big when the collagen is in its whole form.

Hence, it can be challenging for your body to digest. Look for absorbable and bioavailable to the human body, which is generally hydrolyzed or nano-hydrolyzed collagen [4]. 

What to eat to have a healthy gut?

Eating certain foods and taking collagen supplements can significantly help you to have a healthy gut. You may include amino acid-rich foods in your daily diet to reduce the risk of gut inflammation and keep your gut health on track. 

Furthermore, there are foods that you need to avoid as they may trigger leaky gut, such as:

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Junk food
  • Dairy products
  • Gluten-containing grains
  • Processed meats
  • Refined oils
  • Wheat-based products

Your diet is apparently the key to a healthier gut. When you consume highly-processed and sugar-filled foods, you are basically breaking down your body’s collagen. Not to mention, these can also lead to excess body fats, obesity and cholesterol. 

To improve your collagen levels, you may insert vegetables, fruits and healthy fats into your meals daily. A good diet plan’s benefits are enhanced mental health, glowing skin, increased collagen production and better digestive functions. 

[1] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen 
[2] https://protgold.com/blogs/news/why-collagen-is-good-for-gut-health
[3] https://kalumibeauty.com/blogs/in-the-glow/will-collagen-resolve-stomach-issues-and-help-gut-health 
[4] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen-benefits 

Photograph: Fascinadora/Shutterstock
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