What is it? Collagen is the main protein structure in the space outside of your cells throughout the connective tissue in the body. As the main component of connective tissue, it is the most abundant protein in the body, making up to 35% of the whole body protein content! It is what makes our skin beautiful and young, and keeps our hair and nails strong. So, there is something to know about collagen…it diminishes with age! I know, what a bummer, right? Well, I want to share with you some tips and tricks to keep the collagen production in the body strong and keep the body as youthful as possible.
Firstly, let’s discuss why this important anti-aging protein diminishes as we age. The collagen fibers in the body are constantly breaking down and regenerating. Problem is as we age, the body has a harder time making the collagen in the first place to keep up with the rate the it is breaking down. What does this mean you ask? Well, it can mean signs of aging on the skin such as wrinkles and sagging skin that has lost it’s elasticity, as well as stiff and sore joints. Sadly today we are losing collagen faster then we did back in the day due to many of the ‘killers of collagen’ out there, from diet to lifestyle factors.
So, what are these ‘collagen killers’ anyway? Let me know lay out some of the top collagen killers. The first is poor sleep. A deep sleep secretes growth hormone which helps stimulate collagen, (that ‘beauty sleep’ is real)! So, good and adequate sleep is very important for the integrity of the skin. Secondly, excess sugar consumption kills collagen. Too much sugar is inflammatory, which produces enzymes that break down collagen. Third, is stress! Yes, the body produces cortisol (a stress hormone) in response to stress. Stress increases inflammation in the body and weakens the integrity of collagen. Fourth, is too much sun exposure. The UV in the sun causes collagen to break down at a higher rate due to the way it penetrates the skin dermis, (middle layer). Fifth, a diet low in antioxidants. Antioxidants such as: dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, raspberries, kale, cabbage, beetroot and spinach all contain substances that help protect the body from free radicals. We are exposed to these daily and free radicals can harm the body. Antioxidants will help the collagen do the best job it can protecting the skin. Sixth, is inactivity. Exercise builds skin thickness by increasing blood flow to the skin, providing more oxygen and nutrients, which improves growth hormone in the body. Lastly, nutrient deficiencies of Vitamin C and zinc. Both of these are important to stimulate the production of collagen.
Well, it’s not all doom and gloom here. There are things you can do to get collagen formed in the body and protect what collagen you do have! Do limit sun exposure to only 15 minutes a day and in the summer make sure you only get it in the early morning or late evening as the sun is harsh in NZ! Consume collagen boosting foods such as: bone broth (you can buy this in an easy powder form from Health 2000 – 1 ts to hot water and voila). Plenty of Vitamin C and Zinc: broccoli, red capsicum, kale, citrus, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, or you can supplement with liposomal Vitamin C (better absorbed) and a good quality zinc. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep for your body and watch your sugar intake. Women should get no more than 30 grams daily or 6 teaspoons and men no more than 40 grams daily or 9 teaspoons. Get plenty of exercise that you enjoy and try to find ways to relax – essential oils, massage, meditation, yoga, Epsom salt baths, etc. Lastly, plenty of antioxidant rich foods as listed above and of course you can take collagen itself in a powder or capsule! I like to include a tablespoon of the stuff in my morning smoothies or take a tablespoon right before bed.
Remember, collagen is a protein and protein is the building block needed for cell growth and repair so if you’re noticing more aching joints or sagging skin, why not boost those collagen rich foods or start supplementing? Hello beautiful skin!