By Lauren Fischer

Would you believe that one natural supplement could do everything from making you look younger to improving sleep to decreasing joint pain? Hard to believe, but nature provides this magic bullet in the form of collagen.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is a component of all connective tissue, including skin, nails, hair, ligaments, cartilage, vertebral disks, joints, capillaries, bones and teeth. It provides structure and flexibility to tissues, allowing you to bend and snap like Elle Woods and contort your face like Jim Carrey without breaking into a million pieces.

Since collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, it only makes sense that our bodies are capable of making collagen. Collagen is made in fibroblasts from the amino acids glycine, lysine and proline along with the help of cofactors like vitamin C, sulfur and silica. Many factors including age, diet and stress can result in decreased production of collagen making supplementation an ideal way to maintain the health of our skin, joints and bones.

What exactly are the benefits of collagen supplementation?

Looking younger

A 2014 study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found that women 35–55 years old had statistically significant improvement in skin elasticity after supplementing with 2.5–5 grams of collagen hydrolysate daily for eight weeks. Improved skin elasticity means firmer skin and less wrinkles! There are also claims that collagen can benefit hair and nails as well as reduce cellulite and stretch marks.

Healthy gut

Collagen plays a role in tissue repair. For those with leaky gut, repairing the gut lining is key to reducing symptoms like food allergies and inflammation. Gut bacteria break down collagen into short-chain fatty acids that fuel the repair of cells lining the intestinal wall. 

Strong bones

According to “Staying Healthy with Nutrition” by Elson M. Haas, M.D., collagen is not only a building block of bone, but may also play a role in osteoporosis prevention. Collagen is rich in the amino acid lysine that helps with the absorption and use of calcium, which is crucial for bone health.

Healthy joints

A 2006 literature review published in Current Medical Research and Opinion found that supplementation with collagen hydrolysate provided improvement in some measures of joint pain and function in men and women with osteoarthritis and other arthritic conditions. 

Improved detoxification

Collagen is rich in the amino acid glycine. According to “Staying Healthy with Nutrition” by Buck Levin and Elson M. Haas, the liver attaches glycine to certain toxins to make them more water soluble so they can be easily excreted from the body.

Sound sleep

Glycine has also been found to improve sleep quality and shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. Try one scoop of collagen hydrolysate in sleepy tea about an hour before bed for sound sleep.

This sounds amazing but how do I add collagen to my diet?

You can add collagen to your diet with foods or a supplement. Collagen-rich foods include bone broth made from joints and other cartilaginous bits, organ meats, bone marrow and egg whites. Collagen hydrolysate, also called collagen peptides, is a supplemental form of collagen. In this form, the collagen proteins are broken down so that they are easy to digest. It is important to choose collagen derived from high quality sources like grass-fed cows or wild-caught fish.

Collagen hydrolysate is easy to incorporate into your daily diet because it is so versatile.  In addition to being odorless and tasteless, it easily dissolves in hot and cool liquids. Try adding collagen peptides to coffee, tea, soup, smoothies, and soft foods like guacamole, hummus and cauliflower mash.