Boosting Collagen Without Collagen Supplements
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Collagen, the most common protein found in the human body, is present in fat, ligaments, and tendons (and elsewhere). It is the “glue” that holds us together, and is even crucial for the strength of our bone structure. When collagen levels are healthy, our skin is healthy and youthful looking, and our joints function well and pain-free. One interesting thing about collagen is that the more collagen you have, the more your body is able to produce and maintain. So, stimulating our collagen growth snowballs into more collagen growth, almost like priming a pump.
Currently, collagen supplements are one of the hottest products on the market, which makes sense, since as the boomers age out there is a huge demand for supplements that support skin (beauty), and joint (arthritic conditions) health.
Why Not Collagen Supplements?
There are, however, reasons why some people may not want to consume commercially-produced collagen powders. Some are not interested in consuming a by-product from the cattle industry (rendered-down cow hides), due to ethical or hygiene concerns (or concerns about antibiotic or growth hormone residues). For those people, there is always marine collagen (from unused parts of fish), which I prefer since at least the creatures had a life, and were wild and not industrialized. Or, perhaps you are a vegetarian.
In any case, there are other ways of increasing our collagen production rather than consuming the collagen of other creatures. Like with many things in the natural industry, we can take precursors, giving the body the building blocks to make its own collagen. This knowledge becomes even more valuable now that studies are finding many commercial collagen products to be contaminated with heavy metals.
Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Clean Label Project (CLP) tested 28 of the top-selling brands of collagen supplements on Amazon.com. Here’s what they found:
• 64% tested positive for measurable levels of arsenic
• 37% tested positive for measurable levels of lead
• 34% tested positive for trace levels of mercury
• 17% tested positive for measurable levels of cadmium
Given all that, let’s now have a look at some of the best supplements for naturally increasing our collagen levels.
We are all familiar with the topical use of Aloe vera for healing and soothing wounds. The reason aloe works to treat cuts and burns is because the aloe vera plant increases collagen production in the skin, when applied topically. What has recently been discovered is that aloe can also increase collagen production in the skin when taken orally.
A study, published in the Annals of Dermatology in 2009, found that just 1200 mg of pure Aloe Vera gel powder taken daily, can significantly reverse signs of skin aging, The study confirmed that “Aloe sterols stimulate collagen and hyaluronic acid production by human dermal fibroblasts”. (Source)
Much of the research on using amino acids for collagen production is based on speeding the healing of wounds. In such cases, “despite adequate nutrition, clinically, there is a need to enhance collagen synthesis and research has focused on methods to enhance collagen precursor availability”.
“Biochemically, one-third of the collagen molecule is composed of glycine. The next largest amino acid component is formed by proline and hydroxyproline, which together comprise approximately 23% of the collagen molecule.” (Source)
Another important amino acid for collagen production is lysine. While the amount of lysine present in collagen is only 3 or 4% of total amino acids, “it has an important function in the constitution of the cross-links between the molecules to build the fibrils and the fibers of collagen”. (Source)
Vitamin C is absolutely essential for synthesis of collagen, serving as a “cofactor for the two enzymes required for collagen synthesis: prolyl hydroxylase (to stabilize the collagen molecule) and lysyl hydroxylase (to give structural strength cross-linking)”. (Source)
(A superior way to get vitamin C is in the liposomal form, which both aids in building collagen and, by way of its antioxidant properties, helps to prevent the breakdown of collagen.) Furthermore, “without adequate levels of vitamin C, your body will not gain the full benefit of foods containing hyaluronic acid”. Source
Vitamin C is critical for the synthesis of hyaluronic acid (HLA), a natural substance found in the fluids in the eyes and joints, which also functions as a cushion and lubricant in the joints and other tissues. So, while HLA is clearly a necessary companion of collagen, for our purposes here, its importance is based on the fact that hyaluronic acid both helps boost collagen production, and helps the body to retain collagen.
Studies show that HLA can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin hydration, texture, and elasticity (Source), and is especially of benefit for treating osteoarthritis. This is why we have included HLA in our JointStart Supreme product. Also, keep in mind that we must have an adequate intake of magnesium for the body to make HLA. “Therefore lack of magnesium in the diet, or a magnesium deficiency, can cause low levels of hyaluronic acid.” (Source)
Three particular minerals are required for producing a healthy amount of collagen in the body:
Copper is an essential trace mineral found in all body tissues, which is required for making red blood cells, and maintaining nerve cells and the immune system. It also helps the body form collagen. (Source)
Zinc requires copper as a cofactor for its many metabolic functions, so it is no surprise that zinc is also a cofactor in the production of collagen. Zinc is essential for cell repair, and zinc deficiency impedes our body’s ability to produce collagen. (Source)
“Silicon has been suggested to exhibit roles in the structural integrity of nails, hair, and skin, overall collagen synthesis, bone mineralization, and bone health and reduced metal accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease, immune system health, and reduction of the risk for atherosclerosis.” (Source)
(Silicon is an element whereas silica is a compound containing silicon. Thus a herbal source of silica, such as horsetail or bamboo, will contain other silicon cofactors, unlike laboratory produced pure silicon products.)
I will at this juncture point out that our Mineral Mix product offers sufficient amounts of copper, silica, and zinc to support collagen production, under normal circumstances. However, for those requiring extra collagen production, who do not wish to take collagen powders, the addition of those aforementioned compounds can make a big difference.
I had one lady tell me that simply using our Bamboo Silica product, reversed her arthritis, demonstrating that even one of these compounds, taken at a therapeutic dose, can have a dramatic effect. And, the more of them we use (not necessarily all on the same day) the more benefits we can look forward to.