Collagen - it’s been the talk of the town for recent years in the beauty industry, making an appearance in everything from serums to supplements, and with good reason! Making up 30% of the total protein in the body, it’s the most abundant protein responsible for maintaining the health of your skin, hair, nails, joints, bones, muscles, gut and blood vessels.
Although your body is capable of making this wonder protein, our ability to produce it declines over time (*sigh*). We lose 1% of collagen every year past the age of 25 years, with the decline being so gradual, you probably won’t even realise you’re deficient in the protein (just like how your mum would gradually mash more and more broccoli into your pasta without you realising). Fortunately, eating a superfood rich diet (yes that does include the aforementioned broccoli) is a great, not to mention scientifically proven, way to help your body continue to produce collagen and slow down the rate of collagen loss.
We lose 1% of collagen every year past the age of 25 years, with the decline being so gradual, you probably won’t even realise you’re deficient in the protein
But it’s important to listen to your body and be able to recognise when you may need to start using a collagen supplement. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as taking the one collagen supplement and being on your way. Biology has ended up producing us with around 16 different types of collagen, although around 80% of this is made up of only 3 different types. Before we jump into the signs of a collagen deficiency, let me just get you up to speed with the 3 most important types of collagen and where in your beautiful body they can be found.
The Types of Collagen Protein and Where You Can Find Them
Type I has a largely sporadic collagen spread, with it being present in the skin, hair, nails, tendons, bones, ligaments, and in the lining of your gut and in your teeth. This form of collagen contributes to maintaining healthy plump skin and keeping wrinkles at bay. It’s also great for maintaining thick, shiny, shampoo commercial worthy hair (a mandatory flick of your hair is completely justified here).
Found mostly in the cartilage around your body and in the back of your eyeball, type II collagen helps your joints and tissues bear mechanical stress and absorbing shock (or what you and I recognise as cushioning the blow). It also helps to prevent abrasion between bones at joints such as your knees, elbows and wrists, enabling the bones to move smoothly and stopping you sound like a clacketing keyboard every time you move (believe me I’m grateful for it too).
Type III collagen can also be found in your skin. It also makes up a large part of your gut and your blood vessels and is the protein used to build your muscles. The functions of type I and type III collagen are relatively similar in the body, although the prevalence of type I collagen in the hair and skin ranks second to type I collagen. I should also mention at this point that type I and III collagen are also responsible for the production of specific amino acids that help maintain the health of your body including glycine – a very important amino acid involved in producing collagen but also runs a side hustle of helping to burn body fat (and who doesn’t want that?)
Now that you’re up to speed with the types of collagen and where they’re found, identifying a deficiency in them should be but a breeze.
7 signs you need a collagen supplement
As collagen is present throughout your body, the signs indicative of a deficiency will be just as sporadic but we’re here to take you through them.
Your skin will probably show you one of the most visible signs of not producing enough collagen with an increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, a lack of collagen also reduces the fullness of skin around your eyes and cheeks, making the skin appear thinner and hollower (and making your cheeks less pullable by your aunts and uncles – there’s always a silver lining!). The issue here remains in the delay between the point of collagen loss and the visible appearance of wrinkles on your face. Studies have established that around 25 years is when most people peak on their collagen production, so instead of trying to treat a collagen deficiency, taking it early on as a preventative measure is probably going to work most effectively in ensuring your canvas stays wrinkle free.
Just like your skin, dull weak hair is a typical sign of collagen deficiency as the roots of your hair become weaker and start to fall out more often. The greying of your locks, initially round your hairline and your temples, is also another sign of collagen deficiency. This is because collagen can function like an antioxidant and prevent the greying of your hair. Therefore, the loss of collagen would result in grey hairs indicative of a collagen deficiency.
The last of the vanity trinity most associated with collagen loss is the changes in your nails. Nails are primarily made of keratin – a protein that uses amino acids found in collagen. Therefore, a lack of collagen will reduce the structural integrity of keratin, making your nails dry and brittle and easily peelable. Although it’s one of the final location’s indicative of a reduced collagen production, it’s still a credible sign that you may need a collagen supplement
A prime location for type II collagen, stiff joints are a major sign that you may not have enough collagen being produced at your joints. Developing pain in the wrists or knees are the most common locations for injury and wear as these joints are frequently used. Pain in your joints may also indicate a collagen deficiency as collagen has anti-inflammatory properties. Reduced collagen would result in increased inflammation and consequent pain in the joints.
Aching muscles are also a sign you may need to supplement with collagen. As collagen comprises a key component of building muscle, it’s important for muscle recovery after a lot of movement or exercise. Additionally, collagen is responsible for connecting our muscles to our bones through tendons and ligaments. Consequently, a lack of collagen will cause these connections to become weaker and result in aches and pains when you move.
As with the skin on your face, the skin around your body can also be subject to dimpling in response to a lack of collagen. Under your skin, you have a layer of connective tissue that is made up of collagen, which is then followed by a protective fat layer. As the collagen in the connective tissue layer reduces, the skin gets closer to the fat layer (which isn’t as smooth), resulting in the dimpling of the skin that we see on the surface as cellulite.
7. Intestinal Lining
Another body part that may indicate a collagen deficiency is your gut. Collagen makes up a large part of the lining of your gut, releasing amino acids that help digest the food that travels through. If this lining wears down, the food you eat does not get digested effectively which may lead to bloating and poor nutrient absorption. Your gut lining also makes up a pretty large part of your immune system, preventing bacteria from your food from entering your bloodstream. Therefore, a compromised gut lining due to a lack of collagen may also increase the incidence of infection.
Your body may indicate more and more of these signs as you age so its good to be aware of them. However, its important to check out any abnormal aches or pains with your doctor before you embark on supplementing your body with collagen, just to make sure you don’t have any more serious underlying issues.
The question now remains on what collagen supplement you should take given that they are sprouting like daisies in the beauty industry. Check out this article that walks you through the main types of collagen and how each one of them are beneficial for you.
While supplementing with collagen is great, we believe in the power of superfood nutrition to give your body the tools it needs to produce collagen yourself, where you need it most. Everybody is different and having just one form of collagen may not work for everyone. That’s why we believe in our vegan collagen superfood blend, specifically and scientifically designed to target collagen production in your body where it needs it most.
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