our bodies

Getting Candid About Collagen with a Holistic Nutritionist

May 11, 2021
Carter Reid

As a Holistic Nutritionist of more than 10 years, I can confidently say I’ve tried it all when it comes to supplementations. But the one supplement practice I’ve always stuck with over the years is collagen. When I first developed an interest in wellness, it was wellness and nutrition in relation to beauty that most excited me. 

Discovering foods and specific nutrients that help enhance beauty and wellness became a huge passion of mine. I quickly began to notice a common thread in all that I was uncovering— which was collagen. Not only does it play a role when it comes to our outer layers—  skin, hair, nails, etc, but it also affects our bones, muscles, joints and tendons. All of which are important aspects of the body that help us move through life feeling our best. 

So what exactly does collagen do for us, how can we enhance our collagen levels and why do we need to protect them so we can look and feel our best? Well, I’m here to help you break that down!

Before we dive in, a few important things to note about collagen: 

  • The body is largely made up of collagen
  • For women in particular, collagen levels begin to decrease in our early 20s and production stops in our early 30s
  • There are specific nutrients we need present in our bodies in order to produce collagen. There are also habits and certain foods that decrease our collagen levels as well. 

Collagen 101

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body.

Things like skin (our largest organ), muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments and organs all have their structural integrity maintained by collagen. With that understanding in mind, it’s no wonder that an abundance of collagen leads to supple skin, thick shiny hair and strong flexible muscles and joints. 

The Collagen Countdown

Unfortunately, as they say— all good things must come to an end, and collagen is no exception. Its abundance within the body begins to drastically decrease around 25 years old. For women in particular, our bodies stop producing collagen altogether around 30 years old, at which point the body will work with whatever levels are left. This means if we want to increase our collagen levels we have to get the nutrient elsewhere— our diet. All the more reason why eating nutrient rich food is so important when it comes to feeling our absolute best. 

Collagen Prerequisites 

Before you jump to grab the nearest collagen supplement you should know about the supporting team members that are necessary before you can live your best collagen life. I’ll get to that but first, know that a diet filled with plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, protein and healthy fats will always be the best foundation. 

However, there are a few specific nutrients you’ll need to have high levels of before collagen production can be possible. These are: 

  • Vitamin C: which is essential for the synthesis of collagen
  • Tryptophan: the missing amino acid to complete collagen’s amino acid profile
  • Zinc: plays a protective role when it comes to collagen 
  • Copper: helps to maintain the longevity of collagen

When choosing a collagen powder, I recommend sourcing one that comes with all or a few of these extra nutrients. Ensuring a good quality multivitamin along with a nutrient filled diet is also a fantastic way to ensure your nutrient levels are up to par before you embark on your collagen journey. 

Supportive Nutrients 

Though not essential, there are a number of nutrients that substantially help to support collagen production and ensure its integrity and longevity within the body. Those are, glycine, proline and lysine—  all amino acids that work fantastically together to help support the structural integrity of our skin, hair, muscles, ligaments, and bones. 

Hyaluronic acid, tocopherols (vitamin E), silica, gelatin and antioxidant rich foods like tremella mushrooms or “silver ear mushrooms”, reishi, berries, green tea, cacao, greens, and sweet potatoes. These are all additions to your diet that will help support structural connective tissues that keeps things like muscles, skin, bones and joints flexible, tight and lubricated. 

Not So Supportive

Just as it’s important to understand what helps support collagen, it’s also a good idea to get familiar with the things that are not so helpful when it comes to collagen too. Smoking, excessive amounts of alcohol, too much exposure to UV rays and lots of sugar can all contribute to diminishing collagen levels. 

Collagen As A Practice

There are plenty of amazing ways to incorporate collagen into your diet. One of my favorite ways to do this is in lattes and smoothies. A beloved daily ritual of mine is enjoying my signature Matcha Collagen Latte in the AM before I start my day! 

I try and stay away from adding collagen to my coffee, simply because coffee can inhibit the quality of absorption and production of collagen. Another great way to use collagen powder is by adding it to bone broth. Collagen and a good quality gelatin powder are great additions to bone broth— and the trio can be a fantastic way to boost and strengthen collagen levels within the body. 

With regular use, you’ll notice a massive difference in the quality of your skin and hair as well as the way your muscles and joints feel with movement!