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October 11, 2021
Collagen for Gut Health: Why It Works and How You Can Benefit
Did you know that humans have more bacterial cells than human cells (1)? (Like, 10 times more, to be precise.)
This bacteria lives on the skin, in the nose and ears, and, most of all—in the gut.
Researchers are beginning to uncover the critical role that collagen plays in protecting this delicate microbiome and the long-term implications it offers in sustaining optimal immune function as we grow older.
The Role of Your Intestinal Wall
“A huge proportion of your immune system (about 80%) is actually in your GI tract,” says Dr. Chad Walding, Doctor of Physical Therapy and NativePath Co-Founder (4).
You can think of your intestinal tract as the “central immunity hub” of the body and its surrounding lining as the protective barrier.
The intestinal wall does two things: It allows nutrients to be properly absorbed and utilized by the body and it prevents lethal pathogens from passing through and infecting the blood.
But how does it function? This is a question that Dr. Walding answers by taking a closer look at what our gut lining is composed of...
“The efficiency at which our intestines are able to allow nutrients to pass through to the rest of the body while stopping most harmful bacteria from doing the same all comes down to collagen.”
Collagen’s Primary Role in the Gut
Collagen is a special type of structural protein that’s composed of all but one amino acid (tryptophan).
In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in the body—making up 90% of your connective tissue and organic bone mass, 70% of your skin, and a large portion of your intestinal lining (5).
From beginning to end, the adult digestive tract is about 30 feet long—that's a lot to regulate (6)! Fortunately, collagen's amino acid profile provides the necessary building blocks to maintain and repair the intestine for optimal immune function…
The Top 3 Benefits of Collagen for Gut Health
The following are the 3 biggest immunity-supporting benefits that collagen provides for the gut, according to science…
1. Reduces the Risk of Digestive Conditions
Collagen contains glycine, an amino acid that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties (7).
Since inflammation is the root cause of numerous autoimmune diseases (like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis), preventing it should be your top priority (8).
One of the simplest, quickest ways to reduce inflammation is to add 1 to 2 scoops of collagen powder to your diet every day. By doing this, you’re equipping your body with 2,198 to 4,396 milligrams of the amino acid glycine.
2. Supports the Detoxification Process
Collagen is a hydrophilic molecule, meaning that it attracts water and acidic molecules—both of which aid in the digestive process (8).
When ingested, collagen surrounds itself with water and stomach acid as it moves through the GI tract, assisting the breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates in the intestines.
Additionally, by holding water in the intestine, collagen helps food move through the GI tract more smoothly for faster (and more regular) excretion of wastes and toxins.
3. Helps Prevent Autoimmune Conditions (& Leaky Gut Syndrome)
Processed foods, lack of sleep, stress, and the use of antibiotics all affect the lining of the gut.
Over time, those stressors cause your gut to become more permeable, leaking lethal substances through the intestinal wall. This means that toxins, viruses, and unfriendly bacteria can end up in the bloodstream instead of excreted (AKA, the main symptom of leaky gut syndrome).
A leaky gut not only leaks toxins and bad bacteria but also nutrients, which prevents proper absorption of the vitamins and minerals you get from food (9).
“So regardless of how good your diet is, all of that goodness could literally go to waste if your gut lining isn’t as healthy as it should be,” says Dr. Walding.
Glutamine—the most abundant amino acid in the body and one of the key amino acids in collagen—is an important fuel for immune system cells.
Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, glutamine (10)...
- Promotes the increase of intestinal absorptive cells
- Regulates the proteins that control the function of the cells
- Suppresses pro-inflammatory signaling pathways
- Protects cells against apoptosis and cellular stresses
With just one scoop of collagen powder each day, you’re adding an additional 1,046 milligrams of glutamine to your diet. Get ready to reap the benefits!
Why a Daily Collagen Supplement Is So Crucial
Optimal immunity starts with your gut. And a healthy gut starts with collagen.
“Collagen seals and heals the gut—standing as our first line of defense when it comes to protecting our immunity and defending against unwanted illness,” says Dr. Walding.
The protective barrier that collagen provides allows beneficial gut bacteria to flourish. As a result, the microbiome can better support the proper signaling and activity of immune cells.
By strengthening and rebuilding the gut wall, collagen also helps make it less permeable and more likely to retain key immunity-boosting nutrients from food.
In addition, collagen keeps your intestines flexible (thanks to its elastic qualities), ensuring that the food you eat passes smoothly through your digestive tract. This increases absorption and speeds up bowel movements so that you can pass toxic wastes more efficiently.
Despite the critical role collagen plays in your immunity and overall health, most adults are highly deficient for two reasons:
1. The body stops producing it.
As you grow older, your body’s natural collagen production begins to slow down, resulting in a degenerative process that affects your joints, bones, skin, gut, and more (11).
This is NORMAL. It happens to everyone. And there’s a simple way to replenish those depleted stores of collagen (more on that in a moment…).
2. The modern diet lacks it.
Your ancestors consumed a collagen-rich diet (think: bone marrow, fish skin, poultry cartilage, and animal organs such as hearts, livers, and eyes).
The modern diet doesn’t exactly mirror that anymore. A more accurate representation would be cheesy triangular chips in a bag, dark sugary liquid in a plastic bottle, and boxed cereal that proclaims to be “a great source of vitamin D!”.
For these reasons, it’s important to find a way to get more collagen into your diet. A way that’s both practical and easy to stick to.
The Bottom Line
Over time, things like antibiotics, stress, lack of sleep, excessive hygiene, medicine, and indoor living begin to mess with your balance of bacteria, creating literal “gaps” in your intestinal lining.
As a result, the overall health of your gut declines, severely comprising the functioning of your immune system.
Whatsmore, declining collagen levels means that the microbiome is even more at risk—subjecting older adults to suffering from poor immunity in the later years of their lifespan.
The good news is that clinical studies show that collagen supplementation not only bridges the gap in falling collagen levels but also repairs and strengthens the gut lining. This allows healthy bacteria to flourish so that the digestive system and immune system can thrive.
“We can’t avoid getting older but we can be proactive in the longevity of our own health, and there’s no better place to start than by bolstering our immunity using the power of collagen's tissue healing and sealing benefits,” says Dr. Walding.
This is exactly where a high-quality collagen supplement can make all the difference...
Supplementing with a premium collagen formula helps reinforce intestinal integrity to keep toxins from seeping into your bloodstream.
As a result, you’re able to increase the absorption of immune-boosting nutrients while encouraging the production of T-cell and B-cell immune factors (12).
With just 1 to 2 scoops a day, you’re giving your stomach a fighting chance to free itself from the bloat, gas, cramps, and pains that it feels on a daily basis.
The best part?
It can be dissolved in hot or cold water, is odorless and tasteless, and goes to work within just one hour of consumption, making it the perfect (healing and sealing) addition to your morning coffee, tea, smoothies, soups, and more.
Certified Health Coach and Head of Content at NativePath (aka I’m the gal responsible for ensuring that every blog we publish helps you live life a little more #OnThePath).
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.