Could collagen deficiency be making you feel and look older than you are?
By the time you hit 25, your natural collagen production slows down. But when your body's natural stores of collagen are low, how does your body react?
There are several symptoms associated with collagen deficiency that you may be experiencing. This article will detail how and why collagen deficiency happens, common collagen deficiency symptoms, and what you can do to add more collagen to your diet.
What is collagen, and why is it important?
To understand how a collagen deficiency can impact your body's functioning, you must first understand how collagen works within the human body. Collagen is a protein. It is the most abundant protein found in the human body and is located in all of your connective tissues like your skin, muscles, and ligaments.
The collagen molecules themselves are made of amino acids. These amino acids form the collagen proteins that are the structural building blocks of your connective tissues and bones. Since the amino acids in collagen are considered non-essential, your body can produce them on its own.
But, as early as in your mid-twenties, you may experience a lot of different changes because you are no longer producing all of the non-essential amino acids necessary for your collagen production. In fact, you may develop collagen deficiency.
What is collagen deficiency?
Just because everyone's collagen production slows down with age doesn't mean that everyone will experience a collagen deficiency. It is possible to get enough collagen and collagen-boosting nutrients from your diet and to avoid things that damage collagen production to make up for the natural decrease.
However, some people may begin to experience a collagen deficiency if they are not integrating any collagen into their diets or if they are exposed to environments that damage their collagen.
We also want to clarify that we are not discussing collagen vascular disease when talking about collagen deficiency. Collagen vascular disease or collagen disease was a term that was previously used to categorize systemic autoimmune disorders. Having a collagen deficiency is much different than having a collagen vascular disease of any kind.
A collagen deficiency should be thought of as the side effects of your body no longer producing enough collagen to continue to build, replace, and repair connective tissues.
Collagen deficiency is why when you age, you begin to lose skin elasticity, get wrinkles, have joint pain, and take longer to recover from injury or exercise. All of these things factor into how well your body can synthesize and apply collagen to areas in need.
Things that damage collagen in your body
Since your body naturally begins to lose collagen synthesis as you age, it is essential to avoid foods and environments that may damage the collagen you have left. Some of the most common things that damage your collagen include refined sugars, smoking, and prolonged exposure to UV sunlight.
When sugars are refined, they are not paired with fiber like they are in natural foods such as fruit. This can also include refined carbohydrates because your body processes them in the same way.
When these sugars are turned into glucose and fructose, you produce insulin. During this process, collagen molecules are susceptible to cross-linking, which makes them incapable of repairing themselves.
The glucose and fructose in refined sugary foods link amino acids that make up a collagen molecule with elastin. This process may cause an acceleration of lost elasticity in body tissues when sugar is elevated, or your skin is exposed to UV light.
Smoking also directly impacts your natural collagen production. Smoking has been shown to not only damage collagen synthesis rates but destroy collagen altogether. The more you smoke, the more damage to your collagen production you are likely to experience. You may also experience collagen damage if you are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke.
If you are exposed to one or more of these three common factors that contribute to a loss of collagen production, you may be more susceptible to collagen deficiency.
5 collagen deficiency symptoms
Some collagen deficiency symptoms are natural parts of aging that we all will experience. However, a collagen deficiency may mean that these symptoms occur earlier in your life or with more severity.
We are not attempting to diagnose any disorders. We want to raise awareness surrounding how collagen deficiency symptoms may present in your body. If you believe you have a collagen deficiency, be sure to discuss possible nutritional supplementation and lifestyle changes with your doctor.
Here are five of the most common signs of collagen deficiency:
1. Wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity
One of the earliest signs of a decrease in collagen production is a loss of skin elasticity. If you are in your 20s and are starting to get wrinkles already, then a collagen deficiency might need to be on your radar.
Now, collagen deficiency isn't the only reason for wrinkled or sagging skin, but it can be a contributing factor. 70-80% of your skin is made up of collagen, so if you have a collagen deficiency, your body will struggle to produce extra collagen, or even to repair your existing collagen.
The little collagen left in your body will likely be redirected to vital organs and areas of your body in dire need of repair - not to your skin. This means your skin will start to see signs of wear and tear fairly rapidly if you don’t have collagen to provide for it.
2. Joint aches or pain
Another all too common problem you might be experiencing as you age is joint pain. Although we often assume this is just a natural part of aging, it can often be due to a collagen deficiency.
The cartilage in your joints needs collagen to rebuild and repair itself, so as your body slows down collagen production, or is even deficient in collagen, your cartilage may begin to suffer.
Collagen is the primary building block of many structural parts of your body, but it also helps add elasticity to connective tissues and your cartilage. Your cartilage adds cushion and flexibility to many of your joints, and without ample elasticity, cartilage could be more susceptible to damage, making it unable to function with normal joint movement.
Beyond the cartilage in your joints, collagen is essential for ligaments, tendons, and bone structures too. If all of these components in your joints are struggling to keep up with the demands of daily life because of a collagen deficiency, you may experience joint inflammation and pain.
3. Slow muscle recovery after exercise and muscle aches
Whether or not you are an active or athletic person, a collagen deficiency may cause muscle aches. If you are an athlete or exercise regularly, then you may contribute your muscle aches to your workouts. However, long recovery times after workouts may also point to collagen deficiency.
As you are aware by now, collagen is imperative to connective tissue functioning. It also helps your muscles have flexibility, and repairs your muscles after you use them.
If you have a collagen deficiency, your muscles may not be responding as quickly as they used to. They could even be losing mass, and they may take longer to recover after physical exercise.
4. Gastrointestinal issues
Not all gastrointestinal issues are tied to collagen deficiency, but if you have leaky gut syndrome in particular, a collagen deficiency may be contributing.
Having a leaky gut is kind of what it sounds like; it is a condition that causes gaps in the lining of your intestines, allowing toxins and bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
Everyone has openings in their intestines. These are known as tight junctions. These tight junctions are tiny and should only allow your body to absorb nutrients. If you have a leaky gut, larger particles can slip out because of a tight junction size change. This becomes an issue because it changes the entire microbiome of your gut, causing inflammation and infection.
So what does a collagen deficiency have to do with this gastrointestinal issue?
Just as collagen is necessary for skin, muscles, and joint structures, collagen is also essential for organ tissues. If you do not have enough collagen to help repair intestinal walls and tight junctions, then a leaky gut may worsen.
Having enough collagen in your body may produce new smooth cells to repair the stomach and intestinal walls. If those areas are damaged, having enough collagen in production may curb a leaky gut by repairing damaged tight junctions in the intestine.
5. Extended recovery time from injury
Recovering post-surgery, or recovering from any other type of injury or wound becomes more difficult when you don't have enough collagen to repair that area of the body.
Your body may be sending all available reserves of collagen to repair and rebuild the damaged tissue. Still, if there is an existing collagen deficiency, your body may be struggling more to heal the injury.
When any part of your body is injured, your body uses proteins to repair cells, synthesize healing enzymes, and multiply cells to apply and rebuild the damaged structures. Eating a high protein diet, in general, can help this process along, but the protein that is most significant in tissue structure is collagen.
How to address or prevent collagen deficiency
There is some good news if you think you might have a collagen deficiency, and it is that it is possible to get enough collagen through your diet.
It is important to note that collagen is a protein derived from animals, meaning there is no vegan source of collagen protein. In these cases, focusing on whole foods with collagen-boosting nutrients and implementing the use of supplements may be beneficial.
If you are comfortable with consuming animal proteins, you may already be getting some collagen in your diet. However, most collagen that you eat in the natural form is too big for your body to digest fully. Meaning, you still aren't getting enough to replenish your collagen or address the collagen deficiency symptoms.
That's where collagen supplements come into play. Not all types of collagen supplements are created equal, though. When looking for an effective, high-quality collagen supplement, it is important to always look for hydrolyzed collagen.
Hydrolyzed collagen is simply the collagen molecules that have gone through a process to make them smaller and more easily digestible.
Suppose you have addressed this collagen deficiency with your doctor and want to integrate a high-quality liquid collagen protein, like ProT Gold, into your diet. In that case, you will also need to consider the frequency you consume it.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) classifies ingestible collagen as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). Our liquid protein supplements are safe to take daily because it is highly digestible and medical grade. The liquid pouches are easy to consume because you don’t have to mix them with water, and you can take them any time on the go.
If you are experiencing collagen deficiency, just adding a simple supplement in your daily routine could help you look and feel more youthful and energized. It’s exciting to think that such a small change could make such a massive difference in your life.