Wound healing is possibly the most underrated power the human body possesses. You don’t flip a manual switch to activate this power; it just happens. The biological processes of collagen wound healing are near automatic.
The human body is incredible right? You don’t see smartphones and computers fixing themselves like this.
Of course, there is a slight downside to this gift. Most people don’t have a clear understanding of what’s going on below the surface while they rest and recover from injury, nor could they name the materials or stages of wound healing.
Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz about collagen for wound healing, perhaps not. (If you haven’t, you certainly will by the end of this article! It’s a HUGE player.)
Collagen is the biggest building block in the wound healing process, and there is great benefit to exploring the science of wound healing to understand the medical uses for collagen protein.
You may be currently recovering from an injury, or awaiting an upcoming surgery. Whatever the case, having an awareness of the amazing processes of your body can provide some clarity on how to fuel your body and potentially speed up recovery times.
This way, you’ll feel much better answering some big questions such as: “Can collagen supplements help wound healing?” and “what is the best collagen for wound healing?” to secure yourself the best collagen products.
But how exactly does collagen for wound healing work? To answer that question, it’s important to dive into your body’s natural wound healing process.
The stages of wound healing
Whether taking place in muscles, organs, or blood vessels, there are common repair processes across all soft tissue. Although healing is a continuous process, it can be divided into four basic stages. These stages are commonly referred to as:
Hemostasis: which starts immediately after an injury and helps stop bleeding.
Inflammation: which begins shortly after the wound is suffered, and assists in cleaning the wound.
Proliferation: which normally starts within days of the injury and encompasses the majority of the healing process and new tissue generation.
Remodeling: where scar tissue is smoothed out, which could last up to a year or more.
Let’s unpack what those descriptions mean: both for your body, and for collagen in wound healing.
Stage 1: Hemostasis
Your circulatory system is a vast transportation network for your body. Pumped by the heart, blood is oxygenated by the air you breathe in, and digested nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream to be transported wherever they are needed.
A disruption to a blood vessel causes bleeding. The blood that was being pumped around you at pressure now escapes through an empty space. Blood is a vital resource, so once an injury is detected, the body acts quickly to stop any bleeding through coagulation.
Coagulation protects the vascular system, keeping it intact so that the function of vital organs remains unharmed despite the injury. It also provides a supply matrix for cells that are needed in the later phases of healing.
This coagulation process starts with the deposit of fibrin. A dynamic balance between various blood cells determines the amount of fibrin deposited at the wound site, thereby influencing the progress of the reparative process.
Consider fibrin as a rapid-response groundwork at the site of the wound. This temporary patch will later be replaced and strengthened by collagen wound healing protein, as collagen has better strength and flexibility properties. In this first stage however, the priority is rapid response.
The end result of coagulation is hemostasis, which means that the vascular breach has been completely suppressed and the groundwork is set for collagen wound healing to begin.
Stage 2: Inflammation
Although often considered an inconvenience, inflammation is a vital part of the healing process. Its main function is to establish an immune barrier against invading microorganisms. The reconstruction site must be cleared of any trespassers so that conditions are optimal for collagen wound healing.
The early stages of the inflammation phase overlap with the hemostasis phase. The immune system infiltrates the coagulation groundwork with an agent referred to as neutrophils.
Neutrophils prevent infection and destroy bacteria around the site of the wound as well as damaged tissue. This is vital to wound healing, as acute wounds that have a bacterial imbalance will not heal.
Neutrophil activity gradually changes within just a few days of a wound’s timeline, once any and all contaminating bacteria have been removed. Consider them as special forces. They enter, eliminate their high-profile targets, then leave without a trace.
Even though the risk of infection is now much lower thanks to successful coagulation and neutrophil activity, the immune system requests to have an ongoing presence at the site of the wound to prevent further threats. Therefore, macrophages are deployed.
Macrophages are assigned the task of breaking down devitalized collagen and blocking future foreign microorganisms from the wound site, as well as monitoring the overall immunological security of the wound.
Unlike neutrophils, macrophages don’t require constant exclusive access to the wound, so restorative collagen wound healing work can take place alongside macrophage surveillance.
In fact, with a strong macrophage presence, the body feels more confident to deposit potent tissue growth factors, safe in the knowledge that this precious resource will not be wasted.
Stage 3: Proliferation
In the proliferation stage, your body forms an abundance of collagen-rich granulation tissue. This collagen wound healing tissue is a much stronger and more permanent reconstructive seal than the previous network made up of fibrin.
Collagen is a strong, fibrous protein with great tensile tenacity and elasticity. It’s created naturally by the human body by combining amino acids received from food. Collagen is found in ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones, skin, organs, and blood vessels. It’s a major building block that makes us, us - and it’s how your body puts itself back together.
Let’s visualize collagen wound healing for a moment. Even a small cut, on a microscopic cellular level, appears Grand Canyon-esque. Healing can be thought of as an immense rebuilding project that first clears away damaged cellular structures and then replaces them with strong, new, collagen-rich, connections.
If you’ve ever received stitches you may be able to picture the process of collagen wound healing a little more easily. A medical professional will first clean the area around the wound and then sew the separated edges of the wound back together. As you’ll know; the greater the density of stitches, the stronger the connection between the two sides.
Of course, the human body is much more sophisticated and carries out this reconnecting process with thousands upon thousands of stitches made of collagen protein.
This process starts with the arrival of fibroblasts, normally around 3 days after a wound is detected. The collagen wound healing process is done under the supervision of these fibroblasts.
Consider fibroblasts as the construction workers of the new tissue building project. Among their materials are type I and type III procollagen, the building blocks of the restoration process. Collagen is an important component in all types of wound healing. Synthesized by fibroblasts, collagen fibers grant integrity and strength to all tissues.
While the fibroblasts are utilizing collagen to piece together the various degenerated cells caused by the injury, macrophages are still present, surveying the security of the space in its inflammatory protection.
The wound granulation tissue that is created during the proliferation stage is thicker, rougher, and more disorganized than your normal tissue. Because of this, once the wound is filled in, it’s time to move onto the final stage of wound healing: remodeling.
Stage 4: Remodeling
To return to normal bodily function, a wound needs to be able to withstand external pressures. Because of this, your body will gradually remodel the already filled-in wound layer by layer, with each step increasing the tensile strength of the tissue.
Imagine an elastic band. The elasticity of the band allows a limited amount of movement. Of course, intertwining several elastic bands together provides even more tensile strength, so consider the building of layers of collagen wound healing protein to be akin to the upgrade from an elastic band to a bungee cord. The tensile strength of the wound increases progressively in parallel with collagen collection, underscoring just how important this protein is.
Although the initial deposit of collagen fibers is highly disorganized, during the remodeling stage, the new collagen matrix becomes more reinforced and cross-linked over time. The underlying connective tissue reduces in size and brings the outer borders of the wound closer together. The final product is a fully matured scar with a decreased number of cells and blood vessels and a high tensile strength.
Collagen fibers help your body tissue to return to approximately 80% of its original strength. The acquired final strength when all is said and done depends on the duration and severity of the wound.
The severity of a scar is dependent on the severity of the initial wound, however a scar is constantly maintained by the body for the entirety of its existence and should not just be considered as a memento of surgery or injury. Your body actively works to keep your scar tissue strong and stable with the help of collagen and vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a cofactor for collagen synthesis and collagen wound healing deployment. If for some reason your body isn’t getting enough vitamin C for healthy collagen production, your body has to ration and prioritize collagen for vital life processes like organ function. In this case, scars can be left undernourished and may even reopen completely, which is what happens during scurvy.
In addition, malnourished patients progress through the stages of wound healing much slower than well-nourished patients. In fact, sometimes, a lack of good nutrition means that your body cannot complete the wound healing process at all!
Fueling your body with collagen is a great strategy to pass through each stage of wound healing healthily and maybe even reduce recovery time.
So how can you be sure your body has ample collagen for wound healing? And should you use collagen supplements for wound healing? Let’s look into how you can assist your body’s natural healing process through simple supplementation.
Can collagen supplements help wound healing?
Collagen acts as the building block to stitch wounds back together, so it makes sense that your body would seek a constant supply of it during wound healing. This is especially true as you age, since your body’s natural collagen production decreases each year after your mid-twenties.
It’s no wonder that children recover from cuts and scrapes much faster than their parents, and are much less resistant to broken bones from a fall than their grandparents. Their collagen wound healing abilities are almost enviable.
If you want to assist your body’s collagen production and ensure you have ample collagen stores available for healthy wound healing, one of the most effective ways to do this is through supplementation.
That being said, it’s important to choose the right wound healing supplements, as not all collagen products are created equally, and the majority are not even FDA-regulated.
What is the best collagen for wound healing?
The best collagen supplements for wound healing are ones that are hydrolyzed or nano-hydrolyzed. This means the collagen protein has been broken down into smaller particles that are easier for your body to absorb - also known as collagen peptides.
When choosing collagen supplements for wound healing, you also want to ensure there are no additives like sugars or preservatives, so check the label carefully for any suspicious ingredients.
Remember, collagen supplements should be taken in conjunction with a healthy, balanced diet. A wound healing diet should actually contain more calories than a regular diet, even if you are less mobile, because of the energy burned during the wound healing process.
The best collagen for wound healing will come from reputable companies that are well reviewed by customers and medical facilities alike. In fact, if you can get your hands on some medical-grade collagen, you will know that your collagen supplement is FDA-regulated and approved for use by doctors.
ProT Gold is a medical-grade, nano-hydrolyzed collagen supplement, making it the best choice for post-op patients in recovery. It’s also fabulous for use before surgery to stockpile vital collagen in your body.