Digging Deep With Collagen: Types, Sources, and Supplements

Walk with me into a kindergarten classroom. Focus on the school supplies, what do you see? Crayons. Scissors. Pencils. Markers. Glue. 

Ah, yes. Glue. The sticky, binding substance that is, or can be, a nightmare to teachers and parents alike, threatening to adhere books to paper and paper to desks, and so on. 

And, if you are a parent to young children, you may also have used glue for another highly popular project: making slime. 

If you’ve seen or made slime, you know that when glue is combined with other ingredients, it holds all of these components together and produces a substance that easily moves all of these ingredients as one. 

The classic “blob” that is created is a seemingly gelatinous structure that is soft, can be stretched and then regain its structure, and flows or moves freely and easily. 

Collagen is like that. In fact, the word actually means “glue” in greek. 

Collagen, like glue, can bind and hold things together, but (like we saw in the slime illustration) that same binding substance can also provide flexibility.

While this firm, fibrous protein provides structure to bones, tendons, and ligaments, it can also provide elasticity to your skin, muscles, and connective tissues. 

So then, let’s dig deep and find out what this glue-like substance really is, why your body needs it, and where you can find natural sources of it. 


Types Of Collagen

Collagen accounts for one third of all of the protein in your body. 

It provides structure, tying cells together (if you will) to give strength and elasticity to your bones, tendons, cartilage, and other connective tissues. 

And, while there have been at least 30 different types of collagen found that we know of, we’ll focus on the five most common here. 

Type 1 (I)
This first type of collagen is the most abundant, making up nearly 90% of all of the collagen in your body. 

The fibers of this type of collagen are tightly packaged to give your bones, teeth, skin, cartilage, the walls of your blood vessels, and connective tissues structure. 

Naturally, the collagen production within your body decreases with age, and that is when we mostly take note of this type of collagen. And, how do we notice the effects of this decrease…in our skin.

Fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin are all a result of a decrease in type 1 collagen, which is considered to be a building block of your skin. 

Type 2 (II)
While the fibers in type 1 collagen can be described as tightly packaged, type 2 fibers are more loosely packed. 

This type of collagen is found in your cartilage, which protects your joints.  It is also found in the cartilage in your ear, surrounding your rib cage, and in your nose and bronchial tubes. 

A decrease in this type of collagen can also be noticed with age as seen in stiff, swollen, and painful joints, resulting in less flexibility and mobility. 

Type 3 (III)
Type 3 collagen is found in your arteries, muscles, skin, and organs, providing structure to these areas. 

It is found in the same locations in your body as type 1 collagen, being most abundant in your skin and organs. 

Type 4 (IV)
This type of collagen is the main part of what is known as the basement membrane. This membrane is a thin layer of protein type fibers that surround tissues in your body.  

Type 5 (V)
Type 5 collagen is mostly found in your hair, on the surface of cells, and it also forms the cells of the placenta.

This type of collagen is also crucial in helping to form fibers within your connective tissues. 

It can be found along with type 2 collagen in joint cartilage. 

Natural Sources Of Collagen

Many things can cause this abundant protein found within your body to decrease. 

While age alone can cause a decrease in collagen levels and a decline in its production, consuming too many refined carbohydrates and processed sugars, smoking, and getting too much sunshine (UV radiation) contributes to these decreases as well. 

Keeping your skin strong and supple, your joints free of pain, and your cells, organs, bones, and connective tissues protected requires collagen. And, your body uses proteins in your diet to make it. 

Your body uses these proteins that you consume and breaks them down to make amino acids. These amino acids build the proteins that form collagen. 

So, what types of foods can you eat to naturally fuel your body with what it needs to make collagen? 

Most consider bone broth to be the best natural source of collagen. This broth (or stock) draws the collagen out of beef, chicken, and fish bones making it a rich source of the protein, as opposed to regular or common broths which are usually made from boiling a mixture of actual meats and vegetables. 

Past this primary source, bone broth, the following foods are also good sources of collagen:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Egg whites 
  • Berries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Leafy greens
  • Garlic
  • Cashews
  • Legumes (beans, lentils)
  • Tomatoes 
  • Bell peppers (particularly red and yellow)
  • Avocados

Common Problems With Collagen Supplements

Another way to add a source of collagen to your diet is by supplementation. Unfortunately, there are a few problems that can be associated with these supplements. 

Gelatin supplements– These supplements can have a displeasing taste and can be known to give you heartburn.

Multi-Collagen supplements– Multiple types of collagen in one supplement, this sounds good, right? Sounds like a most bang for your buck type of deal, or is it? 

When varying types of collagen are combined, since the different types support different areas of your body (as we learned earlier), this mixture can lead to inadequate absorption in your body. 

In other words, that idea of multiple collagens in a supplement may not be best, as your body can’t absorb collagen in this manner. 

Hydrolysate– If you’re going with a processed collagen, make sure your supplement has this word on the label. If the collagen is not fully hydrolyzed then your body has a hard time digesting it, meaning that it can’t use the supplement to aid in collagen production. 

Hydrolyzed collagen is made into smaller peptides when produced, and some are even predigested. Predigested collagen makes the needful amino acids more readily available for your tissues to use. 

Inferior Quality– Like most things in life, not everything is of superior quality in the supplement world.

If you don’t choose a superior quality supplement, from whole food sources, you could be doing more harm than good to your body. 

Most collagen supplements are made from the bones and connective tissues of animals. 

A quality animal source is of utmost importance, because heavy metals and toxins that can accumulate in the bones of some animals can be thus transferred to the supplements. 

So, reach for natural sources when aiming to increase the supply of proteins needed by your body to produce collagen. 

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