Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up nearly one-third of all the protein we have in us. It’s found in your connective tissues, bones, ligaments, tendons, teeth, nails, blood vessels, organs, joints, and digestive system… pretty much everywhere.
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Many people take collagen for gut health by adding it to their diet or supplement routine. But what can collagen do for your gut and how should you add it?
Let’s explore the role of collagen in the body and how it might benefit your gut health.
Collagen is a fibrous, structural protein that can be thought of as the glue that holds your body together. It’s also a key component in processes like bone repair and wound healing.
There are at least 29 distinct types of collagen, but five main types in your body:
- Type I: Densely packed and makes up approximately 90% of the collagen in your body, found in your skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
- Type II: Found in elastic cartilage and provides joint support and mobility.
- Type III: Found in your organs, muscles, and arteries.
- Type IV: Found in the many layers of your skin.
- Type V: Found in some layers of the skin, hair, and corneas.
Where does collagen come from? Your body makes it, though production begins to naturally decline around age 30. Other factors may also alter collagen production, like smoking, environmental pollutants, excessive sun exposure, genetics, and nutritional status.
A decline in collagen production may manifest as joint pain and stiffness, muscle aches, more pronounced skin wrinkles, and problems with blood flow. Some people also experience changes in their digestive health due to the thinning of their intestinal lining as collagen declines.
Collagen and Gut Health
The most widely-studied uses of collagen are for skin repair and wound healing, but it also holds promise for gut health. More research is needed on humans and collagen supplementation for the gut. Still, here are some of the potential gut health benefits of collagen.
Support a Healthy Microbiome
The gut microbiome is the community of trillions of microorganisms living in your digestive tract. This predominantly includes bacteria but also some yeasts and fungi.
Your microbiome is always at work to help keep you healthy — but it can be altered by things like nutrition, stress, illness, and medications. Having a healthy gut is imperative for immune function, brain health, digestion, and nutrient absorption.
What does this have to do with collagen? Collagen may help balance the gut microbiome by helping beneficial bacteria thrive. When this balance is optimal, your gut and immune system can function at their best.
Gut Lining Support
Remember that collagen is a key player in wound healing and tissue repair. Collagen is also rich in the amino acids glycine, glutamine, and proline.
These help support intestinal integrity and a strong gut barrier. This offers protection against harmful germs, toxins, and other substances that may enter your digestive system and get into your bloodstream.
Glycine helps promote stomach acid production, which is involved in digestion. As a result, collagen may help improve not only digestion but the absorption of nutrients.
It may also help reduce annoying digestive symptoms. One 2022 study found that 20 grams of collagen peptides supplemented daily for 8 weeks improved mild digestive symptoms and bloating among otherwise healthy women.
The amino acids proline and hydroxyproline in collagen are involved in the regeneration of gut tissues. It’s possible that collagen could help promote the healing of things like ulcers and damaged intestinal lining.
In fact, collagen peptide supplementation was shown to help repair tight junctions and related intestinal dysfunction in one 2017 study. This suggests a potential use in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and leaky gut.
As collagen production wanes, it’s helpful to consider other ways to help boost your stores to help support your gut health. Incorporate collagen-rich food sources into your diet, such as:
- Bone broth made from beef or pork
- Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys, heart, and brain
- Chicken with its skin on
- Gummy snacks made with gelatin
If you don’t eat animal products, you won’t be able to get collagen directly from your diet. However, there are plenty of plant foods that contain vitamin C, which is essential for collagen production.
Some great vitamin C foods include:
- Bell peppers
- Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons, lime, and grapefruit
Another option is to add a collagen supplement to your health routine. Keep in mind that there are no vegan collagen supplements as they are all derived from animals like pigs, cows, and fish.
Depending on your needs, there are several types and forms of collagen supplements available. You might prefer a liquid, powder, gummy, capsule, or tablet. The most common types of collagen found in supplements are type I, II, and III, or a combination of these.
There are three main forms of collagen supplements:
- Raw collagen, usually sourced from cartilage
- Gelatin, or cooked collagen
- Hydrolyzed collagen, also called collagen peptides, which have been pre-digested for increased tolerance and quicker absorption
Collagen is generally considered a safe supplement for most healthy people, but it comes with risks like anything else. For instance, you shouldn’t use them if you have an allergy to fish, shellfish, or other animal-derived ingredients.
It’s also a good idea to look for collagen supplements that have been third-party tested for safety, quality, and purity.
How Much Collagen Per Day?
The next question you’re probably asking is how much collagen you should be taking for benefits. Note that collagen can work differently for everyone, and the dose depends on the form and reason you’re taking it.
Commonly used dosages in research range from 2.5-15 grams per day of hydrolyzed collagen or 10-40 mg per day of undenatured collagen. For gelatin and other collagen supplements — or just in general — it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dose.
Go With Your Gut
Collagen is a prominent protein in your body, used for things like connecting tissues, repairing bones, and healing wounds. There’s also some evidence that collagen plays a role in maintaining intestinal integrity and supporting a healthy gut microbiome, though more research is needed.
As collagen production decreases, you may be looking for other ways to boost your stores. In addition to adding direct sources of collagen to your diet, there are also plenty of collagen supplements. If you don’t consume animal products, increasing your vitamin C intake can help support natural collagen production.
Either way, collagen is relatively low risk and may offer digestive health benefits. But remember, it’s also essential to eat well and lead a healthy lifestyle to support your overall digestion.
- Shenoy M, Abdul NS, Qamar Z, Bahri BMA, Al Ghalayini KZK, Kakti A. Collagen Structure, Synthesis, and Its Applications: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2022;14(5):e24856. Published 2022 May 9. doi:10.7759/cureus.24856
- Panwar P, Lamour G, Mackenzie NC, et al. Changes in Structural-Mechanical Properties and Degradability of Collagen during Aging-associated Modifications. J Biol Chem. 2015;290(38):23291-23306. doi:10.1074/jbc.M115.644310
- Baek GH, Yoo KM, Kim SY, et al. Collagen Peptide Exerts an Anti-Obesity Effect by Influencing the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes Ratio in the Gut. Nutrients. 2023;15(11):2610. Published 2023 Jun 2. doi:10.3390/nu15112610
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- Abrahams M, O’Grady R, Prawitt J. Effect of a Daily Collagen Peptide Supplement on Digestive Symptoms in Healthy Women: 2-Phase Mixed Methods Study. JMIR Form Res. 2022;6(5):e36339. Published 2022 May 31. doi:10.2196/36339
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- Wang H. A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies. Polymers (Basel). 2021;13(22):3868. Published 2021 Nov 9. doi:10.3390/polym13223868
- Paul C, Leser S, Oesser S. Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1079. Published 2019 May 15. doi:10.3390/nu11051079
- Lugo JP, Saiyed ZM, Lau FC, et al. Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):48. Published 2013 Oct 24. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-48
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.