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Natural Collagen Boosters



Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND

Natural Collagen Boosters 

Collagen is the glue that holds all connective tissue together. Without collagen, the muscles will come apart when hyperextended, the skin will stretch beyond its strength allows, the bones will shatter like brittle glass (1). Though highly functional in every single part of the body, collagen is usually talked about from the point of view of beauty and anti-ageing potential. In fact, it appears that collagen has swiftly made its way from plastic surgeon syringes onto supplement store shelves. The popularity of collagen as an ingredient is not new, as there were many attempts to bringing collagen into the skincare world by adding it to anti-ageing skincare products. Though substantially successful in marketing, topical applications were never effective due to the large size of the collagen molecule. Even if hydrolyzed (broken down), topical collagen preparations never penetrated the skin and their functionality was limited to hydration at the uppermost stratum corneum (2). Internal collagen use is a little different as many preparations are focusing on providing a small enough molecule to ensure better bioavailability. Note that even with the bioavailability and particle size kept in mind, it is always great to boost endogenous collagen synthesis (3). Endogenous collagen does not come with the question of bioavailability and utilizability and naturally finds its way to where the body needs it.

Boosting collagen levels is effective at maintaining strong blood vessels, a healthy gastrointestinal system, healthy urinary passageways, more flexible bones, better stabilized, more cushioned joints and fuller, younger-looking skin (1). The following are simple guidelines to follow to boost your natural, endogenous collagen production

Provide the Body with The Building Blocks

Collagen is a structural protein that, like any other protein, is made up of an amino acid backbone. Collagen is synthesized as a triple helix mainly by cells known as fibroblasts. Its main function in the body is to give extracellular support. Extracellular support is support for the external integrity of virtually any connective tissue cell in the body. Its flexibility and strength make it a vital player in the upkeep of the integrity of tissues (1,4). Currently, there are about 28 different types of collagen discovered. Though the popular ones are types I, III & IV, the most abundant type of collagen present in the body is Type I collagen. Type I collagen makes about 90% of all the collagen found in the body. What determines the type of collagen being synthesized is largely the post-translational modifications. On the other hand, different collagen types have different, specialized uses. Type III collagen is functional in healing and scar formation while type II collagen is known to play a large role in the composition of cartilage (4).

The Role of Vitamin C in Collagen Synthesis 

The process of collagen synthesis relies on an enzyme known as hydroxylase. Hydroxylase is a crucial enzyme that requires Vitamin C as a co-factor to boost the speed of collagen synthesis to a speed that supports life (5). Vitamin C deficiency shows up as general fatigue, mental/ emotional manifestations, poor wound healing, recurrent bleeding, anemia, gum disease, poor hair and skin quality(5-7). To find out more about Vitamin C and its role in skin health Click Here.

Collagen Type

Function

Source

Type I

Most Abundant

  • Bones

  • Tendons

  • Organs

  • Hair/ Skin/ Nails

  • Skin elasticity

Fish

Beef

Egg Whites

Bone Broth

Type II

Most Cushioning

  • Cartilage

  • Gut Lining

  • Immune

Chicken Broth

Type III + IV

  • Scar formation

  • Elasticity

  • wound healing

  • Kidney

  • Cardiovascular

  • Deep Skin

  • Skin Integrity

Fish

Beef

Eggs

V/ X

  • Placental Membrane

  • Hair Layers

  • Bones

Mixed high protein foods

 

Silica, The Element Both You and Quartz Crystals Have In Common

Silica is a metalloid that is known to be the second most abundant element in nature. Evidence shows that the intake of silica improves connective tissues, reduces inflammation, and generally improves the immune system(8). There are even some studies that link silica to positive mental health effects and heavy metal detoxification. Structurally, silica plays a role in binding hydroxyl groups of polyols which means that it helps in the utilization of other hydrated biopolymers like glycosaminoglycans, mucopyscaccarides and collagen in connective tissue and in bones (9). Those compounds are gel-like compounds that add to the strength, internal moisture, resilience and flexibility of the tissue. Additionally, silica plays a role in the enhancement of the absorption of other minerals and in bone mineralization (9,10). 

The body absorbs orthosilicic acid, which is known as the soluble form of silica. It is known to stimulate the formation of Type I collagen and is readily absorbable through the small intestines. When orthosilicic acid is supplied to the body, it usually comes with many other dietary constituents in relatively small amounts (11). The work of purifying orthosilicic acid and turning it into a dietary supplement has largely facilitated the supply of highly bioavailable silica to the body. It is important to note, however, though generally regarded as safe, the supplementation of purified orthosilicic acid long-term has not been evaluated by literature. Thus, it is always advised to look for natural sources of silica as those forms that are closest in constituents as silica from a dietary form, especially for the ageing population and for those with kidney disease. 

It is important to quickly interject and mention that Nanoparticles of silica also known as SiNPs that are used as additives in pharmaceuticals and food do not provide the same nutritional value as regular silica and may be of significant concern as they are linked to both cytotoxicities as well as genotoxicity (8). 

Natural Sources of Silica

There is no doubt that silica plays a significant role in the formation of healthy connective tissues, but the dietary components that contain silica are very tricky to provide the body especially on restricted diets. Most of our silica comes from unrefined gluten-containing grains. Keeping in mind that a good portion of people prefer grains in a refined state and another good portion avoids gluten-containing grains in general, very few actually have access to adequate amounts of silica (12). Better sources of silica that are less regular in the North American Diet Include Green Beans, Asparagus, and Bamboo Shoots. Though alcohol and gluten containing, it is worth it to mention that beer is also considered a significant source of dietary silica.

After the silica enters the body, the health and the integrity of the gastrointestinal system play a significant role in the absorbability of the mineral. Supplementing silica from natural sources like the plant Horsetail Equisetum arvense, is one of the best ways to ensure adequate silica status  (13. Another plant that contains a much higher ratio of silica and shines as the symbol of sustainability is Bamboo Bambusa vulgaris. High-quality bamboo stem extract can contain up to 70% silica and has evidence pointing to its effectiveness as a promoter of connective tissue health. The leaves of the plant are shown to contain crude protein of 10.1%, phosphorus 86.0 mg/100 g, iron 13.4 mg/100 g, vitamin B1 0.1 mg/100 g, vitamin B2 2.54 mg/100 g, and carotene 12.32 mg/100 g. Studies on the therapeutic potential of bamboo point to it acting as a positive effector of healthy glucose levels, natural anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory (14). Due to the long ethnobotanical use and the studies on animal models for safety, bamboo is considered one of the safest botanicals available (15,16). To learn more about enhancing natural silica levels in the body, Click Here.

Ethnobotanical Uses of Bamboo Leaves (14,16,17)

  • Astringent

  • Ophthalmic solution

  • Emmenagogue

  • Vulnerary

  • Febrifuge to heal the wounds

  • Cattle diarrhea remedy 

 

Ayurvedic Medicine Used of Bamboo Leaves(16)

  • Paralytic complains

  • Inflammatory conditions

 

Science Studied Features of Bamboo (14,18,19)

  • Antimicrobial

  • Antidiabetic

  • Anti-oxidant

  • Stomach soother- Trinidad and Tobago

  • Emedogogue- Nigeria 

  • Skin enhancer

  • Appetizer

  • Respiratory support

  • Topical for Sexually Transmitted infection- Nigeria 

Collagen Boosting Topicals 

Many natural plant oils play a significant role in boosting collagen synthesis both internally as well as externally. Supplementing with Sea Buckthorn Oil, for example, has been shown to significantly improve the texture of aged skin and reduce the visible signs of ageing. Such finding was enhanced with the topical application of Sea Buckthorn seed oil as it was found to protect the skin from ultraviolet damage, enhance skin regeneration and thicken the basal layer of the skin. Consider an internal beauty supplement that may also be used topically (20). To learn more about oils that can enhance your skin both internally and externally Click Here.

On the other hand, some other oils reduce the inflammatory, autoimmune load on the skin enough to prevent the damage caused by more serious dermatological issues. One such oil is Blackseed Oil. Blackseed offers a range of skin benefits for those who suffer from inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. At the same time, it offers many anti-ageing, acne healing and anti-microbial potential (21,22). To learn more about the topical uses of Black Seed Oil Click Here.

Avoid Collagen Depleting Habits

It is estimated that about 80% of the most damaging signs of ageing can be linked to ultraviolet exposure, that is why it is always important to avoid unprotected sun exposure. Make sure that you research your sunscreen enough to know that it meets your health and safety standards. Additionally, make sure that you apply a skin protective agent that adds to the protection from the elements and helps promote the healing of the skin (23). The skin protector must be applied prior to the skin being exposed to smoke, pollution or harsh conditions like heat and cold. Avoid inducing extra damage to the skin with smoking and alcohol use (24). Twin studies show that smokers suffer a significant amount of skin smoke damage as well as oxidative stress. On the other hand, excessive drinking is also linked to poorer skin conditions (25). Make sure that you have a healthy diet and eat a sufficient amount of proteins. It does not matter if you choose to eat animal products or not, what is more, important is to have a healthy, balanced diet that can be supplemented with vitamins/ nutrient supplements when seasonal variation calls for it. Do not forget to always keep your hormones in check as problems with thyroid health or stress hormones can play a big role in ageing the skin. Remember, that skin health is a reflection of your internal health, so take care of your internal health to ensure healthy, beautiful skin at any age! 

 

References 

  1. Myllyharju J, Kivirikko KI. Collagens and collagen-related diseases. Annals of medicine. 2001 Jan 1;33(1):7-21.

  2. Aguirre-Cruz G, León-López A, Cruz-Gómez V, Jiménez-Alvarado R, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Collagen hydrolysates for skin protection: Oral administration and topical formulation. Antioxidants. 2020 Feb;9(2):181.

  3. Pinnell SR. Regulation of collagen synthesis. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 1982 Jul 1;79(1):73-6.

  4. Boyera N, Galey I, Bernard BA. Effect of vitamin C and its derivatives on collagen synthesis and cross‐linking by normal human fibroblasts. International journal of cosmetic science. 1998 Jun;20(3):151-8.

  5. Plevin D, Galletly C. The neuropsychiatric effects of vitamin C deficiency: a systematic review. BMC psychiatry. 2020 Dec;20(1):1-9.

  6. Fain O. Vitamin C deficiency. La Revue de medecine interne. 2004 Dec 1;25(12):872-80.

  7. Crisan D, Roman I, Crisan M, Scharffetter-Kochanek K, Badea R. The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. 2015;8:463.

  8. Heinemann S, Coradin T, Desimone MF. Bio-inspired silica–collagen materials: applications and perspectives in the medical field. Biomaterials science. 2013;1(7):688-702.

  9. Martin KR. The chemistry of silica and its potential health benefits. The Journal of nutrition, health & aging. 2007 Mar 1;11(2):94.

  10. Price CT, Koval KJ, Langford JR. Silicon: a review of its potential role in the prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. International journal of endocrinology. 2013 Oct;2013.

  11. Eglin D, Coradin T, Giraud Guille MM, Helary C, Livage J. Collagen–silica hybrid materials: sodium silicate and sodium chloride effects on type I collagen fibrillogenesis. Bio-medical materials and engineering. 2005 Jan 1;15(1, 2):43-50.

  12. Robberecht H, Van Cauwenbergh R, Van Vlaslaer V, Hermans N. Dietary silicon intake in Belgium: Sources, availability from foods, and human serum levels. The Science of the total environment. 2009 May 31;407(16):4777-82.

  13. Holzhüter G, Narayanan K, Gerber T. Structure of silica in Equisetum arvense. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 2003 Jun;376(4):512-7.

  14. Lodhi S, Jain AP, Rai G, Yadav AK. Preliminary investigation for wound healing and anti-inflammatory effects of Bambusa vulgaris leaves in rats. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine. 2016 Mar 1;7(1):14-22.

  15. Panee J. Potential medicinal application and toxicity evaluation of extracts from bamboo plants. Journal of medicinal plant research. 2015 Jun;9(23):681.

  16. Kirtikar KR, Basu BD. Indian medicinal plants. Indian Medicinal Plants.. 1918.

  17. Rai R, Nath V. Use of medicinal plants by traditional herbal healers in Central India. Indian Forester. 2005 Mar 1;131(3):463-8.

  18. Lans C. Comparison of plants used for skin and stomach problems in Trinidad and Tobago with Asian ethnomedicine. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2007 Dec;3(1):1-2.

  19. Gill LS. Ethnomedical uses of plants in Nigeria. Uniben Press; 1992.

  20. Yang B, Bonfigli A, Pagani V, Isohanni T, von-Knorring A, Jutila A, Judin VP. Effects of oral supplementation and topical application of supercritical CO2 extracted sea buckthorn oil on skin ageing of female subjects. Journal of Applied Cosmetology. 2009 Jan;27(1):13.

  21. Tavakkoli A, Mahdian V, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. Review on clinical trials of black seed (Nigella sativa) and its active constituent, thymoquinone. Journal of pharmacopuncture. 2017 Sep;20(3):179.

  22. Ghorbanibirgani A, Khalili A, Rokhafrooz D. Comparing Nigella sativa oil and fish oil in treatment of vitiligo. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. 2014 Jun;16(6).

  23. Monestier S, Gaudy C, Gouvernet J, Richard MA, Grob JJ. Multiple senile lentigos of the face, a skin ageing pattern resulting from a life excess of intermittent sun exposure in dark‐skinned caucasians: a case–control study. British Journal of Dermatology. 2006 Mar;154(3):438-44.

  24. Doshi DN, Hanneman KK, Cooper KD. Smoking and skin aging in identical twins. Archives of dermatology. 2007 Dec 1;143(12):1543-6.

  25. Martires KJ, Fu P, Polster AM, Cooper KD, Baron ED. Factors that affect skin aging: a cohort-based survey on twins. Archives of dermatology. 2009 Dec 1;145(12):1375-9.