You know that collagen is crucial for supple skin. You may even know that it is needed for joint health.*
But did you know that collagen is essential for a healthy immune system as well?*
This tough, flexible protein accounts for about a third of the body's total protein content: It's literally the stuff were made of. That makes collagen much more vital to overall well-being, including proper immune function,* than most people realize.
Collagen plays so many roles in the body because it comes in a variety of types: Type I, type II, etc. Different collagens are found in different types of tissue; for example, type I is found predominantly in the skin.
This explains why many people use supplemental collagen to support various body systems. And some kinds of collagen supplements are superior to others, one of the most useful being a form called collagen peptides.
Collagen's Role in the Immune System
Most people think of the immune system in terms of white blood cells, and as something that primarily defends respiratory health. True enough, but there's something else you need to know about immunity: It starts in the digestive tract. In fact, about 70% of your immune system resides in your gut.
One of collagen's major jobs is to strengthen the intestinal walls, allowing nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream— and keeping foreign substances, such as food particles and toxins, out.*†
A poorly functioning gut wall, known as a leaky gut, can provoke the type of disordered immune response that can, in turn, lead to all sorts of health issues. Collagen is beneficial to gut health "because it contains large amounts of the amino acids glycine, glutamine and proline which can be beneficial to the intestinal tract," according to the Flushing Hospital Medical Center in Queens NY.†
What's more, evidence also suggests that collagen may play a more direct role in immune system function, although researchers are just starting to explore this possibility. In a Japanese study, for example, collagen was found to suppress allergic reactions, sign of a dysfunctional immune response, in mice.†
At this point, it appears that collagen types II and V play the biggest roles in immune health.*
Collagen and the Outer You
One of collagen's best-known functions is keeping skin flexible and smooth.* It forms a fibrous protein mesh that stabilizes contact between the different skin layers, giving your outer wrapper shape, support and elasticity.
Fail to care for your collagen and you can end up looking older than your years. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and tanning beds are collagen's worst enemy; others include sugar and smoking.
Collagen types I and III are found in the skin, so it isn't surprising to learn that they form the bulk of the body's total collagen quotient; skin contains type V collagen as well. (Type I is also found in nails.) In addition, type X supports healthy hair.*
Collagen for Smooth Movement
Much of the body's connective tissue is also made of collagen, which forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure to bones, muscles and tendons. And in joints, type II collagen helps build the cartilage that allows for easy movement. (Type X is another collagen crucial to joint health.)*
The appearance of these types of collagen in joint tissue has made this protein the subject of research interest.
Pure, Absorbable Peptides
Collagen is formed of lengthy strands that the body can't absorb. That's why supplemental collagen is generally converted into smaller units called peptides through a process called hydrolysis, which breaks apart the long collagen braids.
As a result, collagen peptides are not only more easily digested and absorbed than the non-hydrolized kind but are also free of the impurities that can be trapped in whole collagen.
Some peptide products provide a full spectrum of collagen types, particularly I, II, III, V and X (along with IV, essential to cellular health and growth*).
The best products come from sources that have been managed in an environmentally responsible manner, such as grass-fed beef and sustainably caught fish, and are free of allergens, gluten and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Such products should also contain enzymes that maximize collagen absorption.
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.