Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
Collagen Deficiency Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions
When you wake up in the morning to stiffness, feel aches in your joints at the end of the day or notice a new fine line in your complexion, you may chalk it up to the natural aging process. While it's true that these problems can come naturally with age, they can also be signs that you are deficient in collagen. Read on to learn the facts about collagen benefits and what you can do to avoid deficiency.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in virtually every tissue in the body. Often, collagen is called a structural protein because it is a crucial building block of muscles, connective tissue, and skin.
What Is Collagen Deficiency?
Collagen deficiency means that your body does not have an adequate supply of collagen. Severe collagen deficiency is rare; however, even a minor deficiency can cause symptoms that interfere with the quality of life and make daily activities difficult.
Collagen Deficiency Causes
Collagen deficiency occurs when your body does not produce enough of the protein required to maintain healthy tissues in your body. There are several reasons why this can happen:
- Age. As you age, your body naturally produces less collagen.
- Health Conditions. People with autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and temporal arteritis may experience collagen deficiency because their immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy collagen fragments in the body.
- Poor Diet. Research indicates that excessive levels of sugar in the diet can negatively impact your body's collagen supply. When you consume sugar, your body must produce more insulin to normalize your blood sugar. This results in the release of enzymes that break down collagen.
- Smoking. The toxins found in cigarettes can destroy healthy collagen and have been found to worsen signs of aging and slow the body's natural healing process due to their effects on the structural layer of skin known as the dermis.
- UV Energy. UVA rays in sunlight trigger the breakdown of collagen in the skin. This is why sun exposure plays a role in the aging process.
Low Collagen Symptoms
Some common symptoms of low collagen levels include:
- Joint Pain. Collagen is an essential component in the tissue that pads the joints known as cartilage. When levels of collagen are too low, the body cannot produce an adequate amount of cartilage. This means that there is less insulation to protect the joints when the bones move. Without this vital protection, inflammation can develop in the joints, leading to pain.
- Decreased Mobility. Joint inflammation isn't just painful. It can also make it more difficult for the joints to move correctly, resulting in feelings of stiffness. Collagen deficiency can also decrease muscle mass, resulting in weakness.
- Skin Changes. Collagen provides support for the skin tissue. Without an adequate foundation of collagen, skin becomes less full and loses elasticity. Thin-looking (and dry) skin is one of the first visual signs of collagen deficiency. Over time, this can develop into noticeable wrinkles and hollowing around the cheekbones and eyes.
- Gastrointestinal Problems. Studies suggest that low collagen levels can affect the digestive tract muscles, contributing to leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Increasing and Protecting Collagen Levels
You can take steps to support collagen production and protect the collagen that you have by:
- Avoiding skin-damaging factors such as smoking
- Using broad-spectrum sunscreen every day
- Eating foods that are rich in collagen, including fish, chicken, egg whites, citrus fruits, berries, red and yellow vegetables, garlic, leafy greens, and soy
Collagen Supplements to Address Deficiency
Because there is no test to determine whether a person is collagen deficient, many medical professionals recommend that individuals with collagen deficiency symptoms supplement their diets. Collagen supplements come in many different forms. A collagen powder is one of the best options. With this type of supplement, you mix the powder with liquid and drink. Your body can then easily absorb the protein without having to break down a capsule or tablet of collagen for joint pain and other concerns. But beware of generic collagen supplements that lack transparency.
What To Look For in a Collagen Supplement
Whether you're taking collagen for skin or joint pain, you want to choose a supplement that can deliver on its promises. Look for supplements that come from real food, as studies show that they are often more effective than their counterparts. It's also important to consider the concentration of dipeptides found in the supplement, which most brands won’t call out.
That’s why companies like Body Kitchen, become important when choosing the right supplements. Youthful Beauty Collagen Powder contains 30 times more dipeptides than most other products on the market and contains only grass-fed and marine collagen peptides. The word beauty is the name, but the supplement isn't just for the skin. It is also a practical choice for healthy recipes, this formula is a refined and completely unflavored powder.