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The Surprising Benefits of Collagen

By Gretchen Lidicker
November 17, 2021

In recent years, collagen has made major waves as the best skin health supplement you can buy. It is, after all, made out of the very stuff that makes your skin firm, elastic, and youthful-looking.  

Although collagen’s most well-known benefit is pretty enticing, the truth is that collagen also packs some lesser-known — but equally exciting — benefits. In fact, the rewards of collagen go far beyond skin health. 

The surprising benefits of collagen

Let’s back up a little bit and get a touch into the science of this stuff. Collagen isn’t actually one single protein, it’s a whole family of proteins that are found all over the body. They’re an important component in the skin, yes, but they also exist in your bones, cartilage, and muscle. We produce collagen naturally, but over time and as we age, our collagen can get broken down by environmental factors or decrease naturally, which can lead to age-related stiffness and pain. 

“This slows us down in life and minimizes our ability to exercise,” says Rudy Gehrman, D.C., a chiropractic doctor and founder of Physiologic Movement Center in New York City. But according to Dr. Gehrman, collagen can help keep us moving. “Regular supplementation of collagen stimulates cartilage production,” he says.

Collagen as a complete protein source 

According to Will Cole, D.C., functional medicine expert and New York Times best-selling author, collagen also shines because of its non-reactive source of protein. “I work with a lot of people with gut and inflammatory problems and unfortunately other protein sources like whey, dairy, egg, soy, and hemp proteins can be irritating to the system and disruptive to the GI system,” he says. 

For these people, Dr. Cole suggests collagen. “It is among the safest sources of complete protein, and is easily absorbed so the body can use it,” he says. Why? It’s already found naturally in our body, so it’s less likely to be an allergen. 

Collagen also boasts an impressive amino acid profile. “It’s a complete protein with all the essential amino acids we need to build the blocks of every tissue in our body,” says Dr. Cole. And while that does include your skin, it also includes other collagen-rich tissues like those in your joints and your gut lining. In fact, collagen naturally contains glutamine, which according to Dr. Gehrman, is an amino acid that decreases oxidative stress in our gut. 

And gut health is critical to our overall health. In fact, our gut seems to be able to influence our mood, metabolism, and even our immune system. “A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system, as most of our immune system lives in our gastrointestinal systems,” says Dr. Gehrman.

This benefit of collagen has many health experts even more excited than the skin health benefits. As Dr. Cole put it: “Collagen’s positive influence on gut health is one of the main things that I love about it beyond skin health.” 

How to take collagen 

Thanks to its complete amino acid profile, collagen makes a great post-workout supplement despite almost never being marketed as one. “I personally throw a scoop (about 15 grams) of collagen into every post-workout smoothie, due to its wide range of amino acids, which we depend on to repair and build muscle,” says Dr. Gehrman.

And here’s where one of collagen’s major benefits comes in — its taste and texture. Collagen is virtually tasteless and dissolves completely in water. That means no artificial flavors or sugars, no clumping or powder residue, and no stirring or shaking. Because of this, collagen can be incorporated into your morning coffee, a glass of water, or even recipes like oatmeal, chia pudding, or soup. (If you’re looking for more inspiration, here are three ways to add collagen powder to your wellness routine.) You can also get a daily dose of collagen via bone broth, which naturally contains collagen because it’s made by boiling down bones and other connective tissue.

Collagen’s skin health benefits are nothing to scoff at — in fact, plenty of studies have shown that collagen supplements can, in fact, improve skin health and appearance — but collagen’s other benefits are certainly impressive enough not to be ignored. 

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