Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition and founder of DrAxe.com, author of the best-selling books Keto Diet and The Collagen Diet and his new book Ancient Remedies, and host of podcast The Dr. Axe Show.
By Dr. Josh Axe
Collagen is the most abundant type of protein found in the human body, as well as a valuable protein that you can get from foods like traditional bone broth and from collagen supplements.
It’s made up of key amino acids including glycine, proline and arginine which aren’t found in high amounts in typical meat protein sources, such as chicken or beef. This explains why many people can benefit from acquiring more collagen, especially considering how it plays a critical role in supporting a healthy gut lining, joint health, skin health and more.
How does collagen help the gut? This type of protein accounts for 25 to 30 percent of all the proteins in the human body, since it’s the main component of connective tissues. It helps maintain the structure and function of many different body parts, including the lining of your organs and gastrointestinal tract, plus your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and skin.
One of the main benefits of collagen for gut health is its ability to support the integrity of the gut lining. Therefore, just about everyone can benefit from collagen foods and powders: infants, young children, the elderly, athletes, pregnant women, new mothers, and adult men and women.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to starting any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including collagen supplements. Likewise, you should always read and follow label directions for suggested use.
Starting around your late-20s to mid-30s, you typically begin to naturally produce less collagen, which is why you may start to notice it in your skin, joints or even your gut.
Collagen for the Gut
Generally speaking, collagen benefits gut health by supporting a healthy gut lining and supporting digestion. Some general ways it adds to healthy gut function include by:
1. Supporting the gut lining which aids nutrient absorption and is needed for overall healthy immune function. Collagen helps support the lining of the intestinal wall which is usually bound tightly together, making up what’s called “tight junctions,” leading to an overall healthy intestinal barrier.
2. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome, which means that you’re able to maintain a healthy intestinal barrier, as well as a healthy ratio of “good guy” to “bad guy” gut flora or beneficial types.
3. Supporting normal phase 2 liver detoxification.
4. Supporting the central nervous system and promoting relaxation, which is important for the “gut brain connection.”
5. Supporting a healthy metabolism and body composition.
6. Aiding in energy output.
Which Collagen Is Best for Gut Health?
Did you know that there are at least 29 different types of collagen found in the human body? These include types 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10, which have different roles such as supporting healthy skin, organ tissue, muscles, arteries, etc.
The best types of collagen for gut health include types 1 and 2, which are by far the most abundant in your body and needed for healthy organ tissue and other connective tissues, as well type 4, which helps form tissues within the digestive system.
Ideally you want to consume hydrolyzed collagen powder, also called collagen peptides. These contain amino acids and nutrients found in collagen from bone broth, but have undergone a process called hydrolysis to break them down into shorter chains of proteins.
Generally speaking, collagen peptides can be dissolved in both hot or cold water and, because of the hydrolysis process, are broken down and digested more easily in your gut which helps with absorption.
How to Use Collagen for Gut Health
While our bodies make their own collagen, we can also give our bodies the building blocks for collagen production from eating certain foods and taking collagen supplements.
How much collagen do you need for gut health? It really depends on your current health, lifestyle and goals.
In the past, while practicing in my clinic, I often recommended that my patients consume at least one serving of collagen protein powder per day, for example by having a collagen-filled smoothie for breakfast, while also eating a “collagen-boosting” lunch and dinner to support their gut health and promote healthy connective tissue.
Some people may benefit from having even more, such as 2–3 servings daily, but should always check with their healthcare professional first.
Here are the top three things to do in your quest to consume more collagen for gut health:
1. Incorporate natural, collagen-promoting foods into your diet, especially bone broth that is the most readily available source.
2. Consume collagen supplements, such as Multi Collagen Protein powder, which contains five types of collagen from four real food sources. Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein Gut Restore formula also provides you with one billion CFUs* of soil-based organism (SBO) probiotics, powerful prebiotics and two kinds of glutamine for overall gut support.
Haven't tried collagen yet? Then go with Collagen Peptides powder, which features two types of collagen. It offers support for resilient skin, strong nails and hair, flexible joints and a healthy gut.
3. Eat a well-rounded diet that aids the production of the collagen you consume and helps support your body’s ability to make its own collagen. This type of diet should include plenty of antioxidants, vitamin C, zinc, copper and protein in general which all help with collagen synthesis.
When it comes to adding collagen protein powder to your diet, there are lots of options for putting this supplement to use. Our Multi Collagen Protein powder (MCP), which is unflavored (unless you opt for a flavored formula), can be mixed into coffee, smoothies, juice, soups, or used in oatmeal and healthy baked goods.
Our best-selling line of MCP powders combine collagen types I, II, III, V and X to provide a broad spectrum of collagen benefits to support a healthy gut and much more. MCP is sourced from beef, chicken, fish and eggshell membrane collagen, all of which are non-GMO, grass-fed and pasture-raised, cage-free and cruelty-free sources made without hormones.
Other Gut Supplements
Along with changing your diet, taking the right supplements can make a big difference in addressing a healthy gut and gut lining. In addition to supplementing with collagen for gut health, other products that can help aid digestion and gut function include:
“Leaky Gut” Supplement — Our Leaky Gut Capsules feature a powerful blend of botanicals formulated for gut integrity, as well as adaptogenic mushrooms and 2 Billion CFUs* of probiotics.
This multifaceted formula also features the key ingredients: licorice root, astragalus, marshmallow, lion’s mane mushroom and L-glutamine, along with 2 billion CFUs* (colony forming units) of Bacillus coagulans. Together these support digestive function health and promote healthy elimination, while also helping to maintain healthy gut microflora.
SBO Probiotics — Having a healthy ratio of “bad guy bacteria” vs. “good guy bacteria” populating your gastrointestinal system is key for gut health. Ancient Nutrition’s SBO Probiotic Gut Restore formula features 25 billion CFUs* of SBOs per serving in combination with organic fermented blends of superfoods and mushrooms.
Within this formula you’ll find marshmallow root, licorice root, turkey tail mushroom, reishi mushroom and more for extra mind-body support.
Digestive Enzymes — Digestive enzymes help break down proteins, complex sugars and starches in our diets, which can in turn support normal digestion and nutrient absorption.
For the greatest digestive benefit, opt for a full spectrum Digestive Enzyme Supplement and take one or two capsules of digestive enzyme supplements before and after your main meals. (Read and follow label directions for use.)
*at time of manufacture