Collagen: A Vital Part of Your Gut Health Regimen
Collagen has become my go-to choice for protein supplementation. Protein is one of my Vital Five nutrients. Collagen wins because it is so rarely eaten and I've seen real-life benefits beyond helping achieve protein intake goals.
Collagen-rich foods are organ meats or bone broth, and they definitely aren't a part of the typical 'Merican diet. Organ meats are just gross, and bone broth takes too long to prepare.
(She and Techno Viking are my favorite early-meme memes, in case you didn’t pick that up yet.)
As 4 of my consultations over the past week have resolved quickly and successfully with collagen supplementation, I feel like we need to have a serious discussion about collagen's benefit to your gut health.
Four Consults. Four Shaky Guts.
I tend to recommend collagen peptides as a first-line option in cases where I feel like the lining of the gut is contributing to the problem, or is adversely affected by the condition itself.
Put it more simply: you know how your low gut feels when you have diarrhea?
It's 'shaky.' Uneasy. There's that weird pain that feels like it could go away if you just relax, but there's a general concerted effort to remain continent.
How is that for being descriptive but not gross?
Remember, everybody poops. Hopefully, this no-BS description can help you recognize if this potential solution is for you.
Each of these four folks had different reasons, but all were in the same place gut-wise. They each represent a different type of situation, so maybe these examples will help you or someone you know.
The Irregular Mom
AC is a 40 year old mom who is experiencing general irregularity or inconsistency in her stools since the most recent birth of her child.
She was not a regular supplement user. Like most folks, she could use diet tweaking but generally ate healthily: she avoids inflammatory foods, eats regularly, and has no intolerances besides high-fat foods (like chain restaurants).
I recommended collagen as she described her gut as uneasy and generally irritated. She was to add it to a fruit/veggie smoothie every morning and follow up in a week.
She described a "calming" effect on her gut in just a few days, with regular movements happening by day 5. She truly couldn't believe that something could work so quickly. A theme you'll see repeated with these other cases.
The (Well-Deserved) Fatty Diet Grandmother
(This case started about 2 weeks ago, but fully resolved this week)
AB is an 82 year old pillar of the community who was at her wit’s end. She describes frequent, bothersome bowel movements, especially after eating some of her favorite foods: ice cream, hamburgers, french fries, and other fatty stuff.
I'm not one to criticize anyone over 75 for eating in an unhealthy way. Y’all deserve it for making it so far, and as the world is collapsing you might as well dip those fries in a Fribble and enjoy it.
AB used a handful of gut health supplements recommended by friends and other "gurus." These include a national brand probiotic and what I've referred to as "McDonald's cheeseburger" vitamins.
I told her to stop all supplements and try just some collagen, as going to buy bone broth wasn't in the cards for her. I recommended removing all problem foods for 2 days, then slowly reintroducing them.
Since she was older, I recommended splitting the collagen to 1/2 scoop twice daily.
Within 2 days, she reports, things were much calmer. I had her check back in after 3 more days after she started to introduce fats.
Happy as a clam, she could eat her fatty foods without a problem. She reported better consistency and regularity.
After a few days, however, she felt bloated and felt the collagen was to blame. Again, being older, I felt it wise to reduce her dose. She has reported success with 1/2 scoops every day.
This serves as a great reminder: sometimes trial-and-error is required and nothing is perfect.
Forgot My Probiotic Dilemma
BD is a 52 year old who, last month, was prescribed 3 weeks worth of doxycycline for a potential Lyme's diagnosis.
Unfortunately, his NYC pharmacist wasn't proactive with probiotics, and BD went the entire time without one. He had loose stools, and even though he's been antibiotic-free for about a week, he's still not right.
BD reports improvement of his symptoms so far. I attribute this to the Collagen Peptides mostly, as it has a far better effect in calming the storm in the short term.
TP is a 63 year old woman who just wrapped radiation and is looking to gain weight. She has no appetite, and when she does eat, the food "runs right through" her.
Radiation affects rapidly dividing cells the most: hair, skin, nails, and the lining of your gut.
Collagen Peptides were the only thing the dietitian at her oncologist's practice approved. Within 5 days, she felt more regular and had a returning appetite. This could be attributed to time to heal after radiation, but I believe the collagen helped steady the rocky seas.
How Collagen Helps Your Gut
Collagen works by making the gut lining healthier. Our entire gut lining IS collagen—Type IV to be specific.
By eating this protein source, we're exposing the cells of our gut that are responsible for healing and lining the gut with nutrients needed to rebuild.
In particular, collagen is rich in glycine, glutamine, and proline. These amino acids are essential building blocks of cell structures.
Rebuilding the lining makes it stronger and more resistant to irritants, which would allow our body to attack these inflammatory components.
In my book, it's a win-win. We get extra protein to meet our goals, and we also get the benefit of gut health support.
Unfortunately, collagen is an animal product. Remember, there are no REAL vegan collagen options.
Collagen: A Vital, Gut Supporting Nutrient
In true holistic care, like my model the Holistic Standard advocates, we must FIRST use good, vital nutrition before we reach for medicines or supplements.
The best, most justified supplements are extensions of our nutrition. Collagen peptides, in the situations above, were used to replace crucial nutrients that were clearly lacking.
Remember, gut health is often not resolved with a single intervention like the situations above. In fact, I have pointed out my Four Pillars of Gut Health before.
Collagen isn't the ONLY thing that will help make guts happy, but it certainly deserves its place among the Vital Five, as it supports gut health as well as other important body systems.
Just trying to keep it real,
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth