Updated: Apr 16
Popularity of dietary collagen has skyrocketed into mainstream media and retail product sales in recent years — but what is a person who prefers a Vegan, Vegetarian, or a generally “Plant-dominant” dietary lifestyle to do in making sense of recent claims to the benefits of consuming this type of animal-sourced connective tissue?
Let’s take a quick look at this trend, together.
Although many product consumers and marketers report favorable responses to consuming dietary collagen, there is great clinical debate as to whether consuming processed connective tissue proteins are actually digested, assimilated and incorporated (as speculated) into our own connective tissue for regeneration.
It may be effectively argued that individuals who report varied improvements to skin or joints are simultaneously cleaning-up their diets to reduce pro-inflammatory foods, additives and irritants whilst incorporating more of the foods that provide their bodies with the fundamental building-blocks of endogenous [self-produced] collagen.
Typically, individuals are equally drinking more water and less caffeine at the same time as adding dietary collagen to their diets — measures which already provide some similar benefits to the body’s appearance and function. Hydration and dietary clean-up additionally reduce acid levels and oxidative stress damage leading to breakdown of existing collagen. Acid and oxidation accelerates aging via persistent inflammation and chronic tissue damage.
Now we look at the source of supplemental collagen: Animals.
What’s a person to do when they practice dietary lifestyles that do not support consuming animal-based foods — or those who need to reduce intake of animal ingredients to address imbalances such as Autoimmune diseases, Gout and other sources of chronic inflammation? Look to what you can put on your plate.
We build collagen from compounds in plant-based food - often found in their vibrant, variable colors. One profound component of green vegetables that is essential to collagen formation is chlorophyll.
Also required for connective tissue integrity are the inherent broad spectrum of naturally-sourced nutrients in vegetables, nuts (if tolerated), seeds, fruits and whole grains — including (but not limited to) proper ratios of B-complex nutrients, Zinc, Silica and Vitamin C.
It is best NOT to isolate these nutrients into supplements, to avoid creating an imbalance out of good intentions. Rather, aim to get them in the balance which they would occur naturally — in food.
So, when do I need to improve my collagen production?
Chronic injuries and inflammation, reduced skin elasticity, poor healing from surgery/cuts/scrapes, and easy bruising — all indicate you would benefit greatly from taking a few self-care measures:
Cleaning-up your diet from processed foods/additives/sweeteners/preservatives, increasing water intake, and expanding your repertoire of plant-based foods.
Aim for getting a variety of vegetable colors for the most varied nutrition you can pack-into your day: green, white, red, purple, orange, yellow… you get the picture.
Add seeds — such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame (including tahini, which is ground sesame seed paste), quinoa and others — contain many of the minerals and fatty acids required for healthy, strong yet pliable tissues.
Reduce pro-inflammatory foods: dairy, red meat, shellfish and orange citrus.
Add more warming spice to your diet to reduce inflammation, improve circulation and nutrient absorption: cinnamon, clove, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, allspice, chili/cayenne, and garlic.
You may add liquid chlorophyll (single-ingredient liquid that is free of any additional ingredients) to your daily diet, but increased intake of dark green veggies with its array of additional nutrients should suffice.
Sometimes the cause of our symptoms go beyond dietary remedy. Here we turn to concentrated Plant Medicines, best tailored to your own unique Medical History. We must seek the cause of imbalance, rather than supplementing with animal collagen — which may not resolve the source of collagen breakdown.
More often than not, there are hormonal imbalances impairing cell metabolism and the tissue-regenerating process.
Tami Bronstein is a Medical Herbalist-Physiologist. She is Internationally-qualified in Phytotherapy (Herbal Medicine) and Exercise Physiology via University degrees in England and USA, respectively. Tami’s Post-Graduate Specialty in NeuroEndocrine-Immunology alongside Medical Doctors of France focuses upon [brain+body] hormonal and immune balance through applying organic whole-plant medicines. Learn more at: medherbalist.com