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Wellness

Health

Collagen and women’s health: A look at science-backed benefits

Discover how collagen can transform your health beyond skin deep.

You've probably seen hundreds of advertisements for collagen supplements and beauty products, hailing their skin health benefits. However, the relationship between women’s health and collagen goes far beyond rejuvenating the skin.

Collagen is a protein. It’s one of the most abundant proteins in the body, providing structure, strength, and support to blood vessels, skin, bones, corneas, and connective tissues, such as tendons and cartilage. Therefore, collagen is critical in many body processes, including new cell growth, wound healing, blood clotting, and organ protection. It’s also essential to skin elasticity, strength, and structure.

As we age, collagen production slows, and collagen degradation increases. The process accelerates after menopause. Lifestyle changes—such as stopping smoking, eating collagen-rich foods, and using adequate sun protection—can slow collagen loss.

Join us as we explore the types and benefits of collagen, including skin health support and enhanced bone mineral density. We’ll also talk about how making dietary changes and incorporating collagen supplements into your routine can help you maintain healthy collagen levels and possibly improve your overall wellness.

What Is collagen?

Collagen is a protein consisting of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. As the most abundant protein in the human body, collagen accounts for approximately 30% of the body's total protein. Its structure comprises three amino acid chains, each consisting of 1,050 amino acids, tightly wound to form a triple helix that can withstand stress.

Its primary role is to provide structural support to connective tissues. Thanks to its rigidity and resistance to stretching, the collagen matrix is ideal for supporting bones, ligaments, skin, and tendons.

Collagen types

There are 28 types of collagen, each with a unique molecular structure. Types I, II, III, IV, and V are the most common collagens found throughout the body.

Type I

The most abundant protein form making up 90% of the body's collagen; type I collagen is essential for maintaining tissue integrity. Its fibers are densely packed to provide structure to bones, tendons, skin, and ligaments. Mutations in the genes for type I collagen synthesis cause osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which can negatively affect connective tissue, joint, and skin health.

Type II

Type II collagen, found in cartilage, is important in joint support. Mutations in type II collagen production can result in various forms of chondrodysplasia, which can cause early-onset osteoarthritis.

Type III

Found primarily in reticular fibers (connective tissue networks found in many organs), blood vessels, and muscles, type III collagen plays a role in the body’s inflammation response to lung injury, liver disease, hernia, and vascular disorders. Type III collagen mutations have been linked to aneurysms, poor circulation, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Type IV

Type IV collagen in some skin cells and layers helps signal several bodily functions. Mutations in this type of collagen production can cause Alport syndrome, a chronic kidney disease.

Type V

Collagen type V is crucial in connective tissue health and forming placenta cell membranes. It’s found in some skin cells and the corneas. Type V collagen mutations are associated with diseases of the connective tissues, including Ehlers-Danos syndrome.

How does your body make collagen?

Collagen synthesis occurs primarily in specialized cells known as fibroblasts. Procollagen, a precursor to collagen made from the amino acids proline and glycine, is secreted by the cells and processed in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi body (two cell organelles) to create amino acid peptide chains.

Once they exit the cell, the peptide chains separate to form tropocollagen. These tropocollagen molecules bond together to form collagen fibrils, and multiple collagen fibrils form collagen fibers. In addition to amino acids, collagen production requires nutrients, including iron, zinc, vitamin C, and silicon.

Potential benefits of collagen for women's health

Collagen is a protein that provides structural support and strength to tissues throughout the body. As such, it’s associated with wound healing and various other health benefits, including:

Improved skin elasticity

Collagen is the main component of skin. As collagen levels decrease with age, the skin loses some of its structure, firmness, and elasticity.

Several studies demonstrate that oral collagen supplements can improve skin health by increasing skin elasticity, hydration, and collagen density while reducing the appearance of wrinkles.

Enhanced joint health

Low estrogen levels are known to accelerate cartilage damage, which explains the increased incidence of osteoarthritis and decreased joint health after menopause.

Type II collagen is the main component of cartilage tissue and has potential as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Studies indicate that collagen peptide supplementation can support healthy joints by stimulating collagen tissue regeneration, reducing joint pain, and preventing bone loss, potentially delaying or preventing the onset of osteoarthritis.

Heart health support

Clinical studies indicate that hydrolyzed collagen supplements may help improve blood pressure. One study suggests a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive patients taking collagen supplements daily for three months.

Early research demonstrates that collagen peptide supplementation can improve the ratio of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (bad cholesterol), which can help reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis and other heart conditions.

Improved gut health

Among their many health benefits, collagen peptides have potential as prebiotics and can help regulate the composition of the gut microbiome. Furthermore, collagen peptide supplements can positively impact metabolism and gastrointestinal balance by influencing barrier function and immune responses.

Collagen peptides can help reduce the symptoms of metabolic disorders by supporting and maintaining the balance of gut microorganisms and stimulating anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Increased bone mass

Another common women's health concern is osteoporosis. Bone density starts to decrease around the time of menopause due to lower levels of estrogen, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Human and animal studies suggest collagen peptides can increase bone mass, strength, and density. As such, collagen supplements may benefit osteoporosis patients.

Furthermore, diet-induced weight loss is associated with reduced bone mineral density and health, possibly mitigable with collagen supplementation.

Weight loss aid

High-protein diets can assist with weight loss and maintenance in medically overweight individuals, and collagen supplements can increase protein intake.

A study in high-fat diet-induced obese mice given fish collagen peptides found a reduction in many obesity signs, including abdominal fat, weight gain, and high blood glucose levels. These changes are attributed to the effect of collagen peptides on gut microorganisms.

Increased muscle mass

Sarcopenia, a reduction in muscle mass and muscle function due to age or inactivity, can occur when estrogen levels decline around menopause. This decrease in muscle mass can also increase cellulite.

A study on the impact of specific bioactive collagen peptides on cellulite morphology indicates that women between 24 and 50 years old who take collagen supplements every day for six months increase muscle mass and decrease cellulite.

Brain health support

The role of collagen in brain health is a relatively new area of research. It's theorized that collagen's amino acid profile could benefit the brain. For example, glycine is believed to have a calming effect on the brain, which may help promote sleep.

A pilot study reported that daily hydrolyzed collagen administration for four weeks improved cognitive function by changing brain structure.

Boosted hair and nail strength

The impact of collagen supplements on skin health has been extensively researched, but less is known about the link between collagen and hair and nails.

Although primarily comprised of keratin, some small studies indicate that a collagen supplement could help improve nail growth and strength, benefiting those with brittle nails. For example, an observational study reported daily collagen supplementation resulted in a 42% decrease in broken nail frequency and a 12% increase in nail growth. However, more research and larger-scale studies are needed to establish a definitive link between collagen supplements and nail strength.

The influence of collagen supplements on hair growth and health is also limited, but there is some supporting evidence. According to a 2021 study, taking collagen supplements daily for 16 weeks resulted in a 31% increase in the growth of new hair follicle cells and a significant increase in hair thickness in healthy women between 39 and 75 years old.

How to get more collagen

The body makes its own collagen; however, collagen production slows down with age (particularly after menopause), and existing collagen breaks down faster. Fortunately, there are ways to potentially boost collagen levels in the body, such as eating foods high in collagen—like pork skin and eggs—and collagen supplementation.

Eating collagen-rich foods

Contemporary diets often lack collagen, a key nutrient essential to overall health and various bodily processes. By incorporating high-protein, collagen-rich foods into your diet as part of a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to improve your skin health and bone mineral density and enjoy other benefits of collagen.

When consumed, collagen is broken down into amino acids in the stomach. These amino acids are then absorbed and distributed throughout the body where protein is needed. Some collagen-abundant, protein-rich foods include:

  • Tough cuts of meat with a high concentration of connective tissue (e.g., brisket and chuck steak)
  • Pork skin (also known as pork rinds)
  • Bone broth
  • Gelatin

Foods that contain the raw ingredients for collagen synthesis—such as peptides and free amino acids—are recommended as part of a balanced diet, such as:

  • Fish
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Soy

Collagen production also requires zinc and vitamin C. Good sources of zinc include nuts, seeds, shellfish, legumes, and whole grains; vitamin C can be found in leafy greens, bell peppers, citrus fruits, and berries.

Taking collagen supplements

Eating foods high in amino acids and collagen isn’t enough for some individuals to maintain healthy collagen levels. In such cases, taking collagen supplements can be beneficial. Some popular choices for collagen supplementation include collagen drinks and powders. Many consumers opt for the convenience of collagen capsules.

Collagen first appeared in skin care products, many of which claimed to improve skin health by boosting elasticity and moisture. However, collagen fibers are too large to penetrate the skin, and current research does not suggest that shorter chains of collagen—known as collagen peptides—can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. That said, it is questionable whether these topical collagen products are as effective as other types of collagen supplements.

Oral collagen supplementation is more likely to result in effective absorption and utilization by the body. As such, collagen drinks, pills, and powders are becoming increasingly popular for those seeking collagen benefits. Most collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides, broken-down collagen types that are easier to absorb.

Sources of collagen in collagen supplements

Collagen peptides are smaller, simpler forms of collagen, easier for the body to absorb. As such, it is no surprise that most collagen supplements contain collagen peptides. Here are some of the most common sources of collagen peptides used in the production of collagen supplements:

Bovine collagen

Rich in glycine and proline, bovine collagen contains two types—type I and type III—and is believed to be good for joint, bone, and gut health.

Marine collagen

High in glycine and proline, marine collagen is typically derived from fish skin and contains type II collagen. It promotes bone, joint, and gut health and can boost skin hydration and elasticity. Marine collagen is more bioavailable than bovine collagen, which is absorbed more quickly and efficiently.

Plant collagen

Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, plant collagen is not technically collagen. Rather, it contains ingredients that support collagen production, such as vitamin C, zinc, copper, and amino acids.

Risks of taking collagen supplements

Like all supplements, a collagen supplement can have adverse effects and safety concerns.

Potential side effects of collagen supplements

Most individuals enjoy the benefits of collagen through oral collagen supplements without experiencing any ill effects. However, there are some potential side effects to be aware of when taking collagen supplements, including:

  • Nausea
  • Flatulence
  • Indigestion

Although collagen is generally considered safe, collagen supplements can contain additional ingredients that may cause adverse reactions, so it is wise to consult a healthcare professional before you take a collagen supplement.

Potential safety concerns of collagen supplements

Just because collagen supplements have minimal reported side effects does not mean they are completely safe. Some people may have an allergic reaction to the ingredients in collagen supplements. For example, individuals allergic to shellfish can experience anaphylaxis if they take marine collagen supplements.

Collagen supplementation also carries a slight risk of disease transmission. Collagen supplements formulated with porcine and bovine collagen carry a small risk of transmitting zoonotic illnesses like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also known as “mad cow disease”).

Before taking collagen supplements, it is important to check the ingredients of your chosen collagen supplement and consult your doctor to minimize safety risks and potential drug interactions.

Conclusion

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is the building block of bones, connective tissues, skin, and muscles. For decades, collagen peptides have been applauded for their potential to improve skin elasticity and overall skin health. However, the benefits of collagen are not limited to skin hydration and health. This key structural protein provides strength and support to many tissues throughout the body. As such, collagen's potential health benefits are not merely skin-deep.

Collagen benefits cannot be overstated. It can increase muscle mass and improve overall muscle health, strengthen blood vessels, support healthy joints and reduce joint pain, increase skin moisture, enhance bone health, strengthen hair and nails, and so much more.

However, collagen production slows, and existing collagen breaks down as we age—particularly after menopause. In addition to eating collagen-rich foods like bone broth, incorporating collagen peptide supplements into your routine can help you maintain healthy levels of this key nutrient.

Just remember to shop around for the best collagen supplement for your needs and check the ingredient labels for common allergens and any ingredients that conflict with your dietary restrictions or preferences. Also, be sure to consult your healthcare provider before taking collagen supplements, especially if you have medical conditions or are taking medications.

Health

8 nontraditional empathy cards that are unlike any you've ever seen. They're perfect!

Because sincerity and real talk are important during times of medical crisis.

True compassion.

When someone you know gets seriously ill, it's not always easy to come up with the right words to say or to find the right card to give.

Emily McDowell — a former ad agency creative director and the woman behind the Los Angeles-based greeting card and textile company Emily McDowell Studio — knew all too well what it was like to be on the receiving end of uncomfortable sentiments.

At the age of 24, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin's lymphoma. She went into remission after nine months of chemo and has remained cancer-free since, but she received her fair share of misplaced, but well-meaning, wishes before that.

On her webpage introducing the awesome cards you're about to see, she shared,

"The most difficult part of my illness wasn't losing my hair, or being erroneously called 'sir' by Starbucks baristas, or sickness from chemo. It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn't know what to say or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it."

Her experience inspired Empathy Cards — not quite "get well soon" and not quite "sympathy," they were created so "the recipients of these cards [can] feel seen, understood, and loved."

Scroll down to read these sincere, from-the-heart, and incredibly realistic sentiments.


Emily McDowell Studio

Pretty great, right? If you know someone who's in the less-than-ideal position of dealing with a serious illness, you can purchase any of these eight cards to share with them.

Visit Emily McDowell Studio's shop to select the card(s) you need. They're $5.00 each.

(We're not being paid to share these, nor were we asked to do so. We came across the cards and I loved them, so I reached out to Emily McDowell Studio and asked if I could share them with you. Unfortunately, a lot of us know someone who could use a card like one of these.)


This article originally appeared on 05.06.15








We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."


Bozeat started vomiting one evening and couldn't stop, unable to even keep water down. "My symptoms showed no signs of abating," he wrote. "At this point I had to seek medical treatment, I knew I had to go to the hospital."

"I wanted to avoid it," he added. "I had no idea how different Taiwanese hospitals would be, whether I would be able to find an English speaking doctor, or what it would cost me (my US health insurance has lapsed and I don't qualify for Taiwanese NHI)."

Taiwan's National Health Insurance (NHI) is a single-payer system that covers all residents of Taiwan. Foreigners can take part in the system immediately upon obtaining a work permit, or after six months of living in the country. Bozeat was a student and hadn't lived there long enough to be eligible yet.

But he needn't have worried.

Bozeat's bill for his entire hospital stay was a fraction of many insured American's copays for emergency services.

And it's not like he received substandard service for what he paid.

"My Taiwanese roommate called a taxi and took me to the ER at NTU Hospital," Bozeat wrote. "I was immediately checked-in by an English speaking nurse. Within 20 minutes I was given IV fluids and anti-emetics. They took blood tests and did an ultrasound to ensure it wasn't gall stones or appendicitis. From there I was given a diagnosis: a particularly severe case of Acute Viral Gastroenteritis (aka the stomach flu). After about 3 hours on an IV, I began to feel slightly better, my nausea disappeared and my stomach began to calm down."

Bozeat was discharged with a prescription for anti-emetics and pain medication, and after a few days he was back to normal. This is when most of us would start panicking as we wait for the hospital bills to start arriving. But Bozeat was pleasantly surprised:

"The bill for the ER visit?...US $80.00. Eighty. American. Dollars. Out of pocket. Full cost. No discounts. No insurance. At one of the best hospitals in Taiwan. And if I had NHI, it would have been a fraction of that. This could have easily cost me hundreds or even thousands in the US without insurance. But here in Taiwan I was able to receive speedy, quality care comparable to what I would have gotten in a US hospital for relatively small amount of money."

And it's not like he received substandard service for what he paid.

"My Taiwanese roommate called a taxi and took me to the ER at NTU Hospital," Bozeat wrote. "I was immediately checked-in by an English speaking nurse. Within 20 minutes I was given IV fluids and anti-emetics. They took blood tests and did an ultrasound to ensure it wasn't gall stones or appendicitis. From there I was given a diagnosis: a particularly severe case of Acute Viral Gastroenteritis (aka the stomach flu). After about 3 hours on an IV, I began to feel slightly better, my nausea disappeared and my stomach began to calm down."

Bozeat was discharged with a prescription for anti-emetics and pain medication, and after a few days he was back to normal. This is when most of us would start panicking as we wait for the hospital bills to start arriving. But Bozeat was pleasantly surprised:

"The bill for the ER visit?...US $80.00. Eighty. American. Dollars. Out of pocket. Full cost. No discounts. No insurance. At one of the best hospitals in Taiwan. And if I had NHI, it would have been a fraction of that. This could have easily cost me hundreds or even thousands in the US without insurance. But here in Taiwan I was able to receive speedy, quality care comparable to what I would have gotten in a US hospital for relatively small amount of money."

I did some research, and the cost of living overall in Taiwan is about half what it is here. There is not a hospital that I know of in the U.S. where you can be admitted and discharged for anything close to $160, even for something as simple as a bee sting. (Seriously, an ER visit for a bee sting can set you back $12,000 in the U.S.)

Bozeat also pointed out that the taxes that pay for Taiwan's health system are not that high.

Responding to the common complaint that we'd have to raise taxes to pay for universal healthcare, Bozeat continued his list:

"5: Yes, taxes pay for the healthcare here. No, they are not high. Try for yourself: The formula for the NHI monthly premium contribution for a single employed adult is: [your monthly income] x 0.0469 (4.69%) x 0.3 (30%) = Your monthly out-of-pocket healthcare premium."

I did the math for a $60,000 per year income—it comes to $70.53/month. [Sigh.]

But Bozeat wasn't done:

"6: It's not perfect. Not everything is 100% covered. I had a good experience, but Im sure many people have had [non-financial] medical horror stories here.

7: This system exists because the Taiwanese government believes that healthcare is a right for all of its citizens, rather than a privilege for those who can afford it. Those aren't my words, thats what the Ministry of Health said in its English language brochure. Every Taiwanese citizen and foreign permanent resident is entitled to, and required to enroll in the National Health Insurance Program (NHI). Everyone is covered, regardless of employment status, no one is uninsured, no one ever goes bankrupt due to medical bills."

And the quality of care does not appear to be compromised in this system, either.

"I have yet to meet a Taiwanese person who wasn't satisfied with, or even outright proud of their healthcare system," Bozeat wrote. "My expat friends praise it, even those from countries with universal healthcare systems of their own. "

But Bozeat wasn't done:"6: It's not perfect. Not everything is 100% covered. I had a good experience, but Im sure many people have had [non-financial] medical horror stories here.7: This system exists because the Taiwanese government believes that healthcare is a right for all of its citizens, rather than a privilege for those who can afford it. Those aren't my words, thats what the Ministry of Health said in its English language brochure. Every Taiwanese citizen and foreign permanent resident is entitled to, and required to enroll in the National Health Insurance Program (NHI). Everyone is covered, regardless of employment status, no one is uninsured, no one ever goes bankrupt due to medical bills."
And the quality of care does not appear to be compromised in this system, either."I have yet to meet a Taiwanese person who wasn't satisfied with, or even outright proud of their healthcare system," Bozeat wrote. "My expat friends praise it, even those from countries with universal healthcare systems of their own."


This article originally appeared on 02.28.19

@causingascenepodcast1/TikTok, Photo credit: Canva

For as long as there have been showers, there have been shower debates.

We’ve debated about how often to shower, what time of day to shower, which direction to stand in the shower and whether or not shower snacks are appropriate.

But today, the hot topic of shower conversation is this: is using a washcloth the superior way to get clean, or just completely gross? You better believe people have strong opinions.

Though of course people have had this debate before, it recently went mainstream again thanks to a viral soundbite from “Causing a Scene with Sarah and Natalie.” Though hosts Sara Gretzky and Natalie Buck typically discuss pop culture topics, personal hygiene got thrown into the mix when Gretzky asked Buck if she was for or against washcloths.

“Do you use a washcloth?” Gretzky asked. Buck replied with a passionately whispered “no,” to which Gretzky agreed, “Me either... That is disgusting.”

Buck went on to joke that using a washcloth to clean her body was a “UTI waiting to happen,” before Gretzky informed her that they were likely “in the minority” with this opinion.

She then asked her co host the all important question “what are you washing your butt with?” Unapologetically, Buck answered, “My hands” and declared she’d “burn” her washcloth after using it.

From there, the comments section was all a flutter. Many could not understand why Gretzky and Buck were pro-hands and anti-washcloth.

@causingascenepodcast1 Do you use a wash cloth? #causingascene #podcast #shower ♬ original sound - Causing A Scene

“Hands? That’s like using your finger to brush your teeth,” one person wrote.

Another retorted, “NOT using a washcloth is a UTI waiting to happen.”

But, as adamant as viewers seemed to be that washcloths are superior to hands, experts seem to think differently.

Both washcloths and loofahs are breeding grounds for bacteria since they are likely to never fully dry out in between washings, nor is someone likely to sterilize them often enough in between showers. If you are this diligent, kudos to you.

Of course, washcloths do beat out loofahs since you can more easily throw them into the washing machine after each use, but simply using your own hands (once they are washed, that is) will not only get the dirt off, but do it in a way that’s gentle for sensitive skin. So…sorry washcloth folks, but hands are technically the superior hygiene tool.

But what about exfoliation? you might ask. There are ways to get a good scrubbing without a washcloth, including cleansers with chemical exfoliants like salicylic or glycolic acid and dry brushing. Exfoliating mitts, which obviously still need to be dried and cleaned in between washes, are also a good option because they have a low carbon footprint,” according to Dr. Elizabeth Trattner in an interview with Oprah Daily.

The overall verdict seems to be that washcloths aren’t so detrimental to skin health that you should stop using one immediately. So if you’ve grown attached to your shower accoutrement, just be sure to dry it out, wash it regularly and maybe avoid using it for your face or private parts.

And still, even if expert opinion doesn’t change anyone’s mind, it’s funny to see the hills people are willing to die on when it comes to their shower routine.