If you have been considering collagen for gut health, you can be assured that there are a lot of scientific reasons that it may help you feel better.
Traditional uses of collagen as medicine support the emerging research that we have today.
For example, collagen-rich bone broth chicken soup and gelatin have helped soothe an ailing stomach for as long as time has been recorded.
Keep in mind that the research is still fairly early in regards to collagen benefits for digestive health.
However, since collagen is a nutritious food, it can’t hurt and certainly can help other aspects of your well-being.
In this post, learn about the potential health benefits of collagen for the gut lining, for reducing inflammation, joint health, skin health, and more.
Table of Contents
What is collagen?
Collagen is essentially connective tissue, so it comes from many protein-rich foods. It is found in high amounts in the following food sources:
- Bone broth
- Chicken skin
- Fish skin and bones that are edible, such as sardines
- Organ meats
After you eat collagen-rich foods, your body absorbs the peptides from them into your bloodstream. Some of the peptides and amino acids fuel the gut lining too.
Your body stores a LOT of collagen too.
So, it makes sense that eating collagen can help support the tissue that needs it the most.
Additionally, it is important to get the type of collagen that helps the organ you are intending it to.
Types of collagen
There are 6 common types of collagen. Here are their food sources and the possible organs that they help:
- Type I collagen is the most common type of collagen and is found in bones, ligaments, tendons, and skin where it provides elasticity and strength [R]. It is also healthy for the digestive tract.
- Type II collagen is found mostly in joint cartilage and supports joint health and gut health.
- Type III collagen is located in the skin, organs, and in blood vessels. It is good for circulation, skin health, and digestive health.
- Type IV is found primarily in chicken skin, beef hides, and fish skin and it may support gut health and skin health.
- Type V is found in the eggshell lining but also found in the placenta. It, along with other types of collagen, is possibly beneficial for connective tissue disorders like Ehlers Danlos syndrome [R].
- Type X is found in cartilage and bones and supports improved bone density.
Low collagen symptoms
Low collagen levels in the body can show up in many ways. It can result in:
- Low blood pressure
- Wrinkles and dry skin
- Joint pain
- Gut issues
- Arthritis symptoms
- Bone loss
As we grow older, we all lose collagen too. In fact, some tissues in the body typically have three times more collagen when people are in their 20s than they do when they are 80 years old [R].
Collagen for gut health overview
Collagen has many possible benefits for digestion.
It is nutritious, can reduce inflammation, help heal the gut lining, may reduce inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel disease (IBS), helps prevent ulcers, and help you digest foods well.
It may even help with bowel regularity too.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits.
1. Collagen is rich in gut-healing amino acids
Impressively, collagen contains 19 types of amino acids that are building blocks for the gut lining and for the whole body.
These include hydroxyproline, which is found exclusively in collagen [R].
Collagen is also rich in healing amino acids including glycine, alanine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and proline as well as hydroxyproline [R].
About 13 percent of the collagen in your body is made up of hydroxyproline, which is found only in collagen-rich foods.
This should be enough reason to consider taking collagen if you don’t eat much collagen in your diet.
By the way, your body makes hydroxyproline more efficiently if you have a good amount of vitamin C in your diet.
2. Collagen contains lots of healing compounds
By now you know that collagen contains a lot of gut healing amino acids.
A good collagen food or supplement will also contain a lot of nutrients and also contains factors that support the healing of the gut.
- Glycosaminoglycans in collagen include hyaluronic acid and glucosamine sulfate. These compounds help influence tissue repair and hydration of tissues[R].
- Cartilage-derived growth factor (CDGF) from collagen may help to support the growth of new cells like intestinal cells and cartilage growth as well as may help heal wounds [R].
- Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in collagen helps regulate growth and intestinal balance by increasing gut microbiome diversity and amount [R]. Healthy probiotics like lactobacillus Plantarum increase IGF-1 as well.
- Proteoglycans in collagen help improve cell signaling and help to provide homeostasis in the body. They also support wound healing and speed up tissue repair [R].
- Chondroitin sulfate found in collagen helps prevent intestinal permeability and helps to prevent unhealthy bacteria from entering the bloodstream from the gut lining [R]. It also reduces joint pain in people who have osteoarthritis [R].
3. Collagen helps make glutamine for gut healing
If that weren’t enough, collagen also is rich in glutamic acid which helps make glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that functions as an antioxidant in the body and helps seal the gut lining.
The glutamic acid from collagen has gut-healing properties. It functions as the most important fuel source for intestinal cells.
As glutamic acid can form glutamate in the gut, it is also a signaling compound that helps coordinate muscle movements of the gut [R].
Glutamine from collagen has a lot of benefits for the gut. It reduces intestinal permeability and restores tight junction proteins in the gut [R]. So when it comes to leaky gut, collagen is an obvious choice to help heal.
Additionally, some research shows that glutamine may reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and reduce irritable bowel symptoms (IBS) [R].
4. Collagen for gut inflammation
An impressive fact that most people don’t know about collagen is that it has natural anti-inflammatory properties.
This means that collagen may help a wide variety of health conditions such as gut issues and joint health.
For example, collagen levels are low in people who have inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis [R].
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that taking collagen will help with these conditions, many reviews of collagen suggest that they are helpful for autoimmune conditions like these.
Marine collagen from fish may heal leaky gut as well because it dampens inflammation in gut cells[R, R]. This means that fish collagen may be protective against colitis and inflammatory bowel disease [R].
5. Helps heal the gut
It should come as no surprise that collagen is useful for intestinal repair [R].
This is because collagen has many potential benefits for the gut. One of those benefits is that it can help strengthen the gut lining because it is rich in the amino acid glycine [R].
Additionally, this compound helps improve sleep quality, which is good for the gut and for overall health.
Bovine collagen contains hyaluronic acid too which is made up of n-acetylglucosamine and glucuronic acid. These compounds are particularly healing for the gut [R].
6. Helps make bile
The amino acid glycine from collagen helps the body to properly make bile in the liver [R].
Bile is necessary for digestive function because bile helps you to absorb fat and vitamins into the body.
7. Helpful for gut health by improving immunity
You know now that collagen for leaky gut is helpful for healing the gut lining. By doing so, collagen helps to increase immune tolerance.
By providing healthy protein and gut-healing amino acids, collagen provides building blocks for the immune system as well.
It also helps make up the innate immune system by supporting the gut-associated lymphoid tissue [R].
Some people even believe collagen helps with weight loss, although this has yet to be proven.
8. Collagen and stomach issues
It is unknown whether or not collagen affects stomach acid production, but it is likely that it has an overall protective effect on the stomach.
For example, supplemental collagen is rich in amino acids like glycine that help to protect the stomach cells against gastric ulcers [R]. This means that collagen may be helpful for gastritis and GERD.
Collagen may even reduce the damaging effects of alcohol on the stomach although more research is needed [R].
9. Collagen and bowel movements: does it help?
Collagen can help make bowel movements easier because it draws water towards it. This can make the bowels easier to pass, which may help prevent constipation.
Additionally, because it may help heal the gut lining and promote gut motility, it also may help the gut pass waste. More research is needed in this area, however.
10. Collagen for skin health
Using collagen also may reduce atopic dermatitis symptoms like eczema and has anti-aging effects on the skin [R].
Combining collagen with vitamin C helps to maximize collagen production within the body too [R].
11. Collagen for joint health
The most robust research regarding the benefits of collagen is in the world of joint health.
Reducing joint pain by using collagen makes sense because it not only decreases inflammation, it provides the building blocks for joint tissues such as hydroxyproline.
Using several types of collagen is best for joint health and research suggests using Types I, II, and X collagen to promote joint healing.
12. Improves bone density
Anything that is good for the gut is typically good for bone health.
Using collagen peptides may help improve bone density according to research. This makes sense because collagen plays a big role in making up the structure of bone tissue.
For example, a study that combined either calcium and vitamin D or calcium and vitamin D plus collagen peptides had synergistic benefits for women with low bone density. The women receiving additional collagen had improved markers of bone turnover [R].
Collagen along with vitamin D and calcium also reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women who had osteopenia [R].
Types of collagen for gut health
There are a lot of healthy collagen supplements on the market today.
However, taking a collagen supplement can have more benefits if you choose a type of collagen that contains the most gut-healing compounds.
And it also makes sense to choose collagen from grass-fed beef and from sustainable marine sources because there is less chance of contamination with chemicals and heavy metals.
When it comes to gut health and collagen, the following products are great choices for this reason.
Best collagen for gut health
Here are a couple of good examples of products that contain all three of these types of collagen.
Grassfed Living Collagen is a healthy collagen product from a highly trusted company with thousands of positive reviews.
Contains trachea-derived collagen, scapula-derived collagen, bone-derived collagen, IGF-1, Cartilage-derived growth factor, glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans, chondroitin sulfates, which are all-natural compounds from collagen.
Also, Grassfed Living Collagen features Type I, II, and III collagen.
It is also from fully grass-fed and grass-finished cows and the company is third-party certified for purity and quality.
It is GMP certified for quality and comes from grass-fed beef, certified wild fish, eggshell membrane, and chicken. It is also free of major allergens: gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free.
Contains marine collagen for gut health.
Collagen side effects
Collagen gut health benefits are clear because it provides a lot of healing compounds that help keep a gut healthy.
However, there is a small chance that you could be allergic to collagen. In this case, make sure to avoid collagen.
Make sure to read the ingredient labels of collagen supplements to make sure you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients in them.
Some people experience a small amount of nausea or GI distress when taking collagen. This is usually alleviated by eating it with a meal or taking a smaller dose initially.
When it comes to health, collagen is good for the gut and the whole body in so many ways.
The benefits of collagen are large because it provides the building blocks and fuel for intestinal cells.
Additionally, it helps reduce inflammation, helps heal the gut lining, makes food easier to absorb, and much more.
As a side benefit, your skin health, joint health, and bone health will benefit from collagen too.
Keep in mind that adding collagen is helpful, but it works best when you combine it with an overall gut-healing diet.
The information on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be used as medical advice. Always consult with your healthcare provider, preferably a healthcare provider with extensive training in food and nutrition, before changing your health regimen.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.