When most people think about Collagen supplements, they associate taking them with improving the health of their hair, skin and nails. While collagen is great for those things, what you might not realise is the important role it also plays in repairing and preventing gut inflammation, leaky gut and associated symptoms.
Before we get into how Collagen works to heal your gut, let’s take a step back and look at what’s involved in maintaining a happy, healthy gut.
Gut Health 101
The term ‘Gut Health’ is seemingly synonymous with ‘wellness’ and is liberally bandied around by every self-respecting wellness influencer and health marketer. The focus on gut health has even crossed over into mainstream medicine. And for good reason. A healthy gut is not solely linked to good digestion, but influences the rest of our health from top to toe.
But what exactly does ‘gut health’ mean? What defines it? What does it look like? And the million-dollar question… How do we achieve it? Well, a healthy gut deserves a few shout outs, namely:
1. A balanced gut microbiome
Our gut microbiome is the mini cosmos of micro-organisms that co-exists within our digestive tract. Bacteria are the main players that we host, but we also have archaea, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. There are so many of them and it is so vast, that collectively your microbiome outnumbers your own human cells!
And boy does it pack a punch. Although not actually our cells or DNA, our gut microbiome has such an impact upon the physiology and functioning of our entire body, that it has been given human organ status. These little guys interact with and signal our own cells, creating a cascade reaction that can alter everything from; digestion, immune function, neurotransmitter (brain chemicals) production, hormone production, inflammation and more!
However, not all gut microbiomes are created (or maintained) equally. The ideal microbiome is the optimal balance of good and bad bacteria, and other gut micro-organisms. We inherit our microbiome from our mother through pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, and it is further influenced by our diet, lifestyle, medications, stress, infections and environment.
It is normal for there to be certain levels of bad bacteria. Providing we have sufficient good bacteria, we can keep them in check. BUT if the number of good guys diminishes due to the factors mentioned above, think of it like parents going on holidays and leaving their teenagers home alone – they get up to a whole lot of mischief! They metaphorically trash our digestive tract, potentially causing digestive symptoms such as;
- bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort
- belching, flatulence (more often and more stinky!)
- changes to our bowel patterns (constipation or more frequent, looser movements).
A plethora of research has also linked an unbalanced microbiome to:
- systemic inflammation
- anxiety, depression, other mental health and behavioural disorders
- recurrent infections, allergies, asthma, autoimmunity
- skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis and more)
- hormonal disorders
- insulin resistance, cravings, and weight gain
- cardiovascular issues
- prenatal and postnatal disorders.
Back to our million-dollar question, how do we achieve a healthy microbiome?
With the advent of probiotics this appeared to be the perfect solution. Simply ingest more of the good guys, which will crowd out the bad guys, and happy days. Right?
Not quite… Probiotics are amazing microbes. Research into probiotics is ever-evolving, and has identified specific probiotic strains to assist different health concerns. However, research has also shown that once the person has ceased to take them, often these probiotics strains are undetectable, disappearing without a trace.
To have a longer-term impact we have started looking to PREbiotics. Think of prebiotics as the fertiliser, and probiotics as seeds. In my limited gardening experience, to ensure that seedlings take root, the proper fertiliser makes the world of difference between a sad and shrivelled up (dying) plant and an established thriving plant. Our microbiome is no different. Prebiotics feed our good bacteria, whether that be probiotics or already present core bacteria, allowing for real sustained change.
Gut Performance + Collagen contains not one but three prebiotics; sugarcane stem, red sorghum and blackcurrant, promoting the growth of a broad range of good bacteria. It is also a great source of fibre (12%RDI), promoting regular bowel movements. Our bad bacteria absolutely love constipation and thrive in that environment. Ensuring daily bowel motions (and a less comfortable environment for our bad bacteria) is really important for balancing the microbiome.
Try Gut Performance on its own, or in combination with a probiotic, to create sustained change in your microbiome, digestion and all over health.
2. Healthy epithelial cells with tight gap junctions
A key feature of a healthy gut is a happy and healthy gut lining. This lining of epithelial cells is one of the gatekeepers between the external environment and our inner health. These cells sit shoulder to shoulder, with very tight gaps in between. They exist to facilitate the passage of digested food and fluid into our wider circulation, to the rest of our body. And generally, they do a very good job.
However, when we have overgrowth of bad bacteria, or an inflammatory diet, or require particular medications; these cells can become damaged. Damaged epithelial cells create wider gaps in between. The popular term for this is ‘Leaky Gut’ and the technical term is ‘Intestinal Permeability’. Leaky Gut does describe it well. When we have wider gap junctions, suddenly we have undigested food, bacteria and larger molecules able to be absorbed into our circulatory system, not good.
These molecules may not be inherently of danger to us, however our immune system functions somewhat like a guard dog – it attacks anything it doesn’t recognise. The fallout from these attacks is significant amounts of inflammation produced locally, absorbed systemically as well as immune dysregulation (impacting general immunity, auto-immunity and allergies). The inflammatory response triggered from Leaky Gut is implicated in digestive symptoms, food sensitivities, chronic disorders from mental health, neurobehavioral disorders, dementia, cardiovascular health, insulin resistance and diabetes, hormonal disorders, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis and more.
Balancing a microbiome will only do so much without healing the lining of our digestive tract, and vice-versa.
Back to part 2 of the million dollar question!
How do we achieve a happy and healthy gut?
Our body is very clever. If we provide the building blocks and throw in some anti-inflammatory support, our gut will start to repair itself and help protect from further damage.
Collagen is digestive super food and an excellent tool to use to heal Leaky Gut. It is a naturally occurring protein in our bodies that we literally use everywhere! We use it to form a substance in our bodies called connective tissue. It connects our organs, skeleton and muscles, while providing a surrounding structure or scaffolding. We find it in ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones, skin and drum roll please… the lining of our gut!
Research has shown regular consumption of collagen to repair and prevent gut inflammation, leaky gut and associated symptoms. Collagen also supports bone, joint and skin health, including studies into its efficacy in addressing osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and even ageing.
We don’t typically consume high amounts of collagen from our diet. It is found in recipes containing slow cooked bones, fish with edible bones and skin. To get decent doses to replicate trials, supplemental collagen is the way to go.
It is important to stress that there are different forms of collagen out there, with varying rates of absorption and efficacy. Collagen is made of large molecules, which are not easily digested and absorbed. A partially hydrolysed collagen supplement will ensure that the molecules have been sufficiently reduced to an absorbable form, while not overprocessed and efficacy lost.
Gut Performance + Collagen contains hydrolysed collagen, to prevent and repair gut inflammation and leaky gut, promoting a happy and healthy gut lining!
As you can now appreciate after wading through this article, achieving good gut health, is not so simple. That is why people are plagued for years with disruptive digestive symptoms, and other chronic disorders linked to poor gut health.
When addressing gut health, rarely would my clients walk away with just one supplement. Addressing the microbiome, inflammation, leaky gut and fibre intake in one supplement was not possible. Gut Performance is a notable standout, it is 100% food, not a supplement and genuinely pleasantly surprised me as it ticks all the boxes to help people achieve and maintain great gut health.
By Jenny Critchley
Naturopath & Nutritionist
Jen Critchley ND, has over 10 years of experience working within multinational healthcare. Jen began her healthcare career on the front-line as a practicing clinician in nutrition and naturopathy before segueing into health education and communications. Blending her knowledge and experience as a clinician, with the latest evidence based research, Jen’s passion is distilling this content into a digestible form; with the intent to effect change in the individual’s health and lifestyle choices. Areas of particular interest for Jen include addressing the gut-brain axis; supporting children and adults with neurobehavioral disorders; auto-immunity, renal disorders, type 2 diabetes and most importantly identifying the underlying cause behind individual health presentations. Knowledge is key – investigate, educate and empower.