Collagen is a connective tissue that keeps your joints flexible, strong, and mobile.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It literally holds your body together. As you age, collagen and other connective tissues begin to weaken. This can occur slowly or quickly, depending on a number of factors such as nutrition, activity level and genetics.
Collagen keeps our joints flexible, strong and mobile. Without collagen we would not be able to move properly or have the strength required for many common daily activities like walking or carrying things. You need to reconsider your diet or try adding collagen supplements in the mix. If you don’t know where to start, check out our list of our favorite collagen pills.
Over time collagen is lost in the joints and inflammation sets in, causing pain and swelling in your joints
Let’s start with inflammation: inflammation happens when the joints are injured. It’s the body’s natural immune response to injury, and is necessary for healing. Inflammation causes swelling and pain in your joints. Over time, collagen is lost in the joints, which triggers inflammation. The result? Pain and swelling in your joints due to chronic inflammation.
At first glance it may seem odd that “inflammation” would be an entry on a list of healthy habits—after all, it’s usually thought of as something bad. But that perception is based on acute inflammation without its counterpart: healing.
You can help prevent osteoarthritis by avoiding injuries to the joints
Osteoarthritis is common, particularly among older adults. It can be especially painful in the hips, knees and hands. However, it’s important to know that there are steps you can take to help prevent osteoarthritis or slow its progression.
You can help prevent osteoarthritis by avoiding injuries to the joints. Joint injuries are a common cause of osteoarthritis. You may be able to lessen your risk of injury by:
- Avoiding athletic activities that put great stress on your joints, such as football and gymnastics
- Giving yourself adequate warm-up and cool-down time before and after exercise
- Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese – Being overweight adds more strain to your joints
- Maintaining flexibility through stretching exercises
A healthy diet of leafy green vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, nuts, and whole grains can keep your collagen levels high
Collagen synthesis is the process by which new collagen is created. The best foods for collagen synthesis are leafy green vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, nuts, and whole grains. These foods help your body make the amino acids needed to keep collagen levels high. Some of the worst foods for collagen production include alcohol, sugar, sodas and other sugary drinks, caffeine, processed meat products and red meat products.
The recommended amount of each food can vary depending on a person’s height and weight. However, as a general rule it is recommended that people eat at least one serving of each group per day. For example:
- leafy vegetables: 1 cup of raw spinach or 2 cups of raw kale or collard greens
- fresh fruit: an orange or banana
- fish: 3 ounces (85 grams) per meal
- nuts/seeds: 1 ounce (30 grams) per meal
- whole grains: 1 slice whole grain bread or ½ cup brown rice per meal
The results will vary in individuals based on their current diet habits and how they incorporate these changes into their daily routine.
Hormone replacement therapy for women also helps with collagen production
Hormone replacement therapy for women can also help with collagen production.
Hormone levels, especially estrogen, can affect collagen synthesis. Lower estrogen levels are associated with a decrease in collagen synthesis, which may explain why joint pain tends to worsen after menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) alleviates arthritic symptoms and helps increase bone density in post-menopausal women by increasing collagen synthesis. This type of arthritis treatment is most effective for women who begin HRT within ten years of menopause. It may become less effective after this time period since there are long-term risks associated with HRT.
Other benefits of hormone replacement therapy include reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, decreased vaginal dryness and hot flashes, increased libido and better sleep quality. Potential side effects include breast tenderness or enlargement, headaches, nausea or vomiting, bloating and weight gain or loss.
Keeping collagen in your joints healthy can prevent osteoarthritis
You may have heard of collagen. It’s a protein that’s important to keeping your skin healthy and wrinkle-free. But collagen also plays a central role in keeping your joints healthy. That’s why an injury, or otherwise depleted collagen, can lead to osteoarthritis or other joint deterioration.
Here are some ways to maintain healthy levels of collagen in your joints:
- Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C. This nutrient is essential for producing collagen, so eat lots of citrus fruits and leafy greens if possible.
- Try gelatin supplements if you aren’t getting enough from your diet or feel like you need more than what the average person does. Gelatin contains high levels of amino acids which make up collagen protein strands (think Jell-O).
- Exercise regularly! If we use our muscles and ligaments too infrequently, this can create weak spots that are more prone to being injured (and less able to produce their own collagen). Staying active will help keep you strong as well as build new muscle fibers—which then have the potential to contribute their own building blocks toward making collagen.
- Maintain a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Collagen production is dependent on a wealth of nutrients! Stick with whole foods whenever possible, particularly fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins A, C, E and K; the mineral zinc; omega-3 fatty acids; and sulfur compounds such as garlic and onions—all known for their role in helping skin cells regenerate collagen strands.”