Embracing Functional Nutrition with Collagen: The Gut Healing Superfood
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
The importance of gut health
When was the last time you did a gut check? Maybe you have no digestive symptoms, so you focus on your brain fog, fatigue, skin issues, blood sugar or autoimmune condition instead. Maybe you think you’ve got that gut thing covered; you’ve been there and done that “Yeah, yeah, I healed my gut last year” – we hear that one a lot in the Functional Nutrition Alliance Clinic.
I want to share with you what I’ve found for myself and my own health (Hashimoto’s, brain, hormone, anti-aging and more)… Are you ready? It’s that I have to go back to my gut, again and again (and, you got it, again). If you don’t, you run the risk of bypassing the all important connection between the GI tract and every other sign or symptom you’re experiencing.
The Connection Between Functional Nutrition and Gut Health
Recently I ran some serum lab tests to find that my gut needed a little RE-healing. Nothing had changed about my solidly healthy diet. No symptoms appeared that would alert me to the fact that my digestion was in need of a little tune-up. Yet, there were a lot of external stressors that I couldn’t control. Those life stressors caused me to overextend myself and put a strain on a system in my body that is more delicate than it may let on. The result was not belly aches, but instead the inflammation that’s at the roots of my autoimmune thyroiditis.
So again I returned to Functional Nutrition wisdom to address my core health and I invite you to do the same. It may be easier than you think. I’ll share one of my gut healing superfoods to show you what I mean!
The benefits of collagen
Collagen is the most abundant fibrous protein in the human body. It protects and soothes the lining of the digestive tract, which is a key area of focus when addressing any health concern through the lens of Functional Nutrition. With its many benefits, we consider collagen to be a great addition to most holistic healing and nourishing plans. Here’s why:
- Gut Healing: Collagen can support the healing process of the gut, aiding in repair and restoration.
- Immune System Regulation: By boosting and regulating the immune system, collagen helps defend against infections and promotes overall wellness.
- Protein Source: Collagen serves as an excellent source of protein, vital for tissue repair and growth.
- Bone and Joint Health: The collagen found in gelatin can contribute to stronger bones and joints, improving mobility and overall well-being.
- Anti-Aging Effects: Collagen can help reduce the signs of aging, promoting youthful skin, hair, and nails.
- Sleep Enhancement: Consuming collagen has been linked to deeper, more restful sleep.
- Improved Brain Function: Collagen supports brain health and cognitive function.
Integrating collagen into your diet
As you might guess, as a Functional Medicine Nutritionist, I’m picky about the brand of collagen I use. To enjoy the benefits of collagen, it’s important to choose high-quality products from brands that prioritize purity and effectiveness.
My top picks for collagen products:
Bulletproof Upgraded Collagen Protein
You may know Dave Asprey. He’s behind the trend of Bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with grass-fed butter and/or MCT oil). If you do know Dave, you know he’s fanatical about sourcing high-quality products and his Upgraded Collagen is no different. Sourced from antibiotic and hormone free pasture-raised cows, upgraded Collagen is enzymatically processed several times to leave its peptides intact. That process results in a neutral tasting, highly available protein that’s easy to use and contains more collagen than bone broth.
Great Lakes Gelatin
A long-time favorite in paleo and primal circles, the Great Lakes brand is high quality and easy to source online. It comes in two varieties (fondly called the red or the green can) and it’s handy to have both in your cabinet as you use them in different ways.
Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin is the red can. When mixed with hot or warm liquid it gels up allowing you to make healthy jell-o, gummies and other desserts.
Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate is the green can. It doesn’t gel up but instead dissolves in cold or hot liquids and it’s generally easier to digest so you can enjoy more of it and not trigger digestive distress with larger quantities. Add it to smoothies over summer or make warm elixirs to nourish you through the winter.
This brand of collagen has taken center stage and gets rave reviews for their different products including beef collagen, beef gelatin, marine collagen (vegan), collagen whey, and collagen beauty greens (which blends collagen with greens and probiotics).
This newer kid on the collagen block is a favorite among our nutrition team at the Functional Nutrition Alliance Clinic.
PurePaleo Protein Powder
This isn’t pure collagen, as it has some other ingredients and flavorings, but our Full Body Systems students have talked it up in our virtual hallways. If you’ve been on the search for a clean protein powder to help your morning smoothie satisfy you longer, this might be a good one to try.
Three simple recipes to get started with collagen
Let’s be honest, cracking open the canister of collagen can feel a bit odd the first time, but integrating collagen or gelatin into your routine couldn’t be simpler. It can be as easy as adding a tablespoon of collagen to your morning smoothie. You’ll never know it’s there — I used to add it to my son’s pre- and post-workout smoothies all the time! Or, if you’d like to explore other ways to amp up your intake, try these Functional Nutrition Alliance approved recipes. Remember, this is just a starting place. Experiment on your own and let us know what you come up with in your kitchen. Drop us a note on the Functional Nutrition Alliance Facebook page if you have or come up with a new family favorite!
Megan’s Morning Elixir
- 1 TBSP Dandy Blend (coffee alternative)
- 1 TBSP collagen
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ TBSP grass-fed ghee
- ½ TBSP unrefined coconut oil
- 6-8 ounces hot water
- 2 TBSP full-fat coconut milk
- 5-10 drops of stevia, depending on how sweet you like it
- Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high for 30 seconds.
- Serve in your favorite mug!
- 2 TBSP dried chamomile (or 1 tea bag)
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk
- 5-7 drops of vanilla liquid stevia
- 1 TBSP collagen
- Brew your chamomile tea base (using a tea ball or by steeping the tea bag in hot water).
- Put the remaining ingredients plus the brewed tea in a blender or magic bullet and blend until smooth and frothy.
- Sip slowly and prepare your body and mind for sweet dreams!
Lemon-Infused Green Tea Gummies
- 2 cups water
- 4 green tea bags
- 3 TBSP grass-fed gelatin (great lakes red can)
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 2 TBSP raw honey
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp freshly minced ginger (depending on how much you like ginger!)
- Heat water until boiling.
- Add green tea bags and steep tea for at least five minutes.
- Once the tea is ready, slowly sprinkle the gelatin over the tea and allow it to “bloom” or dissolve. The key is to add it slowly so it doesn’t get clumpy. Stir out any clumps with a whisk or a fork.
- Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. If your gelatin gets clumpy, all is not lost – whirl the mixture in the blender to break down the clumps (it will get frothy but it will work).
- Pour the mixture into a glass dish or individual ramekins.
- Chill for at least 45 minutes or until the gelatin is set.
- Eat straight from the dish or cut into squares.
Abrahams M, O’Grady R, Prawitt J. Effect of a Daily Collagen Peptide Supplement on Digestive Symptoms in Healthy Women: 2-Phase Mixed Methods Study. JMIR Form Res. 2022;6(5):e36339. Published 2022 May 31. doi:10.2196/36339
Chen Q, Chen O, Martins IM, et al. Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions. Food Funct. 2017;8(3):1144-1151. doi:10.1039/c6fo01347c
Schwarz D, Lipoldová M, Reinecke H, Sohrabi Y. Targeting inflammation with collagen. Clin Transl Med. 2022;12(5):e831. doi:10.1002/ctm2.831
Paul C, Leser S, Oesser S. Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1079. Published 2019 May 15. doi:10.3390/nu11051079
König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):97. Published 2018 Jan 16. doi:10.3390/nu10010097
Martínez-Puig D, Costa-Larrión E, Rubio-Rodríguez N, Gálvez-Martín P. Collagen Supplementation for Joint Health: The Link between Composition and Scientific Knowledge. Nutrients. 2023;15(6):1332. Published 2023 Mar 8. doi:10.3390/nu15061332
Al-Atif H. Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Fields of Dermatology and Cosmetics. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2022;12(1):e2022018. Published 2022 Jan 1. doi:10.5826/dpc.1201a18
Koizumi S, Inoue N, Sugihara F, Igase M. Effects of Collagen Hydrolysates on Human Brain Structure and Cognitive Function: A Pilot Clinical Study. Nutrients. 2019;12(1):50. Published 2019 Dec 23. doi:10.3390/nu12010050
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