Gut and skin health: Is Collagen a probiotic?

A brown probiotic bottle with a red nouri label tipping tablets into an open palm above a plate with a fried egg on it

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about what a healthy gut can do for your skin. You’ve probably heard of collagen and probiotics and you wouldn’t be the first to wonder if they could be related in some way. After all, both are often associated with total skin health and overall well-being. Collegen is pretty much the go-to remedy for improving skin hydration and elasticity and generally bringing back your youth. While probiotics can improve gut flora, your immune system and mental health (that brain-gut connection again) giving you a new lease of life. But is collagen a probiotic? 

Is there a difference between collagen and a probiotic? 

While collagen and probiotics do share certain health benefits, particularly in the digestive tract, they’re not actually the same. It is possible to take a collagen supplement and a probiotic at the same time though. Let’s take a closer look at the differences.

First of all, collagen has tons of natural benefits and is sometimes used as a supplement for improving gut health. Probiotics, on the other hand, are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and yeasts. They help restore the natural balance of healthy bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods or supplements. 

blue bowl of vegetables including sliced eggs, tomatoes, spinach  and avocado on a rustic brown table

What is collagen? 

Collagen is essential. It accounts for something like 30% of your body’s protein, providing structure to connective tissues, skin, muscles and bones. We need collagen, it’s the glue that holds it all together.

Collagen is made up of amino acids, and your body needs Vitamin C, zinc, copper, and manganese to synthesise it.  It supports muscle recovery, and wound healing, promotes joint flexibility, and healthy bones, and it’s the secret ingredient behind that youthful elasticity in your skin.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom decreed that collagen production should decrease as we age. Which is why we’re all hobbling around by our 40s and 50s and trying desperately not to sag. 

Collagens, plural

Collagen isn’t just a one-size-fits-all deal. Each collagen type has its own natural benefits. 

  • Type I collagen is the most common one found in the human body and takes up about 90% of the body’s collagen stores. This is the one you’re looking for if you want healthy skin: it gives it firmness and strength. It also provides structure to the skin, bones, tendons, cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
  • While Type II is all about supporting your joints and cartilage. 
  • There’s also a Type III. Like Type I, it’s integral to healthy skin structure and function, blood vessels and organs. Type III is great for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness, and combating the visible signs of ageing.

Other types of collagen

But that’s not all. While Type I makes up the lion’s share in the body,  they’ve found 28 types of Collagen so far, each with its own characteristics and functions and you never know what more research can uncover. Other significant types include:

Collagen in food, supplements and veggies

Groups of carrots, green pickles and other vegetables in bowls

On the whole collagen-rich foods tend to be things like bone broth, fish, and eggs so if you’re a vegetarian like me, you might need a little extra help. You’ll find plant-based sources of collagen in foods that are rich in amino acids.

As no single plant contains the complete blend of essential amino acids that you’d get in animal proteins, you’ll need to make sure you get a good variety of vegetables in your diet to have the same effect. 

Some good amino acid sources: 

  • Beans, nuts, and seeds which contain Glycine.
  • In asparagus, mushrooms, and cabbage, you’ll find Proline.
  • Soy products like tempeh and tofu have Lysine.

Collagen supplements can be useful dietary supplements to give you that extra boost. In recent years, there has been research into the development of vegan collagen through genetically modified yeast and bacteria.

Scientists are working on ways to create vegan collagen by engineering microbes to produce something similar to human collagen. So there may be good alternatives in the future.

How to synthesise Collagen all by yourself

Vitamin C. That’s the answer.

It plays an important role in collagen synthesis along with zinc and copper and a bunch of other vitamins and minerals.

You can give your body a helping hand in the collagen-boosting department by getting plenty of Vitamin C through fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. All are valuable nutrients that aid in collagen synthesis. 

half a sliced orange with orange juice dripping from it

Immune health and collagen

Collagen plays an important role in supporting your body’s natural defences. As the most abundant protein in the body, it also contributes to the structure and function of your immune system.

Type II collagen studies on immune function, particularly in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and autoimmune diseases, show increased immune responses.

And if you’re taking Vitamin C to help with collagen synthesis, that’ll help too. 

Benefits of probiotics for gut health

Probiotics are the good bacteria that promote a healthy gut microbiome which helps maintain overall health.

Similar to collagen, these friendly microbes also play a vital role in the functioning of the immune system, with nearly 80% of immune cells living in the gut. There’s evidence to suggest that improving your gut health can regulate your mood. Up to 90% of serotonin receptors can be found in the gut.

Different strains of probiotics have different strengths and if you want to find out more about the difference between good and bad bacteria you can do that here

Probiotics in food and supplements

large clear glass jars stacked together containing fermented pickles and cabbage

You’ll find probiotics hanging out in certain foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi.

These foods introduce new friendly microbes to your gut through the fermentation process helping with digestion, nutrient absorption, and supporting the immune system.

If you’re not getting enough probiotics from your diet, supplements can also be a helpful boost in balancing your gut flora and overall well-being. Especially if you suffer from the joys of IBS.

Supplementation

If you struggle to get enough collagen from your diet, there are plenty of supplements available, usually derived from animal sources like bovine or marine collagen. 

Look for a reliable collagen powder to easily add to your shakes and smoothies. You can also find probiotic supplements in various forms, like capsules or chewable tablets.

Collagen supplement for digestive health

While there’s not a lot of evidence behind this yet, there is some indication that collagen may help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) too. 

This study showed that prescribing collagen can produce notable effects after 6 weeks. 93% of those who completed the study found that they had reduced digestive problems including bloating.

Besides gut health, collagen has numerous other benefits for skin, hair, bones, and joints. It’ll also help with conditions like arthritis.

So to sum up

  1. Function:
    • Collagen: Primarily supports structural components such as skin, joints, and connective tissues.
    • Probiotics: Focus on maintaining a balanced gut microbiome and supporting digestive health.
  2. Source:
    • Collagen: Typically sourced from animal products like bovine or marine collagen.
    • Probiotics: Found in fermented foods or as supplements containing live bacteria strains.
  3. Benefits:
    • Collagen: Supports skin elasticity, joint function, and overall structural integrity.
    • Probiotics: Contribute to gut health, aid digestion, and support immune function.

Finally

So is collagen a probiotic? Well, no. Not in the traditional sense. Collagen is known for supporting skin elasticity and joint health, while a probiotic supplement is beneficial for gut health and digestion. That said, collagen’s potential benefits for gut health shouldn’t be overlooked either.

As always, make sure you consult with a healthcare provider to check you’re safe to add supplements. You know this already, but they shouldn’t replace a balanced diet. Getting both collagen and probiotics into your daily routine is a great way of supporting your overall health and wellbeing.

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