Collagen: Why This Is My Secret Weapon For Repairing A Leaky Gut
As a functional medicine practitioner, I have seen firsthand the damaging effects that a leaky gut can have on a person's health. Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a condition where the lining of the intestines becomes permeable, allowing toxins, bacteria, and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream. This can lead to a slew of health problems, ranging from digestive distress to autoimmune conditions.
One of the most effective ways to heal a leaky gut and support digestive health is with collagen. Collagen is a protein that is found in the connective tissues of humans and animals, and it is an essential building block for healthy skin, hair, nails, bones, and joints. But it is also incredibly beneficial for gut health. Read on to learn more about leaky gut syndrome and exactly how collagen can help you overcome this insidious gut problem.
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Do you think you have leaky gut?
One of the biggest problems with leaky gut syndrome is that it can be difficult to identify. Due to the fact that every part of your body is brilliantly interconnected, symptoms of leaky gut syndrome go far beyond digestive distress. In fact, a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms can all have roots in gut dysfunction. These are some of the top symptoms of leaky gut that I see in my telehealth functional medicine clinic.
- Acid reflux
- Brain fog
- Food sensitivities
- Joint pain
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Skin problems (acne, rashes, eczema)
- Weight loss resistance
With this being said, identifying leaky gut isn’t as simple as matching a clear-cut set of symptoms with a corresponding diagnosis. That’s why lab work is typically the gold-standard to determine whether or not leaky gut is a factor in your health case. The main test that I run in my clinic is to look for the presence of zonulin and occludin antibodies - two proteins that control your gut permeability. Basically, if these are present it means that your gut lining has been compromised.
The Leaky Gut-Autoimmune Connection
While none of these symptoms are fun to deal with, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage that leaky gut syndrome can have on your health. In fact, many researchers consider leaky gut to be a precursor to autoimmune conditions. Why? As a defense mechanism to the food particles and bacteria entering your bloodstream, your body increases its levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines that leads to chronic inflammation when left unchecked. This heightened state of inflammation damages your tissues and puts your immune system in overdrive leading to the development of autoimmune conditions.
Benefits of collagen for leaky gut
Let's get down to it: Does collagen heal leaky gut? With the rise in collagen’s popularity over the last few years, it’s a question I get asked quite often. Even though there is no one magic pill or supplement that can heal a single health problem for every person, collagen does have some very specific properties that make it a superstar supplement for gut health. These are my top reasons why collagen is one of my most recommended supplements for leaky gut support.
1. Collagen helps repair damaged gut lining
The main benefit of collagen for leaky gut is its ability to repair your gut’s delicate intestinal lining. Your gut lining is made up of a single layer of cells held together by tight junctions that regulates what passes through your gut lining into your bloodstream.
Collagen contains a unique combination of amino acids, including glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, that are essential for repairing and strengthening the intestinal lining. These amino acids help to increase the production of collagen in the gut, which in turn helps to rebuild and repair the damaged tissue. Collagen also helps to restore the tight junctions between the intestinal cells, which helps to prevent further damage and inflammation.
2. Collagen is easy to digest
Another benefit of collagen for leaky gut is that it is easy to digest making it more bioavailable for your body. When the gut is damaged, it can become difficult to digest certain foods, which can further perpetuate leaky gut. Collagen however, is easily broken down by the digestive system and absorbed into the bloodstream.
This means that it can be quickly utilized by the body to support the repair and regeneration of the intestinal lining. Collagen also helps to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, which can further support gut health and aid in the digestion of other foods.
3. Collagen can soothe inflammation
Inflammation is both a trigger and symptom of leaky gut syndrome. Therefore, anything that can help to reduce inflammation in the gut is beneficial for healing. Not only are collagen’s amino acids extremely anti-inflammatory, collagen also helps to support the production of glutathione - an important antioxidant that protects your gut from oxidative stress and inflammation.
4. Collagen supports microbiome balance
Your microbiome is host to trillions of bacterial strains that work together in supporting your overall health. When bad bacterial strains outnumber the good, it can result in a cascade of health problems including inflammation, a weak immune system, and leaky gut syndrome. Anything you can do to increase the growth of good bacteria is going to help you win the battle against leaky gut.
Collagen’s specific combination of amino acids are beneficial for the growth and proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. These beneficial bacteria help to support the health of the intestinal lining, reduce inflammation in the gut, and improve overall digestive function.
How long does it take to heal a leaky gut with collagen?
In functional medicine we understand that since everyone’s biochemistry and health case is unique, healing - especially healing from leaky gut syndrome - is a multifaceted process. While collagen can be beneficial in winning the battle against leaky gut syndrome, there is ultimately no “one-size-fits-all” supplement, plan, or timeline for healing a leaky gut.
The severity of your condition and your personal diet and lifestyle habits are all factors that contribute to how long it takes to heal from a leaky gut and when you can start to see results from consistent collagen supplementation. Some people may start to see improvements in their gut health within a few weeks of supplementing with collagen, while others may take several months to see results.
It is best to take a whole-body approach to addressing leaky gut syndrome. By addressing the root cause of leaky gut and supporting gut function through dietary changes, stress management, and other wellness tools and supplements, we can help to restore balance to your gut to promote overall health and wellbeing.
Which type of collagen is best for leaky gut?
While there are many different type of collagen on the market in the form of powders, capsules, and liquids, I always recommend collagen peptides to my patients. Collagen peptides are a form of collagen that has been broken down into smaller, more easily absorbed molecules, allowing them to be more readily used by your body for enhanced repair of your gut lining.
Most collagen supplements are derived from either bovine, chicken, or fish - also known as marine collagen. Whichever one you choose, always make sure to look for one that is sourced from high-quality, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught animals as these tend to be nutrient-dense and are free from contaminants. Marine collagen is my personal favorite for its enhanced level of bioavailable from a clean source. I love it so much that it is the main ingredient in my supplement holi ( m a n e ), formulated with Agent Nateur.
Also, be sure to take any food sensitivities into account in addition to buying collagen supplements free from unnecessary additives and sweeteners that could further perpetuate leaky gut syndrome. In addition to supplementation, bone broth is another source of collagen and other nutrients that can help reduce gut-related inflammation.
Seeking help from a functional medicine doctor
While collagen can be a helpful tool in repairing a damaged gut lining and supporting overall gut health, it is just one piece of the puzzle. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we take a comprehensive look at your health case in order to identify the root cause behind your leaky gut syndrome. By doing this, we are able to facilitate long-term, sustainable healing through the appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes that work for you.
If you are ready to overcome leaky gut syndrome and restore your gut health for good, schedule a telehealth functional medicine consultation.
As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
Between What You Eat And How You Feel