7 Key Benefits of Collagen for Mamas
Collagen for Pregnancy and Postpartum
You may have read or heard BIRTHIFT say that we love bone broth and collagen peptides for pregnancy and postpartum. I would like to dive deeper in on why these foods are so beneficial for the body during the Motherhood Transition.
What is collagen and what does it do?
First of all, collagen is the most abundant protein found throughout the body, especially in our connective tissues, skin and bones; in fact, collagen makes up one third of the protein in the human body, and certain types of collagen are actually stronger than steel, gram for gram (1, 2). Essentially, collagen acts to increase the strength and elasticity of tissues in the body (3). Over time, things like diets high in sugar, smoking, UV exposure, autoimmune disorders, and, aging breaks down collagen in our bodies (4). However, research has shown that eating (or drinking) collagen supports our bodies in various ways through numerous key amino acids in high concentrations—concentrations that are hard to rival in other foods. So how do these foods help us in the Motherhood Transition? They can:
- Help us heal. After birth, collagen and elastin undergo a rapid breakdown (5). Collagen can help to rebuild tissues in order for our pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, and uterus to heal. Quick side note: in addition to collagen supplements, getting enough zinc can help reduce the breakdown of collagen in the repairing tissue and therefore help support healing. (6)
- Help us sleep. Amino acids like glycine may “contribute to improving the occasional sleepiness and fatigue induced by sleep restriction” and improve overall sleep quality (7). Well that sounds handy in the postpartum time, now doesn’t it? In fact, studies have shown that supplementation at night has helped sleep quality without needing hypnotic sleep drugs (8). Sold.
- Support Thyroid health. Thyroid health in women who are pregnant and postpartum is an important topic that we’ll cover in other blogs, and is a common issue among moms. Collagen supports thyroid production, can boost your thyroid hormone conversion, and improves your ability to utilize T3, thanks mainly to the amino acids glycine and proline (9).
- Support a healthy metabolism and regulate blood sugar. Not only does collagen support a healthy metabolism, it’s critical for a healthy metabolism and steady blood sugar levels. In fact, researchers stated that glycine, the key amino acid found in collagen, “should be taken as a nutritional supplement to guarantee a healthy metabolism” (10).
- Help heal gut lining and leaky gut. The amino acids in collagen can help rebuild gut lining, essentially sealing off and repairing areas that are damaged. Since about 70% of our immune system in located in the gut, this will also boost your immune system function, too.
- Help with joint pain. Many pregnant and postpartum women experience joint pain, and collagen supplementation has been shown to help this. (11, 12, 13, 14)
- Make your skin radiant (and help with stretch marks). No discussion of collagen would be complete without mentioning the amazing benefits to skin (as well as hair and nails). Studies have shown that supplementation with collagen peptides showed an improvement in skin elasticity , improved appearance of wrinkles, and helps oxidative stress that occurs with aging (15, 16, 17). Bonus!
This all sounds pretty good for women growing a human and recovering from birth, no?
Where does collagen come from?
Why, the bones, tissues, and joints of animals, of course! If that sentence just made you squirm a bit, then you’ll understand why most of us don’t get enough collagen from our normal diets, which are thereby lacking key amino acids found in those foods. In our standard American diet, collagen is not readily available in many (any) foods. Today, we just don’t make broths and stews, utilizing the bones of animals, like our ancestors did. In fact, most people opt for ‘boneless’ cuts of meat when possible. You may be saying, “well I eat meat, even bone-in pieces once in a while, that should be fine, right?” Unfortunately, important amino acids like glycine are actually found in small amounts in meat, but are abundant in collagen.
Bone broth or collagen peptide supplementation?
While I love bone broth, I’m a huge fan of hydrolyzed collagen supplements, especially in regard to the array of amino acids that it offers, which can’t be provided through bone broth alone (18), he sheer convenience for busy mamas is an added bonus. Just stir it into your coffee or add it to your smoothie and you’re good to go. When buying a collagen supplement, try to find collagen that is from pasture raised cows. Pasture raised means that not only are the cows grass fed, but they actually spend their lives in the pasture eating grass, not just grass finished or partially grass-fed. Personally, I like Great Lakes, Bulletproof, Vital Proteins, and This Is Needed
Do you use collagen in the Motherhood Transition? Maybe even include it in your Meal Prep? If so, comment below and share your experience!
Molly Powell, Certified Nutrition CoachBIRTHFIT Milwaukee @birthfitmke
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing (455)