Our body is a marvelous chemical factory. It produces, stores and utilizes dozens of substances to keep our bodies in good working order. We fuel this factory through our diet and as the saying goes…..GIGO….garbage in – garbage out. A poor diet will not contribute to the timely release of the chemicals or substances we need to stay healthy and to help our body heal itself.
Collagen is one of these substances; a protein that our bodies produce to enhance elasticity to our muscles, joints and skin. It is found in connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, bones, teeth and cartilage throughout the body. It is also found in our skin, the largest organ of our bodies. It is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up from 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content.[i]
It’s Under Your Skin:
Collagen fibers in the dermis, the layer of skin under the outer epidermis, are tough and resistant but also flexible. These fibers support and protect the blood and nerve networks throughout the dermis layer of skin. During pregnancy the skin stretches to accommodate the growing fetus. When the skin is over-stretched these fibers will break, causing the striped “stretch” marks in the skin of the abdomen.
In infants the collagen in the skin is loose and delicate and it becomes harder as the body ages.
Both human and bovine collagen is widely used as dermal fillers for treatment of wrinkles and skin aging. However, there is a chance of allergic reactions causing prolonged redness. This can be virtually eliminated by a simple, inconspicuous patch test prior to cosmetic use.
Collagen is a natural product, therefore it is used as a natural wound dressing and has properties that artificial wound dressings do not have. It is resistant against bacteria, which is of vital importance in a wound dressing. It helps to keep the wound sterile, because of its natural ability to fight infection. When collagen is used as a burn dressing, healthy tissue is able to form very quickly over the burn, helping it to heal rapidly, thus avoiding possible amputation.[ii]
Collagens are widely employed in the construction of artificial skin substitutes used in the management of severe burns. These collagens may be derived from bovine, equine, porcine or even human sources.
Collagen is also frequently used in scientific research applications for cell culture, studying cell behavior and cellular interactions.[iii]
Collagen is used in bone grafting as it has a triple helical structure, making it a very strong molecule. It is ideal for use in bones, as it does not compromise the structural integrity of the skeleton. The structure of collagen prevents it from being broken down by enzymes and enables the adhesiveness of cells.[iv]
As the body ages cartilage around the ends of our bones deteriorates and osteoporosis may set in due to reduced levels of collagen, causing joint pain.
One of the more well-known diseases of collagen is Lupus as it directly attacks the collagen in the skin, usually causing a red scaly rash on the face over the nose and cheeks. Lupus can also attack the joints, especially in women and is believed to be an autoimmune disease.
The name collagen comes from the Greek κόλλα (kólla), meaning “glue” and suffix -γέν, -gen, denoting “producing”. This refers to the compound’s early use in the process of boiling the skin and sinews of horses and other animals to obtain glue. Collagen adhesive was used by Egyptians about 4,000 years ago and Native Americans used it in bows about 1,500 years ago. The oldest glue in the world, carbon-dated as more than 8,000 years old, was found to be collagen.
Processed collagen can also be turned into food grade gelatin used in many foods, including flavored gelatin desserts. Gelatin has also been used in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and photography industries.
Collagen is only one of the many substances that our bodies produce and as noted our diet directly affects what keeps us healthy. Chiropractic care also keeps us healthy and mobile as we age, so don’t forget to keep up with maintenance visits to your Chiropractor regularly.
[i] Di Lullo, Gloria A.; Sweeney, Shawn M.; Körkkö, Jarmo; Ala-Kokko, Leena & San Antonio, James D. (2002). “Mapping the Ligand-binding Sites and Disease-associated Mutations on the Most Abundant Protein in the Human, Type I Collagen”.J. Biol.Chem 277 (6):4223–4231.doi:10.1074/jbcM110709200. PMID 11704682.
[ii] Singh, O; SS Gupta; M Soni; S Moses; S Shukla; RK Mathur (2011).”Collagen dressing versus conventional dressing in burn and chronic wounds: a retrospective study”.. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery 4 (1): 12–16.doi:10.4103/0974-2077.79180. PMC3081477. PMID 21572675.
[iii] Blow, Nathan (2009). “Cell culture: building a better matrix”. Nature Methods 6 (8): 619–622. doi:10.1038/nmeth0809-619.
[iv] Mintz PD1, Mayers L, Avery N, Flanagan HL, Burks SG, Spotnitz WD. -Fibrin sealant: clinical use and the development of the University of Virginia Tissue Adhesive Center.