Now, it’s time to break into the important stuff - what exactly to do in order to optimize your collagen production naturally!
The Miracle of Biosynthesis
Your body has the intelligence to make all 20,000 unique proteins in the body - and the all important collagen protein is no exception! The amazing process of biosynthesis takes place efficiently when we are able to maintain a healthy environment in the body while having adequate access to the raw materials to build protein - amino acids.
When it comes to collagen, we need an abundance of the amino acids glycine and proline. These amino acids (along with the 18 other amino acids crucial for humans to thrive) are nitrogen based molecules that are created by nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil and then harnessed by plants for animals to eat. Glycine and proline are “non-essential” amino acids, meaning the body is capable of biosynthesizing these building blocks. On the other hand, the 9 essential amino acids are easily derived from a whole food plant based diet thanks to nature neatly packaging these amino acids in plants. That's right, it is the nitrogen based amino acids in plants that are the purist source of protein - not animals.
With glycine and proline accounted for, we can move along down the path of collagen biosynthesis. The most critical process, as noted above, is the hydroxylation of proline. This hydroxylation step is fundamentally important because it relies on the cofactor, vitamin C. While vitamin C is one of the most well known and commonly supplemented vitamins, so many humans lack the true quantity and quality of vitamin C needed for optimal collagen production.
Why Vitamin C is Vital
Vitamin C isn’t only responsible for the hydroxylation of procollagen to render collagen complete and active, it is responsible for nearly 1,000 additional biochemical processes in the body, while also being one of the body's primary endogenous antioxidants. So many of these vital functions that vitamin C facilitates in the body are a much higher priority than ensuring that your face doesn't wrinkle. For example, vitamin C catalyzes the the synthesis serotonin in the brain and catecholamines in the adrenal glands, both of which functions necessary for survival.
What do humans, guinea pigs, primates, and fruit bats have in common?
60mg won’t cut it - What you really need
The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 60mg per day. This number is based on the requirement of ~46mg per day to prevent scurvy (swollen, bleeding gums, dry and broken hair/skin, painful joints/muscles, weakness - which are all signs of collagen breakdown). When we look at mammals that make their own vitamin C, we find that their levels are WAY higher than the recommended daily intake of 60mg. For example, a 155 pound goat biosynthesizes over 13,000mg. That is more than 200 times what is recommended for humans.
Maybe humans don’t need 13 grams of vitamin C daily, but they most certainly require more than 60mg daily, especially in todays world. Today humans are stressed and toxic. The adrenal glands use huge amounts of vitamin C to synthesize catecholamines when stressed. We are exposed to exponentially increasing amounts of radiation and free radicals which our vitamin C stores must help neutralize. We know that there are thousands of other bodily processes that require plenty of vitamin C to optimally carry out - including, of course, synthesis of collagen.
Secret Keys To Turn On Collagen Synthesis
With the most important nutrient for collagen synthesis now taken care of, I wanted to also sprinkle in a few important lifestyle practices that have also been shown to enhance collagen production.
Sleep. We hear about the importance of sleep for repair, regeneration, and healing, and it all comes down to hormone optimization. Sleep specifically boosts levels of human growth hormone (HGH) which is one stimulus of collagen production in the body. That collagen is what helps the body repair itself and heal during a good nights rest.
Hydrotherapy. Sauna and cold exposure have also been shown to help regulate hormones and boost the HGH that stimulates collagen production. We also know that these practices boost circulation and detoxification which are essential for healthy recovery and repair of tissues.
If you read nothing else, remember these things:
If we want to enhance biosynthesis of collagen while also ensuring optimal health we must remember a couple of key points:
eat low on the food chain to avoid pollutants and toxicants bioaccumulating in your body
avoid collagen supplements, as they are a source of heavy metals and said toxicants, mainly glyphosate
eat a diverse array of whole plant foods that contain the necessary amino acids, minerals, and micronutrients for health
focus on foods high in vitamin C to enhance endogenous collagen production
also consider sleep, exercise, and hydrotherapy as ways to regulate hormones and optimize collagen formation
When we create an optimal environment in our bodies, we natural experience radiant health.