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Collagen 101- Skin, Bone, Heart Health- Myeloma Survivorship

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“Collagen I’s fibrils are incredibly strong and used in almost every tissue in the body such as tendons, bones, cartilage, and teeth.”

I am a long-term survivor of an incurable blood cancer called multiple myeloma. MM is as much of a bone cancer as it is a blood cancer because, according to the ACS, 90% of MMers experience bone damage at some point during their MM experience. Therefore, maintaining bone health is essential for me. Further, several of the chemotherapy regimens that I underwent during my conventional MM therapy caused heart damage. All to say that collagen (COL) is essential to my life. But, as the article linked below explains, applying collagen to your skin does little add collagen to your heart, bones, etc. Therefore, I supplement collagen daily by adding a scoop of collagen powder to my smoothie every morning.

And younger looking skin? Okay, that’s important to me too.

I used to consider COL to be something you rubbed on your skin in an effort to look younger. I take my nutritional supplementation seriously and therefore looked down on COL. I’ve since learned that collagen supplementation is about much more than younger looking skin. Knowledge is power as they say.

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David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
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Collagen 101

If you aren’t aware, COL is the most abundant protein in your body. It works like glue by giving your tissues shape, strength, and integrity. Collagen is also important for teeth density and giving you a healthy set of teeth.

Though frequently mentioned in the beauty industry, there’s something about COL that the big companies don’t want you to know: Collagen is pretty much useless when applied topically. Yes, I said it! However, when consumed, it does wonders to your health and well-being.

If you’re serious about keeping yourself healthy, keep reading this article to understand some of the basics of collagen and its proven health benefits! You can find more info in this guide from Perfect Keto

What is Collagen

COL is a “glue-producing” protein and is concentrated in the extracellular matrix (ECM) which is the layer supporting every single tissue cell in the body. Simply put, it’s a net that holds everything together, so they could form, function, and heal. That’s the reason why 30% of your total body protein is collagen.

Like every other protein in the body, COL is made from amino acids. We’ll discuss the sources of these amino acids later. Vitamin C, too, is important for COL synthesis as it helps bonding the amino acids together.

Types of Col

Most people aren’t aware of this, but COL comes in 28 types! However, there are 5 common types you should know about:

  • Col I

Collagen I’s fibrils are incredibly strong and used in almost every tissue in the body such as tendons, bones, cartilage, and teeth.

  • Col II

Found mostly in cartilage.

  • Col III

Can be found alongside collagen I in muscles, organs, arteries, reticular fiber (a special connective tissue that forms the liver, adipose tissue, bone marrow, spleen and more)

  • Col IV

Gives external support to skin cells.

  • Col V

Found in the bone matrix, cornea, and connective tissues.

Health Benefits of COL

Research has found that adequate COL levels are needed for the proper functions of:

  • Skin
  • Nails
  • Hair
  • Muscles
  • Tendons, joints, and ligaments
  • Bones
  • Tissues
  • Eyes
  • Gut
  • Heart
  • Brain

The real benefits of COL come from consumption. Here’s how collagen benefits some of the organs in (and on) your body:


  1. Improves skin elasticity
  2. Improves skin hydration
  3. Prevents UV damage
  4. Prevents aging signs


  1. Increases nail growth rates
  2. Reduces chances of broken nails


Because COL is a protein, it is important in the growth and healing of muscles. COL is known to:

  1. Aid muscle regeneration
  2. Prevent muscle disorders

Joints, Tendons, Ligaments

COL deficiency can affect flexibility and cause joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis as most of the tissue in the joints, tendons, and ligaments are mostly made up of COL.

Bone (and teeth!)

Aside from calcium, COL is important in maintaining and strengthening bones and teeth. This is because bone strength is dependent on two things:

  1. Quantity of bone tissue
  2. Organization of COL framework in the bones


COL literally keeps your heart beating.

  1. COL provides the structural framework to cardiac muscle cells
  2. Provides stiffness to the walls of the heart so it can pump blood.

Food Sources of COL

Remember when I mentioned earlier that applying collagen topically was pretty much useless? There’s a reason for that. The molecule is too big to break through skin!

The protein in your diet gets broken down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of COL. Through cellular process, your body will make your own collagen. Here are some of the best food sources for COL formation:

Nutrients Needed for Col

Sure, amino acids are the building blocks of collagen, but you can’t overlook the other nutrients for healthy collagen development! Here’s how they are essential in collagen production:

  1. Vitamins and minerals are precursors for collagen production (help bind the amino acids)
  2. Vitamins and fatty acids help prevent collagen breakdown with antioxidants.

Here are some key nutrients needed for COL production:

Vitamin C (broccoli, kale, parsley)

  • Activates enzymes for COL synthesis
  • Releases enzymes that inhibit COL destructors

Vitamin E (almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts)

  • Excess collagen can be harmful for some organs, so vitamin E prevents this excess COL
  • Vitamin E protects COL against free radicals

Carotenoids (turnip greens, tomatoes, spinach)

  • Important to preserve COL, especially for aging skin
  • May support COL in bones
  • Preventing free radicals from mixing with retinol COL in eyes

Calcium (parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, poppy seeds)

  • Allows the hardening of COL in bones
  • Can prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women

Copper (shiitake mushrooms, cashews, hazelnuts)

  • Supports COL  fibril production
  • Stabilizes skin ECM once it is formed

Omega 3’s (flaxseed oil, walnuts, hemp seeds)

  • Helps in producing optimal COL levels
  • Reduces risk of COL sticking to platelets

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