The healing protein: Addressing thyroid problems with collagen

09 November 2020


Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It’s one of the building blocks of the skin, bones and muscles and supports the structure of the organs and arteries. Best known for its skincare and fitness benefits, collagen may also help treat thyroid problems. 

Collagen for thyroid problems

The thyroid gland is a small organ that regulates metabolism — the process by which food is transformed into energy. It secretes the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), both of which instruct the cells on how much energy to use.

When your thyroid functions properly, it maintains the right amount of these hormones, leading to a healthy metabolism. T3 and T4 also play a role in heart and digestive functions, muscle control and bone maintenance.

Problems arise when your thyroid either produces too many hormones, called hyperthyroidism, or does not produce enough of them, called hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism accelerates your metabolism, which can lead to anxiety, irritability, weight loss and sensitivity to heat.

Meanwhile, hypothyroidism slows down the processes in the body. This can cause fatigue, weight gain, dry and coarse hair, forgetfulness and intolerance to cold temperatures.

Some health practitioners encourage the use of collagen to treat thyroid symptoms, such as digestive and bone disorders.

Collagen for digestive problems

Collagen and thyroid hormones are both important for a healthy digestive system. Collagen is a key component of the intestinal lining, while thyroid hormones facilitate digestive functions, including muscle contraction in the digestive tract.

Abnormal levels of thyroid hormones can trigger a host of gut disorders. Hyperthyroidism can lead to diarrhea and predispose you to lactose intolerance and infection caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Meanwhile, hypothyroidism can lead to low stomach acid, poor nutrient absorption, constipation and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

If you have these conditions, taking collagen can potentially strengthen gut barrier function and boost your gut health. The gut barrier function prevents undesirable elements in the gut, such as harmful pathogens, from entering the bloodstream. When it’s compromised, you become susceptible to diseases and infection.

Collagen may also promote weight loss in people with hypothyroidism as it’s said to increase feelings of satiety.

Collagen for bone problems

Hyperthyroidism is linked to osteoporosis, the thinning of bone mass. Excessive amounts of T4 accelerate the rate at which bone is lost, which means that osteoblasts — the cells required for synthesizing new bone tissues — may not be able to keep up with the loss of bones. If your T4 levels remain too high for a long time, you’ll be at greater risk of osteoporosis.

Fortunately, collagen may help prevent bone loss caused by hyperthyroidism. Research shows it may increase bone mineral density by up to seven percent. One study also suggests that hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen that’s been broken down into more dissolvable amino acids, can potentially protect the cartilage and soothe osteoporosis pain. (Related: Whey protein supports recovery from muscle loss among the elderly.)

Collagen production slows down as you age, so it’s important to boost your collagen levels through diet and supplementation. Collagen-rich foods include bone broth, organ meats, chicken, fish and shellfish, egg whites and gelatin. Foods that can improve your body’s ability to synthesize collagen include leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, pumpkin seeds, garlic, tomatoes and mushrooms.

If you wish to take supplements, experts recommend hydrolyzed collagen as it’s easier for your body to absorb.

Published by on October 29, 2020

Image by Shutterstock


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