collagen support for mamas
I'm not sure about you, but I have started seeing collagen supplements all over the stores- even in the beauty section. What's up with this, and would you benefit from using these supplements?
First- what the heck is collagen? Collagen is the primary protein found in the body that gives us structure and support. It's found practically everywhere- in connective tissues, ligaments, bones, cartilage, the skin, etc.
Because collagen production is affected by things like sun exposure, inflammatory triggers, smoking, and hormone levels, we start to see changes in our bodies such as wrinkles in our skin, decreased muscle tone, and even changes in the way tissues heal.
Traditionally, a lot of focus on collagen has come from the skincare world in their efforts to keep us looking youthful. But we're starting to understand more and more how consuming collagen can support other aspects of our bodies as well.
Specifically for mamas, getting enough protein is essential for recovering from pregnancy and childbirth to help support the remodeling of the muscles, ligaments and connective tissues impacted by the entire experience. This can be true years later as well- it’s not just for initial postpartum period!
Here are some examples of the effects of pregnancy and childbirth on connective tissues that take time to heal:
a separation in the abdominals called diastasis recti (DR) can occur
mechanically and hormonally driven laxity or looseness in the joints
healing of a c-section incision
trauma to the pelvic floor from the weight of carrying the baby and amniotic fluid throughout the pregnancy and also potentially from a vaginal delivery
Smart nutrition can certainly support a speedy healing process which is what we all want, right? Whether or not we can indulge in the luxury of lots of rest, help around the house (with or without kids), time off of work, or whatever it may be, many of us want to feel “normal” again pretty quickly.
For some of us, waiting even 6 weeks to get back in the gym or throwing those running shoes on seems impossible!
Consider this though- I’m going to go on a little bit of a tangent, but hang with me! Some researchers looked at how long it took to fully heal from a run-of-the-mill paper cut. They defined fully healing by looking at the strength of the tissues, not necessarily separation of the skin or function of the finger. They found it took 11 MONTHS for the tiny fibers that form our skin to return to full strength.
Most of us probably think that paper cut is gone and forgotten in less than a week, yet there’s still more healing going on for almost a full y e a r! Sit with that a moment…
Think about how your body changes over the 9+ months of pregnancy. Think about what you go through to deliver that baby (or those babies!). Now compare it to a paper cut.
Pretty insane right?
So, where does collagen come in?
By giving our bodies the direct form of protein it needs to heal all of these areas, we improve the efficiency of creating stronger, more resilient tissue. This comes in the form of collagen- ideally a high quality version from grass-fed livestock.
Even if you’re not a mama or it’s been many moons since you had your children, you can still benefit from adding some collagen into your food plan.
Is this a magic bullet to cure your ails? No. Sorry friend, you may still have to do the work by adding in appropriate exercises for retraining your brain for stabilization or working with a pelvic floor physical therapist to address a more problematic DR or pelvic floor issue.
Here are 3 ways you can include collagen in your diet to support your own connective tissues.
1) supplement powders
These are simply an easy way for ladies on the go to supplement their nutrition. They aren’t necessary- which is great because good quality options can get pricey.
If you’re interested in this route, there’s tons of options! One brand makes individual packets of several different types which are great to throw in your purse. There’s one that’s a creamer for your coffee and another to add to your water. I love to buy the bulk container and throw a scoop in my smoothies.
I’ve seen some amazing recipes for healthy gummies and jiggler-type treats using gelatin that have rave reviews. No time for that? Yet again, throw it in a smoothie and go!
Just be sure you’re getting a high quality gelatin.
3) bone broth
This is probably the best way to support the remodeling of collagen in your body as bone broth is rich with ingredients necessary for your body to heal. And it’s super versatile- use it for soups, cook your grains in it, pour over power bowls to add flavor and moisture to the dish, or just sip on it straight from a mug.
Plus, it’s easy and cheap to make. Check out Instant Pot and slow cooker recipes online- they’re everywhere!
PS- For my vegan/vegetarian friends, don’t lose hope. If you’re healthy, have good gut function, and are getting adequate, quality protein in your diet, you’ll produce collagen just fine without animal protein. It may just take a bit longer.
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