Are you getting enough collagen to support your thyroid health?
Before you answer that, you might be asking… “What is collagen?”
Collagen is a special type of protein. It’s the most abundant type of protein, accounting for roughly 35% to 50% of all protein in your body.
It’s essential to support your thyroid and thousands of metabolic processes occurring within your body every day.
Collagen has been shown to help prevent and correct a number of inflammatory and degenerative diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
Yet, most importantly, it’s a protein that almost everyone is deficient in, including you.
The main amino acid (protein building-block) in collagen is glycine.
Research shows that we are severely deficient in glycine to the point that scientists are recommending that supplementation is the only way to “guarantee a healthy metabolism”.
A weak link in metabolism: the metabolic capacity for glycine biosynthesis does not satisfy the need for collagen synthesis.
“This result supports earlier suggestions in the literature that glycine is a semi-essential amino acid and that it should be taken as a nutritional supplement to guarantee a healthy metabolism.”
Given that collagen contains 29% glycine, to meet your glycine needs you would require 35 grams of collagen daily.
I’ll show you some easy ways to get more collagen into your diet in a minute.
First, I want to show you why getting 35 grams of collagen is so important to your thyroid by covering five ways it helps boost your thyroid health at various parts of your Thyroid Hormone Pathway.
1. Collagen Can Boost Your Thyroid Hormone Levels by Unblocking Your Thyroid Gland
Collagen can help boost your thyroid hormone levels by simply balancing the other proteins in your body.
Today, we tend to over-consume meats as our primary protein source.
Yet, meats are rich in thyroid-suppressive amino acids like cysteine and tryptophan, which inhibit thyroid function and energy production.
Thyroid peroxidase activity is inhibited by amino acids.
“The inhibitory amino acids contain side chains with either sulfur atoms (cysteine and methionine) or aromatic rings (tyrosine, tryptophan, histidine and phenylalanine).”
This study shows that these thyroid-suppressive amino acids can inhibit the production of thyroid hormone by your thyroid gland.
But, it gets worse.
In hypothyroidism, the amino acid tryptophan is largely converted into serotonin.
Serotonin then further suppresses thyroid function by increasing other thyroid-suppressive hormones including cortisol and estrogen.
This is where collagen comes to the rescue.
Collagen naturally contains no tryptophan and only minimal amounts of these other suppressive amino acids.
Using collagen, especially when eating meat, helps to prevent these thyroid-suppressive effects while supporting healthy thyroid hormone production.
2. Collagen Can Boost Your Thyroid Hormone Conversion by Lowering Cortisol
Above, I showed you how over-consuming meats can increase your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
In previous posts, I’ve discussed in detail the many ways that hypothyroidism itself leads to elevated stress hormone production. I’ve also provided research showing that that these stress hormones, including cortisol, block your liver from converting your inactive T4 thyroid hormone into the active T3 form your cells need.
So, I won’t go into those details again here.
(NOTE: These details can be found in this article on “How to Heal Your Thyroid By Healing Your Liver”.
Yet, collagen helps to boost your liver’s ability to convert thyroid hormone into active T3 thyroid hormone by lowering cortisol levels in your blood.
Effects of orally administered glycine on myofibrillar proteolysis and expression of proteolytic-related genes of skeletal muscle in chicks.
“The plasma corticosterone concentration was also decreased by glycine, but the plasma insulin concentration was unaffected.”
3. Collagen Can Boost Your Thyroid Hormone Conversion by Lowering Endotoxin
Endotoxin is a very common cause of hypothyroidism today.
It’s a thyroid-suppressive substance that’s over-produced by intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is commonly found in hypothyroidism.
Endotoxin suppresses your thyroid in a number of ways, primarily by burdening your liver and preventing the detoxification of thyroid-suppressive hormones such as estrogen and cortisol.
Here comes collagen to the rescue again.
Research shows that collagen helps to protect your liver from the damaging effects of endotoxin.
Glycine attenuates endotoxin-induced liver injury by downregulating TLR4 signaling in Kupffer cells.
“CONCLUSIONS: Dietary glycine improved survival rates and liver function in endotoxemic mice by regulating the production of proinflammatory or anti-inflammatory cytokines in liver.”
By protecting your liver, collagen can help to promote the healthy detoxification of many thyroid-suppressive hormones and chemicals.
As a result, it can also help to boost your active T3 thyroid hormone by improving thyroid hormone conversion at your liver.
4. Collagen Can Boost Your Thyroid and Metabolism by Improving Blood Sugar Regulation
Another essential component to healthy thyroid function and metabolism is eating adequate carbohydrates and being able to properly regulate your blood sugar.
(NOTE: Low-carb diets are well known to cause hypothyroidism as detailed in this article on “Stop Eating Low-Carb (If You Care About Your Thyroid)”.)
In fact, when working with clients, the first thing we do is to fix blood sugar regulation.
One of the ways we do this is through the use of collagen.
The metabolic response to ingested glycine.
“When glycine was ingested with glucose, the plasma glucose area response was attenuated by > 50% compared with the response after the ingestion of glucose alone.”
This research shows that collagen helps to improve blood sugar handling by improving your ability to metabolize carbohydrates (glucose) without the need for insulin.
In other words, it helps you to use carbohydrates efficiently, preventing blood sugar from rising.
I often have my clients add collagen to orange juice to help regulate blood sugar throughout the day.
Hypothyroidism sufferers also tend to suffer from some degree of insulin resistance. This can cause further problems, resulting in chronically elevated blood sugar.
This is one reason why thyroid sufferers are so prone to developing diabetes.
So, it should be no surprise that research also shows that diabetics, on average, have 26% lower glycine levels than non-diabetics.
In other words, collagen can be extremely beneficial for diabetics as well.
This is one reason why collagen has been successfully used in the treatment of diabetes for over one hundred years.
5. Collagen Can Boost Your Thyroid by Improving Your Ability to Use Thyroid Hormone (T3)
Unfortunately, having adequate thyroid hormone levels isn’t enough.
You still have to be able to use that thyroid hormone (T3) to maintain healthy thyroid function.
In hypothyroidism, metabolism becomes blocked by high levels of free fatty-acids in the blood. This can prevent your cells from using thyroid hormone (T3) efficiently.
Yet, collagen has been shown to prevent this by inhibiting lipolysis (the release of free fatty-acids).
So, collagen helps to lower the free fatty-acids that prevent you from using thyroid hormone efficiently.
This buildup of free fatty-acids, also known as the Randle Cycle, is also one of the primary mechanisms that cause diabetes and insulin resistance.
So, using collagen can also help restore insulin sensitivity too.
(NOTE: Are you diabetic or pre-diabetic? Learn how hypothyroidism causes diabetes and what to do about it in this post on “Hypothyroidism and Diabetes: How to Reverse It and Why Sugar Is NOT the Problem”.)
How to Get More Collagen Into Your Diet
Collagen-rich foods are commonly found in traditional diets around the world.
Yet, we rarely, if ever, cook with or consume these collagen-rich foods today.
Some of the richest sources of collagen are as follows:
- Homemade Broth (from gelatinous meats/bones)
- Pork Rinds (skins)
- Head Cheese
- Pig Feet
- Chicken Feet
- Gelatin Deserts (Jello)
- Veal (Osso Buco)
But, getting 35 grams of collagen protein from food alone can be difficult.
For example, it would take roughly 6 to 7 cups of gelatinous homemade broth daily to meet these requirements.
Supplementing Collagen Protein Powder
To help my clients get adequate collagen, we use a grass-fed collagen protein powder supplement to help meet their collagen needs.
This allows us to get the same amount of collagen we get from 1 cup of broth in about one tablespoon (15 ml) of collagen protein powder.
Plus, using collagen protein powder is much cheaper than the cost of preparing collagen-rich foods.
The collagen protein we use is hydrolyzed, so it can be dissolved easily in both hot and cold liquids.
My clients easily increase their collagen intake by adding collagen protein powder to the following foods:
- Shakes & Smoothies
- Apple Sauce
Hopefully this gives you some ideas on how you can easily increase your collagen intake too.
The best part is that our new and improved collagen protein powder comes from grass-fed cows, has no smell, and an almost undetectable taste.
You won’t be disappointed.
Whether you get your collagen protein from foods or supplement, the important thing is that you get the collagen you need to support your thyroid health.
Your thyroid will surely thank you.