What is collagen?
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our bodies. It is found in connective tissue of our joints, hair, skin, nails, and bones. As we age, collagen production naturally decreases. Proponents online will tout collagen’s benefits for gut health, immune function, joint health, and anti-aging. Is that true though? Does taking a collagen supplement really help? Maybe with some areas, but not all.
Collagen supplements are typically made from either cow, chicken, or fish (plant based collagen isn’t a thing). You may see articles discussing the different types of collagen, for example type 2 being found in chicken and type 1 and 3 being found in cows. These types of collagen are thought to have different benefits on joint and skin health, but there is no consistent evidence that collagen helps beyond that.
When it boils down to it the type of collagen isn’t that important; collagen is collagen and your body is not likely to distinguish between the types.
Collagen and your pelvic floor
Sorry friend. Collagen isn’t likely to benefit your pelvic floor.
The thought behind people taking collagen to help pelvic floor recovery is the idea that collagen can help boost tissue regeneration. There are a few flaws with that line of thinking when it comes to the pelvic floor though.
First, the pelvic floor is a grouping of muscle. Currently, there is no good evidence that collagen supplementation has a positive impact beyond your joints, skin, nails, and hair. Meaning, collagen supplementation is not likely to have a positive effect on muscles.
Second, for many of you, your pelvic organ prolapse (or incontinence) isn’t necessarily due to a weak or thinned pelvic floor. It’s possible that your muscles are hypertonic (too tight), have a coordination issue (need to contract and relax in the right order), or you have a pressure management issue and tend to bear down throughout the day. None of these would be helped by tissue regeneration. They would benefit from muscle mobility and training though.
What does help your muscles?
Prioritizing protein intake and resistance training (add in a little mobility too).
And yes, you can implement resistance training for your pelvic floor. You do this by learning to connect with the pelvic floor, learn to control the pelvic floor through both strength and relaxation, and finally increase the demand on the pelvic floor through varying positions and with added weight load – a barbell in your hands, not a jade egg in your vagina.
Collagen is a protein alternative to add to your diet if you need a protein powder and can’t tolerate whey based or plant based protein. But note, collagen is not a complete protein as it does not contain all of the essential amino acids. When you’re able to, it’s better to get protein from a complete source.
Want to increase your own production of collagen? Eat a healthy varied diet of meat, fruits, and vegetables, exercise, drink enough water, take your vitamins, and don’t smoke. It’s a lot cheaper than supplementing with powder and will have a wider range of health benefits.