Who hasn’t heard about the collagen craze? Collagen is being added into everything nowadays: coffee, smoothies and snacks. Did you know collagen is vital for vaginal health? Collagen is the main protein in the vaginal canal and is a thin lining that separates the internal and external surfaces of the vagina  Collagen plays a role in supporting vaginal elasticity, and strengthening the pelvic floor and reproductive tract , which is important for birth. Collagen is not only needed during pregnancy to prevent stretch marks, but should be supplemented post pregnancy to replenish lost collagen during birth .
What is collagen anyways? Collagen is the most abundant protein and makes up 80-90% of protein in the body . Collagen is made up of amino acids: proline, hydroxyproline, arginine, and glycine. This amazing protein is essential for hair, skin, nails, joint and gut health. Unfortunately, as we age, our collagen production decreases. Along with supplementing collagen, we can support our bodies own production of collagen. Vitamin C is a precursor to collagen production and absorption. Most collagen supplements do not include Vitamin C in the formulation, therefore obtaining an adequate amount of Vitamin C through the diet is needed. Bell peppers, strawberries and kiwi have high amounts Vitamin C; however, Vitamin C is easily damaged through heat, light and oxidation therefore these fruits and vegetables should be consumed raw.
Since collagen is a part of skin health, supplementing collagen during pregnancy can be beneficial. Pregnancy is a time of change and growth, and with growing a baby, skin can be unpredictable. Stretch marks are a common issue that many mothers face during pregnancy. Research shows that more women experience stretch marks during their first pregnancy, however, it is common for stretch marks to appear in the second pregnancy also. The skin is constantly stretching and growing to allow growth for a baby . Supplementing collagen during pregnancy can help reduce the chances of stretch marks due to its role in improving skin elasticity4. Collagen has been proven to be safe with no adverse reactions during pregnancy. Collagen in the uterus becomes depleted by 50% after birth, to be precise 1-3 days post partum. * It is unknown as to why this happens, however the expansion of the vaginal canal during birth could play a large role in collagen depletion. I have curated a tasty recipe that provides not only collagen, but other nutritious ingredients. Being a mother to a newborn can be extremely exhausting and energy levels can fluctuate. Since coffee consumption while breast feeding should be avoided, including good quality fats will help with balancing and sustaining energy levels throughout the day. Hemp seeds are a fantastic source of healthy fats and they provide fibre which is beneficial for digestion and colon health. Dates are a great substitute for refined sugar or sweeteners and are high in fibre as well.
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2. Montoya, T. I., Maldonado, P. A., Acevedo, J. F., & Word, R. A. (2015, February). Effect of vaginal or systemic estrogen on dynamics of collagen assembly in the rat vaginal wall. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4326728/
3. Dhital, B., Gul-E-Noor, F., Downing, K. T., Hirsch, S., & Boutis, G. S. (2016, July 12). Pregnancy-Induced Dynamical and Structural Changes of Reproductive Tract Collagen. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4944529/
4. Lee, J. L. (n.d.). Healthy Holistic Pregnancy.
5. Harkness, R. D., & Moralee, B. E. (1956). The time-course and route of loss of collagen from the rats uterus during post-partum involution. The Journal of Physiology, 132(3), 502-508. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.1956.sp005543
6. Lodish, H. (1970, January 01). Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
7. Varani, J., Dame, M. K., Rittie, L., Fligiel, S. E., Kang, S., Fisher, G. J., & Voorhees, J. J. (2006, June). Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: Roles of age-dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1606623/
8. DePhillipo, N. N., Aman, Z. S., Kennedy, M. I., Begley, J. P., Moatshe, G., & LaPrade, R. F. (2018, October 25). Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6204628/
9. Choi, F. D., Sung, C. T., Juhasz, M. L., & Mesinkovsk, N. A. (2019, January 01). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30681787
10. Brennan, M., Clarke, M., & Devane, D. (2016, September 21). The use of anti stretch marks' products by women in pregnancy: A descriptive, cross-sectional survey. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031338/