Collagen supplements for Diastasis Recti - yes or no?
Should I be taking them to help heal my Diastasis Recti?
This is a question that pops up again and again in my private Facebook group (which you can join here)
Don't know if you have Diastasis Recti? Here is how you can self-assess:
Before we chat about collagen supplements we need to know a little more about collagen and why people are asking if they need supplements or to be drinking bone broth everyday.
Why is collagen important?
Collagen is is the main protein in skin, tendons, cartilage, bone, and connective tissue (thus, in the linea alba). In other words, collagen holds your entire body together!
Collagen is really strong, but also elastic. This means (just like an elastic band) it stretches when pulled on (like a pregnant belly), but returns to its original position after the pull is removed.
Diastasis recti is caused by OVER-STRETCHING the linea alba.
In most women, the connective tissue recoils, but in women with lingering diastasis recti, this recoil doesn’t happen.
In most cases, appropriate exercises (like the beginners program you can find HERE) will fix the issue, but sometimes surgery is the only way to bring the rectus abdominis closer together.
Keep in mind, we don’t know exactly how the tissue shortens in some women, but we do know it can.
Conversely, the linea alba, folds up easily when pushed on, which is why you shouldn’t do a crunch motion (see this article HERE) and one of the many reasons why binding/splinting can cause issues. (See my full article on this HERE).
So back to Collagen ….
This LACK of “recoil” is why a number of PT’s recommend supplementing with collagen, since it is the building blocks of the connective tissue.
I mean it makes sense right you want to heal your connective tissue, and this connective tissue is made up of collagen, so you should take in more collagen .....
WELL there are TWO schools of thoughts about collagen supplements and bone broth so I am going to go through both here so you can make up your own mind on this one!
YES – Collagen Supplements should be taken
One personal trainer I saw wrote on her blog
“when I get a client who needs to work on repairing DR, my number 1 nutrition tip is bone broth”.
This is because you need to eat foods that encourage this collagen to repair.
The most efficient way to do this is from animal protein, specifically the skin, cartilage and bones, which is rich in gelatin, which is derived from collagen.
This is a common theme on many PT’s sites – bone broth or some form of supplement with collagen and gelatin.
No – Collagen Supplements are not needed:
The reasons behind this is simply that consumed collagen is broken down – that means this collagen is NOT taken by your body and used directly in helping your connective tissue.
Instead it is broken down into its individual amino acids and used as needed.
This is a quote from the below article:
"Our stomach acid deactivates all proteins and our bodies break them down to their individual amino acids. As a protein, collagen/gelatin is not considered a good source, as it does not contain all the essential amino acids…The two amino acids collagen is known for, proline and glycine, are both non-essential amino acids that our bodies can make as long as it is getting adequate, complete protein."
Andrea D’ambrosia, “The Bone Broth Myth,” Dietetic Directions, 6 July 2015, http://dieteticdirections.com/the-bone-broth-myth/
So simply put, your body creates collagen from amino acids that your body makes, and these amino acids can be created from any source of complete protein. For example, dairy, eggs, and meat are all complete proteins. Vegan sources can also provide this protein, as long as multiple types are eaten such as nuts, seeds, beans, and sprouted grains.
The other thing to note, is there is no way to know where your body will use this created collagen, given it is needed throughout your entire body.
So to break it down simply, these are the points I took from all of that:
If you have a well balanced diet that has multiple sources of protein in it, there is no need to take collagen supplements or bone broth - so you can save your money and time for other things like doing your Diastasis Recti exercises - which will help you regain a functional core
If all you are reaching for is cookies in between (or whilst) feeding your baby, collagen may be a good idea - though you could probably do with a multi-vitamin too - No judging here ...
If you are unsure, extra collagen won't harm you, and even though it may not help your linea alb connective tissue it is likely to give you stronger nails and shinier hair
If you decide to try out a collagen supplement, but don’t feel like you HAVE to!
You can find out more about the health benefits of collagen powders here.
The three best brands (that I have found) that provide the highest quality collagen and gelatin powders from pasture raised cows are Bulletproof, VitalProteins, and Great Lakes.
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