There’s no direct research showing that collagen will help with bowel movements, but we do have some evidence that it helps with gut health more generally.
By supporting the microbiome, nourishing the gut lining, and even increasing butyrate production in the gut, collagen may help improve bowel movements and other gut symptoms like gas and bloating.
You can and should get some collagen in your diet through foods like bone broth, meat, and fish, but research shows that you’re more likely to achieve the therapeutic benefits shown in research by taking a collagen supplement.
You’ve probably already heard of collagen as a beauty and skincare supplement, but did you know it may support your gut health too?
In this article, we’ll discuss the many benefits of collagen, how collagen can support gut health, collagen and bowel movements, the difference between marine vs. bovine collagen, how to add a collagen supplement to your diet, and any side effects or downsides of collagen supplements.
General Benefits of Collagen
Collagen has well-studied benefits for skin, nail, joint, and muscle health. It’s the most abundant protein source in the body and the main ingredient in our connective tissues, such as ligaments and tendons.
You can think of collagen as structural support for the body — it’s very rigid and resistant to stretching, which is why it’s excellent for bones, teeth, and cartilage. However, collagen isn’t considered a complete protein source due to the absence of the amino acid tryptophan [6 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Tryptophan is an important amino acid for sleep regulation and quality, as well as a precursor for serotonin, so we do need to get it from our diet. However, tryptophan can be readily found in other protein sources such as chicken, turkey, and beef [7 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
In our clinic at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine, we’ve also seen increased energy and decreased fatigue in patients who supplement with collagen powder in their diet, especially if they weren’t getting enough protein before. We often recommend marine collagen to our vegetarian patients for this purpose.
How Can Collagen Help With Gut Health?
Research is ongoing, but there are some exciting cell and animal studies looking at the benefits of collagen for gut health.
One 2022 animal/human cell study explored the effects of fish collagen in a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and in human immune cells collected from IBD patients. The results showed that mice given collagen had reduced gut inflammation and improved balance of the gut microbiota compared to mice that weren’t given collagen.
Additionally, human immune cells that were collected from IBD patients and treated with collagen showed changes that demonstrated an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect [4 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
If we think about the building blocks of collagen as a type of protein, we can break it down into essential amino acids. Several of these amino acids, like glycine and glutamine, are also recommended for healing the gut lining and supporting gut health. So some of these nutritional building blocks in collagen are fundamentally supportive to a healthy gut.
This study is far from definitive, but it shows the potential of collagen to reduce inflammation in the digestive system, support patients with leaky gut syndrome, and improve dysbiosis.
Collagen and Bowel Movements
There are no specific studies showing improvements in constipation or diarrhea with collagen supplementation. However, depending on the root cause of the motility change, we can infer that the effect of collagen on bowel movements may be positive due to its studied effects on issues like dysbiosis and leaky gut.
If dysbiosis in the large intestine is behind chronic constipation, for example, collagen may have some benefit by improving the gut microflora and increasing butyrate production, resulting in better regularity.
Collagen may also be helpful for these symptoms and other digestive imbalances from a nutritional perspective of getting enough protein. At the Ruscio Institute, we’ve seen great results from getting patients to a more optimal daily protein intake.
The most popular supplements are bovine and marine collagen. We typically recommend marine collagen for a few reasons. One is that there’s some evidence suggesting it’s more easily absorbed, has fewer contaminants, and is less likely to cause inflammatory reactions [32 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Marine collagen may also be preferable for some people due to religious or dietary restrictions around meat.
Most collagen supplements are either hydrolyzed collagen or gelatin. While gelatin has its own benefits, hydrolyzed collagen may be better absorbed due to its low molecular weight. It’s also the most commonly used form in research [34 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 35 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. Hydrolyzed means the collagen has been broken down using enzymes or acids, making it easier to digest.
Collagen in Food vs. Supplements
It’s likely easier to obtain higher amounts of collagen from supplements than from food sources [6 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source], and this may be necessary for those who want to achieve the therapeutic effects seen in scientific research. Several of the studies used doses of collagen at 15 grams per day or higher, and this may be difficult to obtain from diet alone [6 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
For those wanting to increase collagen intake from their diet, foods such as bone broth or meats that contain lots of connective tissue (pot roast, brisket, chuck steak) are possible options . However, one study found that collagen supplements were superior to bone broth for increasing levels of amino acids (proline, hydroxyproline, lysine) needed for collagen synthesis [37 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Zinc and vitamin C are also needed to produce collagen in the body, so consuming foods that are higher in these nutrients may help increase collagen production .
Reasons You Should Add a Collagen Peptides Supplement to Your Diet
Let’s review some reasons you might want to add collagen to your diet. Adding collagen may help:
Increase protein intake for those who aren’t getting enough through their regular diet
Improve body composition (increasing muscle mass and decreasing excess fat)
Support nail and skin health
Support joints, muscle, and connective tissue
Improve gut health, including sealing up leaky gut and balancing the microbiome
Ways to Add Collagen to Your Meals and Snacks
Collagen protein is flavorless and easily added to coffee or tea, or other hot beverages. This makes it quite convenient for most people to add collagen to their morning cup.
You can also add collagen to smoothies, soups, in baked goods like muffins or quick breads, oatmeal, chia pudding, protein shakes, and more. Adding collagen to these items makes for a more nutritionally balanced meal or snack (protein + carb), helping to keep blood sugar balanced.
Are There Any Side Effects or Downsides of Collagen?
By and large, collagen supplements appear to be safe and do not result in increased side effects compared to placebo in most studies.
One study noted that some gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, dyspepsia, diarrhea, and gas) occurred in those who took collagen, but there was no increase in side effects compared to placebo and it was unclear what caused the side effects [18 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
There’s a small chance that collagen could provoke an allergic reaction in those who are allergic to the source of collagen (bovine, porcine, marine). For example, someone with a shellfish allergy may have an allergic reaction to marine collagen [38 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
To avoid any potential side effects and to determine whether supplementing with collagen would benefit you, consult with your healthcare provider.
Use Collagen as a Multi-Purpose Health Tool
Collagen protein has many potential benefits for your gut health, energy levels, and connective tissue health. It’s not a magical cure by any means, but it can help support multiple areas of your health. For some people, there may be a beneficial connection between using collagen and bowel movements, either increasing or decreasing motility depending on your needs.
Look for a collagen supplement that has been tested for heavy metals and is free from common allergens, additives, and fillers.
If you want more guidance on using your diet to promote a healthy gut, you can check out my book, Healthy Gut, Healthy You.
The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience, including marine collagen. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.
Chen Q, Chen O, Martins IM, Hou H, Zhao X, Blumberg JB, et al. Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions. Food Funct. 2017 Mar 22;8(3):1144–51. DOI: 10.1039/c6fo01347c. PMID: 28174772. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Larder CE, Iskandar MM, Kubow S. Gastrointestinal digestion model assessment of peptide diversity and microbial fermentation products of collagen hydrolysates. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 7;13(8). DOI: 10.3390/nu13082720. PMID: 34444880. PMCID: PMC8401164. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Axarlis K, Daskalaki MG, Michailidou S, Androulaki N, Tsoureki A, Mouchtaropoulou E, et al. Diet Supplementation with Fish-Derived Extracts Suppresses Diabetes and Modulates Intestinal Microbiome in a Murine Model of Diet-Induced Obesity. Mar Drugs. 2021 May 11;19(5). DOI: 10.3390/md19050268. PMID: 34064922. PMCID: PMC8151984. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Rahabi M, Salon M, Bruno-Bonnet C, Prat M, Jacquemin G, Benmoussa K, et al. Bioactive fish collagen peptides weaken intestinal inflammation by orienting colonic macrophages phenotype through mannose receptor activation. Eur J Nutr. 2022 Jan 8; DOI: 10.1007/s00394-021-02787-7. PMID: 34999930. PMCID: PMC9106617. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Mei F, Duan Z, Chen M, Lu J, Zhao M, Li L, et al. Effect of a high-collagen peptide diet on the gut microbiota and short-chain fatty acid metabolism. J Funct Foods. 2020 Dec;75:104278. DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2020.104278.
Paul C, Leser S, Oesser S. Significant amounts of functional collagen peptides can be incorporated in the diet while maintaining indispensable amino acid balance. Nutrients. 2019 May 15;11(5). DOI: 10.3390/nu11051079. PMID: 31096622. PMCID: PMC6566836. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Richard DM, Dawes MA, Mathias CW, Acheson A, Hill-Kapturczak N, Dougherty DM. L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009 Mar 23;2:45–60. DOI: 10.4137/ijtr.s2129. PMID: 20651948. PMCID: PMC2908021. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
de Miranda RB, Weimer P, Rossi RC. Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Dec;60(12):1449–61. DOI: 10.1111/ijd.15518. PMID: 33742704. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Barati M, Jabbari M, Navekar R, Farahmand F, Zeinalian R, Salehi-Sahlabadi A, et al. Collagen supplementation for skin health: A mechanistic systematic review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020 Nov;19(11):2820–9. DOI: 10.1111/jocd.13435. PMID: 32436266. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz MLW, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral collagen supplementation: A systematic review of dermatological applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9–16. PMID: 30681787. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S, Proksch E. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1340–8. DOI: 10.1089/jmf.2015.0022. PMID: 26561784. PMCID: PMC4685482. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Sato K. The presence of food-derived collagen peptides in human body-structure and biological activity. Food Funct. 2017 Dec 13;8(12):4325–30. DOI: 10.1039/c7fo01275f. PMID: 29114654. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Hexsel D, Zague V, Schunck M, Siega C, Camozzato FO, Oesser S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017 Dec;16(4):520–6. DOI: 10.1111/jocd.12393. PMID: 28786550. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
García-Coronado JM, Martínez-Olvera L, Elizondo-Omaña RE, Acosta-Olivo CA, Vilchez-Cavazos F, Simental-Mendía LE, et al. Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Int Orthop. 2019 Mar;43(3):531–8. DOI: 10.1007/s00264-018-4211-5. PMID: 30368550. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Liu X, Machado GC, Eyles JP, Ravi V, Hunter DJ. Dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Feb;52(3):167–75. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097333. PMID: 29018060. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Van Vijven JPJ, Luijsterburg PAJ, Verhagen AP, van Osch GJVM, Kloppenburg M, Bierma-Zeinstra SMA. Symptomatic and chondroprotective treatment with collagen derivatives in osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Osteoarthr Cartil. 2012 Aug;20(8):809–21. DOI: 10.1016/j.joca.2012.04.008. PMID: 22521757. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Wei W, Zhang L-L, Xu J-H, Xiao F, Bao C-D, Ni L-Q, et al. A multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled phase III clinical trial of chicken type II collagen in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Res Ther. 2009 Dec 1;11(6):R180. DOI: 10.1186/ar2870. PMID: 19951408. PMCID: PMC3003530. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Barnett ML, Kremer JM, St Clair EW, Clegg DO, Furst D, Weisman M, et al. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with oral type II collagen. Results of a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 1998 Feb;41(2):290–7. DOI: 10.1002/1529-0131(199802)41:2<290::AID-ART13>3.0.CO;2-R. PMID: 9485087. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Zdzieblik D, Brame J, Oesser S, Gollhofer A, König D. The influence of specific bioactive collagen peptides on knee joint discomfort in young physically active adults: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2021 Feb 5;13(2). DOI: 10.3390/nu13020523. PMID: 33562729. PMCID: PMC7915677. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 16;10(1). DOI: 10.3390/nu10010097. PMID: 29337906. PMCID: PMC5793325. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Deane CS, Bass JJ, Crossland H, Phillips BE, Atherton PJ. Animal, plant, collagen and blended dietary proteins: effects on musculoskeletal outcomes. Nutrients. 2020 Sep 1;12(9). DOI: 10.3390/nu12092670. PMID: 32883033. PMCID: PMC7551889. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Argyrou C, Karlafti E, Lampropoulou-Adamidou K, Tournis S, Makris K, Trovas G, et al. Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation with and without collagen peptides on bone turnover in postmenopausal women with osteopenia. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2020 Mar 3;20(1):12–7. PMID: 32131366. PMCID: PMC7104583. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Praet SFE, Purdam CR, Welvaert M, Vlahovich N, Lovell G, Burke LM, et al. Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Combined with Calf-Strengthening Exercises Enhances Function and Reduces Pain in Achilles Tendinopathy Patients. Nutrients. 2019 Jan 2;11(1). DOI: 10.3390/nu11010076. PMID: 30609761. PMCID: PMC6356409. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):136–43. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.138594. PMID: 27852613. PMCID: PMC5183725. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Oikawa SY, Macinnis MJ, Tripp TR, McGlory C, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Lactalbumin, Not Collagen, Augments Muscle Protein Synthesis with Aerobic Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Jun;52(6):1394–403. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002253. PMID: 31895298. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Lis DM, Jordan M, Lipuma T, Smith T, Schaal K, Baar K. Collagen and vitamin C supplementation increases lower limb rate of force development. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2022 Mar 1;32(2):65–73. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2020-0313. PMID: 34808597. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Clifford T, Ventress M, Allerton DM, Stansfield S, Tang JCY, Fraser WD, et al. The effects of collagen peptides on muscle damage, inflammation and bone turnover following exercise: a randomized, controlled trial. Amino Acids. 2019 Apr;51(4):691–704. DOI: 10.1007/s00726-019-02706-5. PMID: 30783776. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Prowting JL, Bemben D, Black CD, Day EA, Campbell JA. Effects of Collagen Peptides on Recovery Following Eccentric Exercise in Resistance-Trained Males-A Pilot Study. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2021 Jan 1;31(1):32–9. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2020-0149. PMID: 33186897. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Honvo G, Lengelé L, Charles A, Reginster J-Y, Bruyère O. Role of collagen derivatives in osteoarthritis and cartilage repair: A systematic scoping review with evidence mapping. Rheumatol Ther. 2020 Dec;7(4):703–40. DOI: 10.1007/s40744-020-00240-5. PMID: 33068290. PMCID: PMC7695755. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Lupu M-A, Gradisteanu Pircalabioru G, Chifiriuc M-C, Albulescu R, Tanase C. Beneficial effects of food supplements based on hydrolyzed collagen for skin care (Review). Exp Ther Med. 2020 Jul;20(1):12–7. DOI: 10.3892/etm.2019.8342. PMID: 32508986. PMCID: PMC7271718. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Cordain L, Miller JB, Eaton SB, Mann N, Holt SH, Speth JD. Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;71(3):682–92. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/71.3.682. PMID: 10702160. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Cruz MA, Araujo TA, Avanzi IR, Parisi JR, de Andrade ALM, Rennó ACM. Collagen from Marine Sources and Skin Wound Healing in Animal Experimental Studies: a Systematic Review. Mar Biotechnol. 2021 Feb;23(1):1–11. DOI: 10.1007/s10126-020-10011-6. PMID: 33404918. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed Collagen-Sources and Applications. Molecules. 2019 Nov 7;24(22). DOI: 10.3390/molecules24224031. PMID: 31703345. PMCID: PMC6891674. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Alcock RD, Shaw GC, Burke LM. Bone broth unlikely to provide reliable concentrations of collagen precursors compared with supplemental sources of collagen used in collagen research. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2019 May 1;29(3):265–72. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0139. PMID: 29893587. Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!
Transform your health
Every product is science-based, validated by real-world use, and personally vetted by Dr. Ruscio, DNM, DC.