Why it's important to take vitamin C with collagen, and what form of vitamin C to take.

How (and Why) to Take VITAMIN C with COLLAGEN… to HEAL THE GUT!

Megan Essential Oils & Supplements, Healing Diets, Health & Nutrition 34 Comments

When searching out the missing pieces of how to seal and heal a leaky gut it never ceases to amaze me how many components there are. A friend may find one or two missing pieces and voila, experience wellness. She can eat liberally again and is virtually symptom-free. She learned what does and doesn’t work for her body and her leaky gut is a thing of the past.

Sounds dreamy, right? While others may toil away on a restricted diet for years…

Our bodies’ complexities know no bounds. We are always discovering new connections, how co-factors function to knit our bodies’ parts together to a healthy whole. Without certain components, our bodies don’t have the tools they need to build or maintain.

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Let’s learn one more missing piece that may help some of us to heal and seal that leaky gut, too!

Collagen

Consuming gelatin and collagen (here’s the grass-fed one I buy) has become justifiably popular among Traditional and Paleo health-food advocates. In addition to using bone broth for a source of healing, using these powdered supplements provides the material to help our guts rebuild themselves. Even in healthy individuals collagen production begins to decline once we hit our mid-20s. (source)

Have you wondered? What the process? We eat collagen… then what? How does it knit itself into our bodies?

In its natural state, collagen is composed of large molecules. In some supplements, the collagen is “hydrolyzed”—broken down into smaller molecules, called peptides, for better absorption. Studies have shown that collagen peptides are well absorbed in the digestive system and make their way to targeted tissues, where they act as building blocks and trigger our own internal collagen production. (source)

Research shows that when we consume collagen, collagen levels increase in our bodies. Research also shows that collagen can not form without one key vitamin: Vitamin C. If we have too little Vitamin C in our bodies, they can not produce as much collagen. This is why collagen supplements that come in capsule form often contain Vitamin C as well. These supplements are designed for joint repair and similar conditions. So why don’t we, who are trying to repair our guts, intentionally include Vitamin C as well? (Because we didn’t know we should!)

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that our bodies can not produce. It must be acquired through diet.

The message many of us have not yet heard is that huge amounts of Vitamin C are required for collagen to form. (source) And our bodies do not produce Vitamin C on their own. (source)

This is an ongoing need. The body must continually produce collagen, even without a leaky gut issue; it is the most abundant protein in the human body. And, surprisingly, Vitamin C is destroyed in the process of forming collagen.

When collagen is produced, there is a complex series of events, some occurring inside of the cell, and some outside of the cell. Vitamin C is active inside of the cell, where it hydroxylates (adds hydrogen and oxygen) to two amino acids: proline and lysine. This helps form a precursor molecule called procollagen that is later packaged and modified into collagen outside of the cell. Without vitamin C, collagen formation is disrupted, causing a wide variety of problems throughout the body. (source)

What’s more? Heart health relies on Vitamin C.  (source) Anemia can be healed by adding in Vitamin C to (often temporary) iron supplementation. (source) Vitamin C also boosts the adrenals and lowers cortisol levels, helping to reduce stress and improve sleep. (source) It helps the body to detoxify and is used by the body as a co-factor in absorbing iodine. (source) Vitamin C even improves blood sugar levels, when combined with a low-glycemic diet. Prenatal supplements and those for children should include Vitamin C, too. Vitamin C has a significant effect on skin health and aging, again because of its correlation with collagen. (source) Vitamin C is great for post-workout stress, helping to rebuild muscle.

Yet we primarily think of it as an immune booster.

Low levels of Vitamin C not only cause conditions like scurvy, but are also associated with heart disease, gall bladder disease, cancer and even osteoporosis. (source) Conversely, those who eat diets rich in Vitamin C are less likely to get arthritis. (source)

When it comes to gut healing, we definitely don’t think of Vitamin C as a key ingredient to the process.  But we should. Collagen can’t be formed without it. If we’re consuming collagen, but not getting enough bioavailable Vitamin C, we’re missing out on collagen’s gut healing benefits and the potential for healing this supplement provides.

In being intentional about including Vitamin C, the next question is bioavailability. This is a hot topic among Vitamin C companies and among healthcare advocates. Which sources of Vitamin C are the most trustworthy and effective?

1. Surprisingly… Liver Pills!

Beef liver contains 4 times more Vitamin C than carrots or apples, both of which are good sources of Vitamin C. (source) Although citrus fruits seem like the most obvious source from which to find this vitamin, not everyone can eat fruit! (I can’t.) So liver provides a concentrated source, while also providing necessary fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, as well as B12, folate, copper and iron. I take 4 capsules daily and love that I’m accomplishing multiple nutritional feats from one source.

The other reason I like liver as a source of Vitamin C is because of how gentle it is. It digests well for almost anyone, (except those with a food intolerance or sensitivity to beef). So for those on the GAPS Introduction Diet, for example, who are not yet eating citrus fruits or taking supplements, beef liver is simply a whole food and is well suited. For those on low-FODMAP diets who feel bloated after eating cauliflower and broccoli, liver pills are gentle and healing. Many sources of Vitamin C are not absorbed well. With beef liver we can be more confident the body knows how to assimilate the nutrients.

Here’s the beef liver I buy. (See coupon code at the bottom of this post.) If you choose this route, you may still want to add in another source of Vitamin C as well.

2. Other Food Sources

Of course the vegetable kingdom is full of beautiful Vitamin C sources, too!

Excellent produce-based food sources of Vitamin C include bell peppers, leafy greens, watermelon and cantaloupe, citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, berries, cauliflower, parsley, kiwi and bok choy. (source) It’s noteworthy that produce picked too early or stored for long periods of time has less Vitamin C. (source) Eating vine-ripened, local produce means a higher Vitamin C content.

3. Which Vitamin C Supplements Absorb the Best?

This is the hardest subject to tackle, actually. Because absorption of the vitamin can be fickle. Not everyone absorbs ascorbic acid well, which is synthetic. Natural L-ascorbate, on the other hand, has co-factors present and is food-sourced.

Vitamin C-dense supplements that are comprised of only whole foods include camu-camu (a fruit from Peru), South American acerola berries (also called Barbados cherries), and amla (or Indian gooseberry). I’ve used amla powder for my kids for years; and there are several good supplements (like this one) that combine many Vitamin C rich foods into one pill. These are a fine option for those with optimum health.

For anyone with cogent health struggles, who needs to be assured their body is receiving Vitamin C, but is worried about how much is actually assimilating, there are better options. (For those with acute infectious or toxic health issues, intravenous Vitamin C [sodium ascorbate] may be recommended.) (source)

For almost complete absorption, the liposome-encapsulated form of vitamin C wins. This is a Paleo-friendly supplement, being non-GMO and excellent for those with compromised immune systems. It will literally help to trigger collagen production!

Liposomal Vitamin C does not require digestion, as it’s absorbed on a cellular level almost immediately. Because Vitamin C is used up and destroyed in the biosynthesis of collagen, and collagen is continually being formed, it may be ideal to consume Vitamin C 2 times daily.

Avoid Ester-C; although proponents claim better absorption, it is not a natural form of the vitamin, being created with high heat and under heavy pressure. (source)

Why it's important to take vitamin C with collagen, and what form of vitamin C to take.

Which Collagen to Buy?

I’ve started buying Perfect Supplements’ Hydrolyzed Collagen because they’re the most transparent about their processes, including their cows grazing on sustainably-grown grass. I’m super excited that they’re offering 10% off their already affordable price for Eat Beautiful readers! Just type in the coupon code BEAUTIFUL10 when you check out. (You can use the coupon code on any supplements from this site, including liver pills.)

When contacting Perfect Supplements about their gelatin and collagen, here’s what they told me:

Our Collagen and Gelatin are 100% natural and free of pesticides, hormones, chemicals, GMOs and other contaminants.  They are sourced from  Brazilian Grass-Fed, Pasture-Raised Cows that spend their entire life free grazing on grass. There is regular testing to verify the area is natural and free of pesticides as well as regular testing on the products.  The establishment that takes the cows for finishing ensures that they feed the cows grass while they are there, but they cannot guarantee the cows have not gotten into other animals food sources such as grains.

If you’ve ever investigated other gelatin companies you may know that this is an excellent assurance, much better than the leading competitors’ claims. I’m pleased to support this company. I’d love to know for sure that the cows only consume grass for finishing, but until that time, I’m grateful for the company’s transparency and commitment to sustainability.

Will you add Vitamin C to your collagen regimen? I’m excited to give my body every advantage to heal! No more leaky gut… lots of collagen production! Which do you prefer: liver pills, whole food Vitamin C supplements or liposomal?

  • Emily @ Recipes to Nourish

    I LOVE Perfect Supplements!!! For some reason I didn’t know that liver had such a high dose of vitamin C, that’s fantastic! I’m so happy to hear that because I take the caps too 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing all of this knowledge with us, I learned a lot.

  • Justin & Erica

    Wow! This is great info! Thanks for taking the time to research and share. I need to get some of the liver supplement you recommend!

  • Sally Oh

    Excellent, thank you so much! Fortunately, I take Vit C and collagen in my coffee! Did not know you needed the C to enjoy the benefits of the collagen. 🙂

  • Renee Kohley

    THIS is so fascinating Megan! I had no idea! I am taking both a whole food C, 5-6 liver pills per day, as well as collagen – but the collagen i don’t always get in everyday. I will definitely be working on that!

  • Raine Saunders

    Yes, we are taking a liposomal Vitamin C from the practitioner who is guiding my iodine protocol. It’s liquid and very potent. We usually take 4000+ daily. It’s not a very inexpensive supplement, but one I know is making a difference for us. It is handcrafted with safe ingredients and does include the L-ascorbate you mention here. Other ingredients include minerals, moringa powder, guava powder, frankincense powder, & camu camu berry powder, rose hips powder, some of which also have Vitamin C. It’s great to know why many Vitamin C products may not be effective and why. Thank you so much for sharing this, Megan! <3

  • Simone

    My liver supplement, which is a very good brand of grass fed pasture raised beef liver’s ingredient list states that it only contains 1mg of vitamin C per serving, so I am a bit confused…. It must depend upon which brand.

  • Megan Stevens

    LOL, that IS confusing. I can only guess that the label isn’t accurate… but ?

  • linda spiker

    I am so happy you do all the research…because I don’t lol. You are a good friend to have!

  • I had no idea about this! I’m going to start incorporating more vitamin c rich foods into my diet because i really just don’t get enough. What helpful information! Thank you!

  • Marjorieann1977

    Great information! I was happy to see that you had liver pills on the list. I take those everyday so I was doing something right without even knowing it!

  • thefoodhunter

    thanks for sharing all this useful information.

  • Vallari Treacy

    This collagen sounds great but grass fed cows from Brazil makes me leary. Brazil is a country using banned pesticides, areal spraying, and heavy GMOs. They would be hard pressed to maintain a pure source at high volume for a sustained length of time. Also, the FDA just told grass fed suppliers that they would not be regulating the grassfed label anymore. Just makes it hard to trust companies anymore. Can we not do well enough with trusted local farmers and making beef broth?

  • Megan Stevens

    I’m really glad! Thanks for commenting! <3

  • Megan Stevens

    Great, love that you were already doing it!

  • Megan Stevens

    Great, Renee!! 🙂

  • Megan Stevens

    Your supplement sounds great, Raine! Wonderful.

  • Megan Stevens

    Cute. Good. Glad to have you as a friend, too, inspiring me with your amazing food and photography!!

  • Megan Stevens

    I’m so glad. You’re welcome!

  • Megan Stevens

    Yay, liver is pretty safe in that way, lol~ untold riches! 😉

  • Megan Stevens

    You’re welcome.

  • Megan Stevens

    I know. It’s fascinating that it’s pesticide free and from Brazil! Seems mutually exclusive. Local farmers and beef broth sounds great!! I do trust this company; but you make a good point.

  • Megan Stevens

    You’re welcome. Yes, I’m so glad we can get liver in capsule form.

  • Karla Hutchinson

    Which C are you using?

  • Erin Auer-Sears

    Great post! We drink warm lemon water in the water before our collagen coffee. Do you think that provides enough Vit C? we use half a lemon in our drink each. Thanks for the great info, I really prefer to take my nutrients through food or herbal infusions. I know nettle and purslane are also great sources as well.

  • beechwdmdw@gmail.com

    can you please tell me how to consume the collagen and how much collagen and vitamin C we ned each day? I am making my own vitamin C caps with a capsule machine, adding equal parts of amla, camu camu, roehips and acerola (all form Mt. Rose Herbs) but I didn’t know how many caps to take.

  • Megan Stevens

    750 mg. is recommended by the practitioners I follow. You will need to establish how many mg. are provided by the real foods you’re using. 🙂 Regarding collagen, it’s a personal choice: anywhere from 1-6 scoops a day can be consumed for gut healing (and other) benefits. I have written about the need for also consuming fat and essential amino acids (protein foods) to make the collagen effective, as well. Cheers.

  • Megan Stevens

    Thank you! Surprisingly, lemon juice is very low in Vitamin C, compared to acerola, for example. I agree and love your mention of the herbs! Another good choice. But no, the juice of 1/2 a lemon is not enough, in my opinion. It won’t get you anywhere near 750 mg. daily. Like I mention in the article, there are whole food powders that are an excellent option. I give my kids amla.

  • Virginia S.

    Yes, please, if Megan allows, share the name of this product with us. Sounds great.

  • Megan Stevens
  • Megan Stevens
  • Rola

    Hi and Thank you,you gave us a very valuable information..I would ask you about the collagen is self . I noticed that am ganing weight coz of having collagen and grät is anoyning me can you give me an advice pls

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Rola, weight gain is a complex and personal issue and should be discussed with a functional or naturopathic practitioner. 🙂

  • Rola

    Oh this is hopeless because it’s difficult to find this kind of help in Sweden not sure 😥🤔but thank you for feedbak

  • Megan Stevens

    I’m sorry for your discouragement! You might consider Skyping with a practitioner in the States; many do this now. Blessings in your process.