Amazing link between osteoporosis and wrinkles is characterized by collagen loss.
Skin yet again proves to be a reflection of our internal health. Just like for the skin, collagen is crucial for bone health. Therefore, premature aging can be used as a predictable sign of bone disease.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is the primary building block of our body’s bones, skin, muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. It is also found in the intestinal lining, blood vessels and organs. It provides support, structure and strength.
There are many different types of collagen. However, skin and bones are made of the same collagen, type I collagen.
Collagen and water makes up most of the bone’s volume, not calcium! While bone minerals provide strength, collagen is responsible for bone structure and flexibility. This quality helps bones to absorb the impact of a fall. Collagen provides the scaffolding to which minerals bind.
Bone is indeed the body’s primary mineral storage, and it’s where we keep 99% of our calcium. However, the bone tissue stores a number of other minerals, but also growth factors, adipose tissue, immune cells, hormones. And it also stores some unwanted guests like heavy metals and other toxins that can be incorporated into the bone tissue. Lead, for example has a particularly strong affinity for being incorporated into bone tissue. Research shows that accumulation of lead is a significant source of toxicity and has toxic consequences for bone status. Any time we are not able to appropriately biotransform various toxic substances in order to allow their excretion, we are going to store those toxins. This research also shows how lead can contribute to increase in blood pressure and hypertension. Mercury is very toxic to the bone marrow, per this study.
Unfortunately, collagen production begins decreasing at age 18. By the age of 40, the decrease is about 1% per year. For women, the decline equates to a loss of 7% of skin thickness every 10 years. Adequate collagen production correlates with healthy bones, strong hair and nails.
Decrease in collagen is one of the hallmarks associated with the appearance of fine lines, deeper wrinkles, sagging and thinning of the skin.
Due to hormonal differences, female skin has less collagen. Men, in contrast, have a more gradual decline in testosterone as they age which supports their collagen production longer. This is the reason why men have thicker skin and fewer wrinkles as they age. As the matter of fact, research shows that androgens have an apparent effect on skin collagen thickness and bone density. And as a result contribute to more dense bones that are less prone to osteoporosis.
Another study shows that joints whose cartilage is deficient in collagen develop osteoarthritis at a greatly accelerated rate.
Collagen attenuation picks up pace during and after menopause making skin more thinner, fragile, less taut. Following menopause, the decline in thickness accelerates to as much as 1.13% annually, while skin elasticity degrades 0.55% per year. It is estimated, that, on average, women lose up to 10 per cent of their bone mass in the first five years after menopause.
However, the exact age that this process starts is different for everyone. In the arena of bone health, the focus is always on estrogens. However, optimal bone health is not just about estrogen. We need both estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone has an effect on the health and function of osteoblasts. While estrogen and testosterone inhibit excessive bone resorption. So, all hormones work in tandem. As a functional medicine practitioner I have supported many women in their 30s with PCOS dynamic who had rock bottom sex hormone levels, which again re-iterates that the aging process is different for everyone based on their state of wellness or illness.
Skin health provides one of the best clues to our overall health and is a reflection of our well-being. We can’t see our internal organs aging but skin can offer some obvious cues and clues. So, if your skin is getting looser, looking dry, has more wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, it’s an evidence of oxidative stress and damage. Thus, what you see in the skin may also be a reflection of what is happening internal to the body, including your bones.
Our bones are very much alive and vibrant. They respond to our environment and inflammatory load. Bone remodeling is a dynamic process that repairs micro-fractures and replaces old bone with new bone. This represents a balanced dance between osteoclasts (breaking down) and osteoblasts (building up). Chronic stress which contributes to increase in pro-inflammatory molecules (IL-1B) can lead to an imbalance in bone metabolism. This dynamic favors bone resorption (more osteoclast activity) and osteoporosis, per this study. This is due to the fact that osteoclasts are part of the immune system as they are derived primarily from monocytes. Chronically high stress impairs bone growth and breaks down bone matrix in purpose.
It’s important to mention that when we speak in the notion of stress, it doesn’t have to be emotionally driven. But, physiological stress (e.g. poor sleep, microbial imbalance in the gut, H.Pylori, food sensitivities, heavy metal toxicity, mycotoxins, IBS, etc) can also be a source of a chronic stress that I see over and over by working with my functional medicine clients.
Chronic stress can lead to higher blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar makes collagen non-functional, stiff and brittle. It does that by creating advanced glycation end-products (AGE) that bind with the body’s proteins (collagen, elastin), causing cross linking. Collagen cross-linking increases with age and as a consequence this leads to tendon stiffening, per this study.
In the skin you can see signs of collagen cross-linking in the form of wrinkles. First signs of cross-linking are usually noticeable on the eye lids. Skin on the neck is more neglected in terms of the home care. Therefore, neck is probably a better area to gauge a status of the bone health than the face.
Research shows that AGEs correlate with the stiffness of the bone matrix and that changes in the matrix due to AGEs can decrease bone toughness. More importantly, because AGEs accumulate with age, it may help to explain age-related loss of bone toughness, and increase in bone fractures.
What You Can Do
- Work on reducing your stress – go for a light walk and/or take an epsom salt bath before bed time, practice yoga and less agressive cardiovascular exercise. Our reactions to the life circumstances and environment matter greatly!
- Deep, restorative sleep should be non-negotiable. Sleep is fundamentally essential to promote healing, activation of growth hormones and collagen production. Poor sleep increases stress hormones and inflammation. This increases the risk for all sorts of health problems, including increased break down of bone matrix. Try this formula to improve your sleep:
- Avoid sugars and refined carbs that increase AGEs. Eat a healthy, whole-foods that help to reduce inflammation naturally.
- Reduce inflammatory load and enhance collagen formation (per this study) by taking Omega3 BioPure
- Take Collagen Revive+ supplement which features clinically tested ch-OSA® (choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid) complemented with biotin that has clinically shown to help to generate collagen synthesis. This formulas has shown to improve skin elasticity, reduce the depth of the wrinkles, strengthen hair and nails, and increase bone formation.
- Research shows that vitamin C is essential for collagen type I synthesis by osteoblasts, affecting both quality and quantity of bone and skin collagen. Higher intake of vitamin C is associated with better skin-aging appearance, per this study.
Last, but not the least, if you’ve been diagnosed with some degree of osteopenia or it has progressed to osteoporosis, this is indicative that you have been struggling with some chronic, un-addressed imbalances that have contributed to chronic systemic inflammation promoting chronic excessive activity of osteoclasts. Even things like chronic IBS or life-long constipation can be a starting point for developing a bone disease.
As a functional medicine practitioner I can help you to get to the root causes of your imbalances that are precipitating a progression of the bone disease or any other dysfunctions in your body. Sign up for my Functional Medicine Comprehensive Health Assessment Appointment and VIP Functional Medicine program to begin your wellness journey!
A note about supplements: Not all supplements are made equal. Vast majority of the supplements on the market are poorly made, contain inactive forms of the nutrients, may contain heavy metals and also additives that can drive oxidative stress. So quality of the supplements matters greatly!
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