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Does Collagen Cause Constipation?: How Your Supplements May Be Interfering With Mother Nature’s Call

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Collagen is seen by many as the “perfect” sports and anti-aging supplement - but like anything you eat, there is a potential for side effects. That’s why one question we get from some customers is: Does collagen cause constipation?

In some cases, it might!

Anytime you introduce a new product (especially a dietary supplement) into your diet, you should do so with caution and some guidance on the proper dosage. Even when taking these steps though, unexpected results and adverse effects may occur. 

The short answer to the question, “Does collagen cause constipation?” is maybe. In some cases collagen may cause digestive problems like constipation. 

So, how does collagen cause constipation and how do you make sure that your collagen supplement doesn’t cause any side effects? 

Does collagen cause constipation?

We don’t want to make a blanket statement that collagen does cause constipation, because the majority of the time, it doesn’t. In some cases, however, constipation is a side effect of collagen and protein supplements. 

The reason why collagen does cause constipation in some isolated cases is because of the high concentration of calcium within the supplement itself. 

What must be noted here is that not all collagen supplements contain the same level of calcium. Collagen supplements made from animal sources like shellfish, shark cartilage, or other marine sources tend to contain the highest levels of calcium

Now you may be thinking: wouldn’t having more calcium in collagen be good? How does collagen cause constipation when there are high levels of calcium? 

Well, like most things, you can have too much of a good thing! 

A high level of calcium is also known as hypercalcemia. More specifically, this is excess calcium in your blood, not your bones. This can be caused by consuming too much calcium, but can also be a result of certain medical conditions like hyperthyroidism. 

Some of the most common symptoms of hypercalcemia include: 

  • Constipation 
  • Calcium stones in the urinary tract
  • Loss of appetite
  • General fatigue 
  • Excessive thirst 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Nausea 
  • Confusion 
  • Restlessness 

Since so many of the symptoms of hypercalcemia are relatively general, it can take a while to recognize that having a high level of calcium is causing these problems. If you take a collagen supplement and a calcium supplement, do so with caution and under supervision of a doctor. 

If you suspect that you could be experiencing hypercalcemia, consult a medical professional to determine the cause. Although it is rare, extreme cases of hypercalcemia may impact the electrical impulses in your heart and impair kidney function, which can become severe issues. 

Remember, not all collagen supplements contain the same levels of calcium. So, if your collagen does cause constipation and bloating, you might want to consider an alternative collagen supplement from a different source. 

Since the highest sources of calcium in collagen tend to be marine sources, consider taking a collagen supplement that comes from bovine or poultry instead. 

Do not ignore nutritional information provided by the supplement manufacturer either. Look at the calcium content in the collagen, work closely with your doctor or a nutritionist, and adjust your collagen dosage as needed. 

Collagen doesn’t cause constipation usually, but if the collagen you are taking does cause constipation, it may be more than a simple digestive problem. 

That being said, in some cases, the simple fact that you’ve introduced something new to your diet may cause a change in your digestive system. It can take your body some time to adapt to a new supplement, so following appropriate dosages and listening to your body is important too. 

Regardless of the reason, if you believe that your collagen does cause constipation, it may be time to evaluate how much you are taking, as well as the source your collagen is coming from. 

Other potential side effects of collagen

Like any supplement, there are potential side effects. Although we are primarily discussing if collagen does cause constipation or not, we should also look at some of the other potential side effects. 

Common side effects reported by collagen supplement users include: 

  • Allergic reactions: People are allergic to a lot of different things, including animal products. Look carefully at the source of the collagen and any other ingredients within the collagen supplement to ensure it does not contain anything you are allergic to. 

You can also develop allergies as you age, so an allergic reaction could occur even if you don’t think you will have one. If it isn't a full blown allergic reaction, you may also have a sensitivity to some ingredients, so pay close attention to how your body reacts.

  • Mood alteration: If you already have any type of mood disorder or imbalance in serotonin, collagen may impact how you feel. 

It is believed that adding more collagen to your diet could potentially cause a deficiency in tryptophan. As tryptophan levels drop, it can impact your balance of serotonin. 

  • Kidney stones: One of the primary amino acids in collagen, hydroxyproline, can be converted into oxalate by your body. Oxalate is then excreted through your kidneys and into your urine. 

If you have a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones, you have a higher risk of complications when taking collagen supplements because the oxalate has the right environment to form kidney stones when being excreted. 

To avoid kidney stones when taking collagen, minimize the amount of collagen you consume per day and always drink plenty of water. 

Everyone’s body is a little bit different and has varying nutritional needs. Some supplements can also interact with some prescription medications in an adverse way. That’s why whenever you introduce a new supplement into your diet, it is recommended that you consult a medical professional. 

Identifying the proper collagen and protein dosage 

As you may have realized from the sections above, answering the question: “does collagen cause constipation?” isn’t as straightforward as we would hope. 

There is the potential that some collagen does cause constipation, but more often than not, with the proper dosage, and the right collagen supplement source, collagen will be easier on your stomach than other common sports proteins like whey. 

How do you know what dosage of collagen you should be taking?

Like most of these questions, the answer is subjective and often is based on life circumstances, personal supplement goals, and the quality of that supplement. There isn’t necessarily a recommended daily amount of collagen.

Many supplement companies will have a suggested serving per day, but in some cases, this isn't rooted in any research or even studied. It is set up in order to get you to consume more of their product so they can sell you more. 

Part of knowing what the right collagen dosage is for you is identifying your intentions when taking collagen supplements and knowing how much protein you should be consuming each day. 

First, identify why you are taking collagen:

  • Are you taking collagen to help build lean muscle mass?

  • Are you taking collagen supplements to lose weight?

  • Do you need collagen to help you heal and recover from an injury?

  • Do you want to add collagen supplements to your diet so you can better manage a high protein diet?

Why you are taking collagen supplements will help you determine the dosage. However, if you have never taken collagen before, starting off slow and then upping the dosage is recommended. 

For instance, if you’d like to consume two servings of Frog Fuel liquid collagen protein per day to help supplement your workout and muscle recovery, try starting with one serving per day. 

Doing this may feel counterintuitive because you want to see results, but it gives you a chance to see how collagen interacts with your body. It also gives your digestive system a chance to adapt to the dietary change.

As you become accustomed to taking collagen daily, you can consider adding more to fit your needs. 

Second, identify how much protein you need per day.

Protein is a macronutrient that everyone needs to consume in order to lead a healthy life. 

Your body weight, biological gender, activity level, age, and other health conditions all contribute to the amount of protein you should consume a day. 

In general, an adult that leads a sedentary lifestyle only needs to consume around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight a day. That equates to about 0.36 grams per pound. 

This number is the recommended daily allowance of protein, and shouldn’t be seen as a strict guideline for the amount of protein you need to limit yourself to per day. 

If you are an active adult, then you may need to up your protein intake to match your energy expenditure and fitness goals. 

In fact, some organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that athletes up their daily protein intake to closer to 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. 

Endurance athletes can usually fall on the lower end of that range, whereas bodybuilders and power athletes would be on the higher end of the protein intake. 

Although athletes need more protein to keep up their performance, not all of that protein should come from supplements. Some of your daily protein intake can come from supplements like collagen but not all of it. That’s when you would run into complications. 

Try to balance your protein intake between high nutrient, high quality supplements and whole foods like lean fish, white meat, legumes, and other plant-based options like tofu. 

Getting the most out of your protein supplement

When choosing protein supplements to add to your workout routine, quality of ingredients, collagen source, and absorption rate can all impact the effectiveness and side effects. For instance, proteins that are harder to digest may be more likely to cause gastrointestinal distress. 

Look for collagen supplements that are labeled as collagen peptides, hydrolyzed collagen, or nano-hydrolyzed collagen. These collagen supplements have gone through the process of hydrolysis, which breaks the molecules down into smaller, more digestible pieces.  

If you are concerned that your collagen does cause constipation, it could be worth trying a new collagen supplement that is nano-hydrolyzed. Nano-hydrolyzed collagen supplements, like those from Frog Fuel, have gone through the process of hydrolysis multiple times - so they are much easier for your body to digest.