“Collagen” is the new buzz word in health and beauty. There are a myriad of creams, pills and even make-up that boast stimulation of collagen production. But what is it? Why should I care about it? Let’s dive in and find out!
What is collagen?
It is the main structural protein between cells within various connective tissues in the body. This protein provides strength, shape and stability to otherwise amorphous tissue.
Where is it found?
There are 16 different types in the body; however, the majority is made up of only three types. Most collagen can be found in skin, bones, muscles and tendons.
What does it do?
The complex answer is, it depends on where the collagen is located. The simple answer is it provides a foundation for new cell growth, helps to replace and restore dead cells, acts as protective covering to delicate tissue and provides structural stability. As we age, production of this protein slows down, which means wrinkles and sagging of the skin, as well as weakened cartilage (and painful joints).
Just before, during and after menopause, women experience a dramatic reduction in collagen production.
Why does it matter (especially to a pelvic floor clinic)?
Remember how I said collagen is important for the integrity of the skin? Guess what the vaginal canal is made of? You got it! Skin! So what happens when we lose collagen in the vagina? Here’s a list:
- Vaginal laxity (the tissue becomes weak, fragile and wasted)
- Increase in urinary incontinence, due to poor tissue support of the bladder neck
- Possible uterine prolapse, rectocele (weakening of wall between vagina and rectum) or cystocele (weakening of wall between vagina and bladder) due to reduced structural integrity
- Painful intercourse due to tissue atrophy and wasting – ouch!
What causes a reduction in production?
- It slows down as we age. Women who are experiencing menopause will see a dramatic fall in production.
- High sugar consumption increases glycation, which means sugar attaches to protein to form a new molecule.
- Smoking damages collagen and elastin.
- Some autoimmune diseases target collagen.
What can I do to slow loss or, better yet, speed production in the vaginal canal?
Radiofrequency applied to the vaginal canal promotes production, which increases the integrity of the tissue. When this protein is produced in the vaginal canal, it mitigates the symptoms of urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and pain. If you would like more information on this method of treatment, click here!