Collagen is more than just another pretty face.
As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen is the intracellular “glue” that holds us together, all the way from our cells to our organs and even out to our skin. But collagen does more than play a supportive and restorative role in beautiful skin, thick hair, strong bones and blood vessels, flexible joints, and healthy organs; it also plays a dynamic role in the formation of tumors in the body, and how cancer spreads.
Collagen Research Bridges the Gap Between Mainstream and Natural Cancer Approaches
Before I get into the science of the collagen-cancer connection, I want to address the elephant in the room – bridging the gap between science-based mainstream medicine and natural alternatives that aren’t subject to conventional studies. I understand how hard it is to cross over from medical management of cancer to one that includes diet, supplements, and other natural options. Most natural approaches to cancer are largely based on personal experiences and traditional uses with no clear understanding of how or why (or if) they really work. This is in stark contrast to science, which conducts somewhat unbiased studies and reports results that apply to populations of people and not just one person’s story.
Understanding the science behind the collagen-cancer connection brings us one step closer to bridging the gap between these two worlds and finding the best solutions possible to overcome this deadly disease. With research-based articles like this one, I’m trying to do my part to make this happen in my lifetime. And I’m excited to announce my new book I Used to Have Cancer will be released in April and will be featured in Publishers Weekly!
Healthy Collagen is Essential for Surviving Cancer
Pound for pound, collagen is stronger than steel, yet it remains flexible and pliable. When collagen is strong and healthy, it’s an impenetrable force that cancer cells can’t break through. This is important for survival, because ninety percent of cancer deaths are caused by it spreading, known as metastasizing, to other tissues and organs. Collagen is the gatekeeper that either allows or prevents this spread from happening.
I was first introduced to Linus Pauling and his research over 30 years ago when I faced my own terminal cancer battle. They took patients like me, who medical doctors had all but given up on, and had a 100% success rate in stopping their cancers from spreading. Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath, MD later completed a 15-year study where they discovered cancer is a collagen disease that kills people when it spreads to the different tissues through the collagen. They found tumors secrete enzymes that break down a weak collagen matrix, essentially forming a tunnel that allows the cancer cells to travel through and spread to other parts of the body. To fight this, they pioneered the use of micronutrient synergy to strengthen collagen and stop cancer in its tracks.
Fortunately, the research didn’t stop with them. Researchers have now looked further into the collagen connection to cancer, and found that while healthy collagen halts the spread of cancer, weak collagen actually works with the cancer and encourages its spread. According to a study published in Tumour Biology, collagen is a double-edged sword that can be recruited to work for the “dark side” of cancer and actually trigger a cascade of biological events that lead to cancer growth. Cancer can hijack even your best defenses and play them against you!
In the big picture of cancer, Pauling and Rath opened the door for researchers to discover that cancer is about much more than tumor cells – it’s a disease of metabolic imbalance, where epigenetics and the cellular environment are key players in the development of cancer. This could explain why only 10 percent of cancers are genetic – because cancer is so good at manipulating the cellular environment it rarely needs the help of your genes to survive and thrive. This also explains why studies like this one from the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research conclude that diet plays a vital role in the prevention, development, management, and progression of cancer.
Several studies have since been done showing the effectiveness of the micronutrient combination Pauling and Rath used to stop cancer metastasis, and also on new combinations that have been developed since. The most recent study results were published in the Cancer Metastasis Reviews, and researchers came to the conclusion that it isn’t the additive effective of more micronutrients that works, it’s the synergy of them all working together that is the key. This means that the research Linus Pauling and Dr. Rath started more than 45 years ago still holds true today, and no one has been able to improve on their therapeutic benefits by creating new combinations.
Cancer-Proof Your Collagen
There are more than 14 types of collagen in your body, and all are composed of several key nutrients that are only available through diet – your body can’t manufacture them. The three main building blocks you need to manufacture all the different types of collagen are vitamin C, and the amino acids proline and lysine. Deficiency in any of these 3 key nutrients leads to a collagen deficiency and opens the door for everything from heart disease to cancer and so much more.
Once I gained a clear understanding through Pauling and Rath’s work that collagen was key to overcoming the cancer I was fighting, I added their vitamin C formula to my arsenal of anti-cancer tools and I saw immediate results. Decades later I had a toxic mold exposure and experienced low exercise tolerance and fatigue, and I worried it was heart disease. Testing showed 0% plaque in my arteries, which is also consistent with Pauling and Rath’s research that showed cardiovascular disease is essentially arterial scurvy – a deficiency in vitamin C that weakens the collagen in the blood vessels.
If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt heard the hype around bone broth powders and collagen powders. My experience and research shows it’s more effective to supplement with the nutrients your body uses to make the types of collagen it needs the most at that time, and to eliminate habits that deplete vitamin C and weaken the collagen matrix.
- Eliminate Sugar and Choose Low Glycemic Carbs. Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are formed when sugars in the blood attach to proteins, then target collagen, making it dry, brittle, and weak. A high sugar diet speeds up this process even more. The best defense is to choose a diet low in carbs, with only a minimal amount of fruit, which limits sugar intake and halts the formation of AGEs.
- Quit Smoking. Even the chemicals present in secondhand smoke damage collagen proteins from your skin to your lungs, and cause you to age prematurely while increasing your cancer risk.
- Boost Collagen with Vitamin C, Lysine, Proline, and Supporting Nutrients. The original formula from Linus Pauling and Dr. Rath includes high dose vitamin C in combination with l-lysine, l-proline, EGCG (a green tea antioxidant extract), and quercetin (works synergistically with EGCG). Vitamin C makes your cells like an impenetrable fortress and strengthens the collagen matrix so no intruders – like free radicals and cancer cells – can get through and cause damage. Lysine not only builds collagen, but also blocks the enzymes that tumors secrete and prevent collagen from being broken down.
- Supplement with L-Arginine. Also used to build collagen, this amino acid is essential for protein synthesis, skin damage repair, and wound healing. In addition to collagen and elastin production, L-Arginine is commonly included in nutritional supplements for increasing nitric oxide production to promote healthy cardiovascular function.
- Add TMG (trimethylglycine) if You Are Vegan. This heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, potent detoxifier is also a rich source of glycine, another building block of collagen. Meats, eggs, and seafood are rich sources of glycine, which is why I recommend vegans use a supplement. TMG is best known for its energy-boosting effects, but also promotes healthy brain balance and good digestion, and is commonly recommended for those with an MTHFR genetic defect.
- Take Niacin (Vitamin B3). Not only does niacin promote healthy collagen production, it also decreases protein glycation, which is the process that forms AGEs from a high sugar diet. Taking niacin doesn’t mean you can keep eating sugar and avoid its negative effects though. In addition, niacin protects the skin and promotes cardiovascular health. I recommend inositol hexanicotinate, an immediate release form that is gentle on the liver and doesn’t cause skin flushing.