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Connective Tissues

Nutrition for healthy connective tissues needs to focus on collagen / connective tissue building foods.  It turns out these types of foods will also be particularly important for the tissue integrity and associated tissue damage.  The ingredients required for building and repairing healthy connective tissue

Nutrients required for collagen and connective tissue formation and integrity:

  • Collagen: the main protein of connective tissue. There are different collagens for different connective tissues. Collagen type 2 is useful for joints particularly undenatured collagen.

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin:  Main precursors to producing GAGs ((glycosaminoglycans)

  • Sulphur: Sulphates combine with chondroitin to make up cartilage. Required for the process of sulphation, to help facilitate cartilage repair and collagen production

  • Bioflavonoids particularly anthocyanidins (these phytonutrients help strengthen collagen fibres linkage and catechins (prevent the breakdown of collagen). 

  • Vitamin D and magnesium
  • Vitamin C; Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Required for protein synthesis and SOD production.

  • Silica and Selenium;

  • Amino acids: Glycine, Proline, Lysine, Glutamine :Major components of collagen and elastin

  • Hylauronic acid and esterified fatty acids. To retain moisture and reduce inflammation. Stimulates growth of connective tissue. 

  • Proteolytic enzymes. To reduce inflammation and to break down scar tissue

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As with all areas of health, nutrients are not the only factors in connective tissue health.  Stress, lack of sleep and exposure to environmental toxins can result in increased cortisol, increased inflammation, decreased glucose absorption into cells and therefore an inability to make glucosamine . Food intolerances can have major effects on connective tissues.

Sulphation is important liver detoxification pathway, primarily responsible for detoxifying hormones and some drugs (e.g. NSAIDs).  This pathway uses a lot of sulphur molecules.  and if the majority of your sulphur is going to detoxification then there is less to repair cartilage and other tissues.

Eat a diet high in bone broths, good quality protein from good quality (ideally organic grass fed) meats and eggs, loads of veggies, berries, fruit, healthy fats (fish, grass fed beef, extra virgin cold pressed flax oil / meal), and low in grains and sugar is the way to maintain healthy  connective tissue.

The medical community has known since the late 1980′s that problems with the  elastic, collagen-based connective tissues are rarely caused by inflammation (itis) alone, but are instead caused by a derangement or degeneration (osis) of the tissue and are usually caused by trauma or overuse. Collagen is a protein, and other than water, is the most abundant material found in connective tissue. Approximately 1/3 of all protein in the body is collagen. What makes this protein so useful and injury resistant is its combination of strength and elasticity.  Unlike most proteins, which form clumps when gathered together, collagen is fibrous and can form mats, or chord-like structures (such as tendons and muscles).

Although there are almost 30 different kinds of collagen, it is Type I Collagen found in the elastic connective tissues. Collagen is the substance that “glues” or “connects” the various parts of the body together. This is why most of the collagen-based tissues in the body are generically known as “connective tissue”. Type II collagen is important for cartilage.

Some collagen-based connective tissues like bone and most cartilages are part of your body’s load-bearing framework. Their purpose is to withstand compressive forces, while grossly maintaining the body’s shape. On the other hand, you have the elastic, collagen-based, connective tissues, whose chief job is overcome the tensile forces that are constantly trying to pull the body apart. These must be able to stretch; and include tissues like ligaments, tendons, muscles, and fascia.

When healthy, these elastic, collagen-based tissues are all fairly similar . Connective tissues follow a tubes-within-tubes model.. These tiny fibers are made up of collagen molecules that are composed of chains and cross-links. These cross-links are one of the reasons that collagen is so strong. However, collagen’s ability to cross-link is a double edged sword. Like a net, the more cross-links there are, then the stronger the tissue is. As we have all experienced; the stronger the rope, the less flexible it will be. When these elastic, collagen-based connective tissues are injured by overuse or trauma (, they become disorganized. The injured tissue becomes very disorganized, and “micro-scarring” is a big problem. 

Generally tissue heals faster and better in the young, who possess a better nutritional state and blood supply as well as a faster cellular metabolic rate which can synthesise needed materials and divide more quickly. In tissue repair efficient blood circulation is essential to transport oxygen, nutrients, antibodies, and many defensive cells to the site. Blood also plays an important role in the removal of tissue fluid, bacteria, foreign bodies and debris. These elements would otherwise interfere with healing. Therefore, the better the blood supply, the more efficient the healing. Connective tissue is generally highly vascular. However tendons only have a scant supply and cartilage is avascular and slow growing. Therefore these can take longer to heal.