Could Marine Collagen Help To Reduce Eczema?

Could Marine Collagen Help To Reduce Eczema?

Eczema affects millions of people worldwide and can be disruptive to daily life with its persistent itching, redness and discomfort. While various options exist to manage symptoms, finding effective, long-term solutions to actually treating the condition remains a challenge. However, emerging research suggests a promising contender: marine collagen. In recent years, marine collagen has gained attention in the wellness space for its potential health and skincare benefits, often with great success, which begs the question; could it also be effective for reducing the symptoms of eczema? Let’s find out…

What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition characterised by inflammation, itchiness, and redness of the skin. It often appears as patches of dry, rough, and scaly skin that may be accompanied by blisters and crusting. Eczema can occur anywhere on the body but is most commonly found on the face, hands, elbows, and knees. It can range from mild to severe and can be chronic, with symptoms often coming and going over time[1].

While the exact cause of eczema is not fully understood, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. The symptoms of eczema often occur in “flare-ups,” which can be triggered by factors such as dry skin, irritants (like soaps or detergents), allergens (such as pollen or pet dander), stress, and changes in temperature or humidity. Currently, eczema is managed through various treatments, including moisturisers, topical corticosteroids, antihistamines, and lifestyle modifications to reduce or avoid triggers. Probiotics have also gained some popularity as a possible route for eczema management, click here to read more.

Eczema may not only be physically painful for the sufferer but can also (as a condition visible to others) be mentally debilitating, with many people with eczema reporting increased anxiety, stress and low mood[2]. Furthermore, poor mental health can trigger a flare-up of eczema, perpetuating a vicious cycle. What if there was a simple, natural way to alleviate symptoms? It may be possible with marine collagen.

What is marine collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, it is the main structural protein found in connective tissues in the body such as skin, joints, muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. There are several types of collagen found within the human body, the most prevalent being type 1, which makes up around 90% of the protein in many tissues, including the skin[3]. As a main structural component of skin, it has been suggested that collagen supplementation may help to reduce symptoms in eczema sufferers.

There are several types of collagen available on the supplement market, including marine, bovine and a vegan collagen-type product made from genetically modified yeast and bacteria[4]. As the names suggest, marine collagen is sourced from fish, while bovine is sourced from cows. While both provide high-quality collagen protein, it has been suggested that collagen sourced from marine is more sustainable and has higher bioavailability, with absorption rates 1.5 times that of other sources. Another point of difference is the types of collagen they provide; bovine collagen provides both type 1 and type 3 (found in high levels in bones and joints), while marine collagen is almost exclusively type 1 – which is why it may prove a useful tool for managing skin conditions like eczema. To learn more about marine collagen, click here.

How might marine collagen reduce eczema?

Supports healthy skin – It is thought that people with eczema may have a compromised skin barrier, allowing irritants, allergens, and bacteria to penetrate the skin more easily, which may in turn lead to inflammation and symptoms associated with the condition. Thanks to its high type 1 collagen content, marine collagen may help to strengthen the skin barrier; this in turn may reduce moisture loss, preventing dry skin, and may also prevent allergens and irritants from penetrating the skin in the first place, limiting the chance of a reaction[5].

Research seems to show a positive link between collagen supplementation, reduced symptom severity and faster healing in eczema patients. It has been suggested that marine collagen stimulates the migration of fibroblasts, cells which play a key role in collagen synthesis. This migration is inhibited in eczema-prone skin. Marine collagen appears to enhance the ability of fibroblasts to migrate from the dermis to other layers of the skin as needed during eczema flare-ups, encouraging faster healing[6].

Reduces inflammation – Inflammation is a key component of eczema and is the cause of the redness and soreness associated with the condition. Several studies demonstrate that marine collagen has the ability to reduce inflammation, which may result in less severe eczema symptoms. For example, a 2017 human clinical trial found that those patients supplementing with collagen over a 12-week period had significantly fewer circulating inflammatory cytokines than those who did not, and this resulted in lower symptom severity scores[7]. It is important to note, however, that this was a small-scale study and further trials are warranted to investigate the anti-inflammatory effects of collagen supplementation specifically in eczema patients.

Repairs the gut lining – We know that the gut and immune system are intrinsically linked, with the majority of human immune cells being located in the gut. As such, a healthy, robust gut lining is imperative for healthy immune function. Furthermore, research shows a clear link between atopic dermatitis and the immune system; in those with the condition, the body’s immune system is overly stimulated by allergens or irritants, causing the skin to flare up. It would then make sense that improving the state of the gut would support immune function and in turn may reduce eczema outbreaks[8].

While trials investigating the link between collagen supplementation, gut health and eczema symptoms are currently lacking, there are many studies which show improvements in gut functionality and reduced gastrointestinal symptoms when supplementing with marine collagen[9]. Marine collagen supplementation, when taken in standard doses, has a positive safety profile with side effects rarely being reported[10]; as such, it may be a useful addition to the treatment toolbox for eczema sufferers.

Eczema is a multifaceted condition and therefore needs a holistic approach to its management. Alongside avoiding triggers and improving overall health through a balanced diet, movement, and a healthy sleep and stress management routine, adding in supplementation like marine collagen may provide a promising addition to a holistic treatment plan.


References

[1] NHS (2023) Atopic Eczema, NHS choices. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/ (Accessed: 23 April 2024).

[2] Allergy UK (2022) Mental health impact of eczema: Allergy UK: National Charity, Allergy UK | National Charity. Available at: https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/the-mental-health-impact-of-living-with-atopic-eczema/#:~:text=Atopic%20eczema%20can%20cause%20intense,%2C%20embarrassment%2C%20shame%20and%20desperation. (Accessed: 23 April 2024).

[3] Naomi, R., Ridzuan, P.M. and Bahari, H. (2021) ‘Current insights into collagen type I’, Polymers, 13(16), p. 2642. doi:10.3390/polym13162642.

[4] Báez, J., Olsen, D. and Polarek, J.W. (2005) ‘Recombinant microbial systems for the production of human collagen and gelatin’, Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 69(3), pp. 245–252. doi:10.1007/s00253-005-0180-x.

[5] Geahchan, S., Baharlouei, P. and Rahman, A. (2022) ‘Marine collagen: A promising biomaterial for wound healing, skin anti-aging, and Bone Regeneration’, Marine Drugs, 20(1), p. 61. doi:10.3390/md20010061.

[6] Jung, H.J. et al. (2022) ‘The role of collagen VI α6 chain gene in atopic dermatitis’, Annals of Dermatology, 34(1), p. 46. doi:10.5021/ad.2022.34.1.46.

[7] Hakuta, A. et al. (2017) ‘Anti-inflammatory effect of collagen tripeptide in atopic dermatitis’, Journal of Dermatological Science, 88(3), pp. 357–364. doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2017.09.002.

[8] Fang, Z. et al. (2021) ‘Gut microbiota, probiotics, and their interactions in prevention and treatment of atopic dermatitis: A Review’, Frontiers in Immunology, 12. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2021.720393.

[9] Abrahams, M., O’Grady, R. and Prawitt, J. (2022) ‘Effect of a daily collagen peptide supplement on digestive symptoms in healthy women: 2-phase mixed methods study’, JMIR Formative Research, 6(5). doi:10.2196/36339.

[10] Liang, J. et al. (2011) ‘A chronic oral toxicity study of marine collagen peptides preparation from chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) skin using Sprague-Dawley rat’, Marine Drugs, 10(12), pp. 20–34. doi:10.3390/md10010020.

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Contributors:

Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

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