When we think of health, wellness and the aging process, most of us don’t think of connective tissue. But the reality is 25-30 percent of the body is composed of this stuff that literally holds us together by supporting, separating and yes, connecting, the tissues, organs and cells of our bodies. It comprises our bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, fascia and is an important constituent of our brains and arteries, and also our hearts. It is also responsible for keeping our skin looking its healthiest and most supple. What’s more, in addition to the part it plays in providing the body with structure and form, it is connective tissue that is responsible for nourishing, oxygenating and detoxifying all the cells and systems of the body.
This critical, super-hard-working part of our bodies is composed of two major proteins: collagen and elastin. Collagen is the glue that cements everything together and elastin has the ability to stretch and bounce back into shape. And as we’ve discussed, both collagen and elastin easily can be damaged by inflammation and the aging process. And the truth is, this erosion of collagen and elastin can cause a number of health issues ranging from auto-immune connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, to diseases of the brain, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and hardening of the arteries. It also causes lines and wrinkles. In fact, pretty much all the observable signs of aging are the manifestation of deteriorating connective tissue
But the good news is that since connective tissue plays such an important part in so many of our vital functions, the strategies for making it healthy will improve the building of connective tissue everywhere. While topical application of Vitamins C and A can help support the production of connective tissue locally in the skin, from an internal perspective, foods we eat and supplements we take to improve our joints will strengthen our blood vessels, keep our brains sharp and fortify our bones. Skin also benefits from inside-out connective tissue building nutrition. It can help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, prevent them from appearing in the first place and help lock in moisture. Here are some important nutrients to bolster connective tissue health:
- Collagen: Found in bone broths and grass-fed gelatin.
- Glucosamine: Found in bone broths, the shells of edible crustaceans (try using shrimp shells for stews and soups) and supplements.
- Chondroitin: Found in Artichokes and supplements.
- Sulfur: Found in eggs, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic and cabbage.
- N-Acetylglucosamine: Found in Aloe Vera Juice, mushrooms and supplements.
- Vitamin C: Strawberries, citrus fruits, kiwis and broccoli.
- Hyaluronic Acid: Found in bone broth, leafy greens, root vegetables and soy products.
And now it’s your turn. Stock up on these nutrient-rich foods to support your connective tissue!