Collagen, the essential and abundant protein that holds your body together along with elastin, can be damaged by environmental and dietary factors, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Adding wellness design features to your home can help you avoid or reduce some of these risks.
In The Collagen Diet book, Dr. Josh Axe shares the nutritional advice you’d expect from a volume in this category, but he also shares six habits that “supercharge or sabotage collagen.” Supporting those habits is where enhancing your home with wellness features can have an impact.
1. Sit Less, Move More
“When it comes to collagen, lack of physical activity can be ruinous,” Axe writes. He advises making it easy to get movement into your life through walking with friends, laying out your workout clothes the night before and finding a convenient gym.
There’s more you can do, including adding movement into your relaxation time with a mini-elliptical at your couch or under your work from home desk; creating a home fitness space you’ll enjoy using, and working out with friends or your trainer from home via FaceTime, Messenger Video or Zoom.
2. Create Calm
This is Axe’s second suggestion for supporting collagen production. “When stress continues day after day, your body says in high alert and begins to release pro-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammation can damage collagen.” Creating calm at home has been challenging during the pandemic, when our living spaces are multi-tasking and our living spaces may be more crowded.
Axe suggests exercise, reading, Epsom salt baths, prayer and essential oils for taming stress, but notes that “one of the most effective long-term solutions is mindfulness meditation.”
Creating a calming space at home for meditating can be helpful in developing and maintaining this habit. Elements to consider for your meditation area include a comfortable seat, privacy screen, white noise machine and nature views.
3. Embrace Sleep
Sleep is essential to cell repair. “Studies have shown that bone remodeling is interrupted in people who undergo a few days of sleep deprivation,” Axe reveals. “The same thing happens with your skin.” Sleep deprivation is also an inflammation-producing stressor, he notes.
The doctor advises making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet and its temperature between 60 and 67 degrees. Blackout window coverings can help with the darkness, as can eliminating or screening any electronics that give off blue light. Solid core doors, acoustic window coverings, carpeting or full-sized rugs, plants and filled bookcases along ‘noisy’ walls and white noise machines can help achieve quiet. A programmable thermostat can keep your bedroom at the optimum temperature for sleep, while warming the space before and after.
4. Watch Your Weight
Avoiding collagen damage is just one reason to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, but that’s a challenge for millions of Americans, as our 42% obesity rate indicates. Organizing and equipping your kitchen to make healthy meal preparation easier and more convenient can help. That doesn’t necessarily mean remodeling, but if you’re considering doing so, factoring in appliances, fixtures, space planning and materials that make this easier can enhance your health and home’s value.
If you’re not remodeling, but want to optimize your kitchen for weight loss, you still have options. Rather than replace your wall oven or range, you can add a countertop combi-steam oven. You can add organizers that put your kitchen tools, healthy ingredients and supplements in easy reach. You can add an anti-fatigue mat to make meal prep less taxing on your feet, hips, legs and back. You can also add personalized elements, task lights above your work surfaces and reduce clutter to create a more pleasant, wellness-enhancing space to cook in.
5. Take Good Care of Your Mouth
“Gum disease is a notorious driver of inflammation,” Axe reports, adding, “Practicing good oral hygiene is an often-overlooked way to protect your collagen – as well as your overall health.” Having accessible space in your bathroom for all your hygiene and grooming tools, especially if it’s small and/or you share the room with a partner, can be challenging, but it is definitely achievable.
The key is making the space you do have more usable. For example, a basic vanity can be enhanced with a u-drawer and pull-outs to hold your dental hygiene essentials, like floss, water flosser, electric toothbrushes, toothpaste and rinses. Having a convenient space to store chargers close to your hygiene appliances is helpful too.
One oral health consideration for households with water purification systems is their potential impact on fluoridation. As dental.net notes, “We are all happy that water purification filters out sediment and chemicals that we most certainly don’t want to ingest. But some good ingredients like fluoride can get lost in the process, as well.”
6. Don’t Smoke
There are many reasons not to smoke, with collagen damage being one of them, as Axe points out. This is one of the hardest habits to change, as J. Taylor Hays, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center observed. “The biggest barrier to quitting is addiction,” the doctor explains, noting that nicotine inflicts very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that smokers know can be relieved with a single cigarette.
For many smokers, environmental triggers, like a favorite chair or TV screen showing the smoker’s football team or news program, can drive those urges. ““Changing the home environment to reduce triggers and cues to smoke is very important,” Hays declares.
As a person’s sense of smell improves during the quitting process, the smell of smoke in home fabrics like upholstery, carpeting, bedding and drapes, (along with the smoker’s clothing), can be triggering, he explains. “A thorough cleaning of the home and getting rid of all items that remind people of smoking is usually a good idea,” he suggests. Adding an air purifier with a HEPA filter, and steam cleaning home fabrics help with the cleaning process.
Collagen is an important building block of health, as Axe explains. There are many others, as your personal health professional can share. Wellness design isn’t a substitute for his or her advice. It’s one of the ways you can make it easier to follow by creating a supportive home environment.