Until 6 months ago, I had not been much of a fan of supplements. That attitude goes back to my youth. The long and short: My family was homeless, eking out an existence in a bleak and dismal slum of Manila. Through sheer tenacity and grit, the family worked together to make my college engineering education possible and enabled me to start the family’s exodus from the slum hell hole.
In slums anywhere in the world, parents don’t think supplements. Thoughts of food occupy their heads – where to get food to feed the family so everybody survives. Nutrition does not come into play. All that’s needed is the basics for survival – shove the food in the mouth, the digestive system works it, and ejects the waste sooner or later, hopefully neither too soon nor too late so existence can go on.
Survival in the slums has benefits. The immunity system gets a rigid workout on a daily basis. I remember in grade school, my siblings and I were almost never absent from school for being sick unlike our classmates who came from well-to-do families.
Okay you get the drift. I grew up not taking one-a-day vitamin pills and other supplements. Even when I could afford them already in the US, I had zero motivation to take supplements. But, like some other subjects, supplements pick my interest and I read about them lest I’ve been missing something in my life. If something impresses me, I mention it to friends and family whose desperate health complaints seem to be a match for the supplement. I don’t give medical advice. No. No. I’m not a physician. My engineering background limits my medical knowledge to the human machine’s parts involved in the use of the sewer system.
When I was in business years ago, my architect, a Polish-born opera singer who turned to architecture after her vocal chords went kaput, gave me an earache with complaints of aching joints daily. So I mentioned to her the over-the-counter glucosamine, which, from what I read, was first developed for dogs with arthritis problems, and later found to work well with people. Perhaps desperate to remember how good it was to feel good, she bought a bottle of glucosamine and took a dosage of the pills that night. The following day, she came to work with spring in her steps, smile on her lips, her face aglow. No more pain! She said she had never felt better. She even bought me a sushi lunch! We were both delighted.
My colleague the renowned Dr Google and I keep each other entertained with the latest health trends on probiotics, prebiotics, Keto anything, state-of-the-art supplements, etc., but I never buy them. There is one exception. For the last 4 years, I have had no choice but to buy and take Folbee Vitamin B6 and B12 supplements prescribed by my primary care physician Dr PCP to prevent, he says, deficiency due to the lung cancer. At first I tried to get away with not taking them but he insists that I bring all my medicines during our visits. He had sensed a little mischief in this geriatric patient!
My resistance to over-the-counter supplements ended 6 months ago. Collagen made me do it. I’d heard about the benefits of collagen but never really took it to heart. But one evening at the retirement resort whirlpool, before the pandemic struck, I happened to sit near one of the regulars, a Hispanic woman, late 80’s, unhealthy chubby, walks with a walker, and the only one who wears red lipstick and cheek blush in the pool. She broke the silence between her and me by gushing about how collagen really works. Based on her appearance, I could not tell how collagen could have really worked. But perhaps her collagen had a different agenda. After listening some more, I found out it was her husband taking the collagen. She exclaimed, I see the tiny hairs growing on his forehead hairline. How old is he? I asked. 90, she replied. Collagen grows him hair at 90? I asked in disbelief. Yes! she replied. Wow, I acknowledged the magic.
I am not familiar with the circumstances that brought her husband to collagen but I know why her story excited me. In January 2019, I updated my blog with a post on Hair Loss when I was letting my ebony-dyed hair grow longer. I intended to stretch my face when I pulled the long hair into a small Asian bun. It happens when there’s too much time in the hands. The hair grew long but tresses started falling, gradually widening my forehead! The Hispanic woman’s unabashed declaration of faith in collagen gave me a glimmer of hope. After all, over a year had already passed and my wide forehead had not exhibited any signs of narrowing. I was getting tired of wearing biker’s skull caps and camo caps that match my half-dozen camo pants in an effort to look hip instead of needing a hair transplant. If the old boy can grow new hair at 90, by golly, this younger old chick should be able to do even better.
Before making a mad dash to buy my first jar of collagen, I did my research with the help of Dr Google. It’s great to have the good doctor at my beck and call. Here’s what I found out:
Collagen has a definition the long, short and layman of which is that it’s the most abundant protein in the human body, found in bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It’s the substance that holds the body together, a scaffold to provide strength and structure. Collagen production declines with age and exposure to smoking, UV light, etc. Women experience a dramatic reduction in collagen production after menopause. By age 60, a considerable decline is normal. Oh dear….
Then the good doctor and I moved on to clinical studies.
Some studies show that taking collagen for several months significantly improved skin elasticity as well as signs of aging. Others have shown increased density in bones weakened with age and can improve joint, back, and knee pain.
How about hair? It’s my only interest in this collagen exercise. Collagen, being made up of amino acids that help the body make more keratin, which contributes to thick healthy hair. Getting warmer! The body may be able to use the amino acids in collagen to build hair proteins and strengthen the skin that contains the hair roots. Aha!
I read enough. I was convinced. Time to spring for a jar of collagen.
The only ingredient of the collagen supplement I bought is hydrolyzed bovine collagen peptides, processed cow’s skin in ordinary English. It comes with a measuring spoon equivalent to 2 tablespoons. Collagen peptides dissolve perfectly in my hot cafe au lait before it is topped with a 2-inch high mound of whipped cream.
I’ve been on six months of collagen supplements now and hair has grown on the vacant real estate on my forehead, which has been restored to its original width. I’ve been letting my hair go gray again after suspecting that the ebony dye chemicals prompted the hair loss. Now I notice, intermingled with gray roots, new growth of black hair has come through the scalp!
I can’t vouch that collagen will be effective for Bro, the youngest only living brother of my first late husband. Bro’s we head became as smooth and shiny as a bowling ball by age 20, inherited baldness from his dad, according to my late drama-mama-in-law. I can’t imagine collagen coaxing hair follicles to rise from the dead after 50 years.
Since hair growth was my only baby in the collagen experiment, I was not keen on other collagen users’ glowing testimonials on its effect on their nails, skin, and joints. However, I can’t help but notice some changes in mine.
I have been trimming my fingernails and toenails more often. They grow faster. The fingernails used to be brittle, ridged, and crumbly – all signs of the aging process, I thought. Some readers suggested they are side effects of Tagrisso. They are no more, regardless of the reason. They are whiter, stronger, healthier – not crumbly.
The skin on my forearms seems taut.
Remember my painful left knee after I got carried away with the pedometer app on my smartphone? And the broken left shoulder from the car/pedestrian collision? Haven’t had joint pain. It could be the Boniva. Maybe both. Who knows? Who cares? No pain is no pain.
OMG! I sound like a snake oil salesman!
Do you have a supplement story to share? Let’s hear it.
Meanwhile, Happy Dance!