Don’t Get Sick

The secret lives of healthy people
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Illustrations by Alex Schloer

No one wants to get sick — even with a common cold, it can be miserable. Everyone wants to feel better and live longer — so why is it that some people seem to never get sick? What do they know?

“A lot of the secrets are things that people can do on a daily basis,” said Andrew Simon, a naturopathic physician at McQuinn Naturopathic of Everett and adjunct clinical faculty at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. The center is the naturopathic teaching clinic for Bastyr University. “For instance, my aunt had gout,” a condition characterized by recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis. “I said, ‘Try drinking tart cherry juice.’ Her doctor agreed. Her gout went away, and it was a safer alternative than to take a medication that would have thrown off her other medication.”

You often get sick without knowing it, and that’s actually a good thing. You are continually making your body stronger. You might feel slightly under the weather or a little more tired than usual, or maybe you woke up with a sore throat. “These are all signs that our immune system is strong. The immune system recognized the sickness, and the sickness didn’t last.”

When you do feel sick, it’s important to pay attention to your body — and rest.

Also, once a year, visit your healthcare provider for a preventive wellness exam. “There is always a time and a place for medicine,” said Simon. But if you can stay healthy and avoid having to take medications, more power to you.

Here are secrets of people who never get sick:

1. Balance the nervous system: Stress management or mind/body science is often a starting point. The system becomes unbalanced when you get stuck in the “fight or flight” state — the state that helps you run away from an approaching bear — when you should be in a resting state. Perhaps you have trouble calming down after work. Unbalanced nervous systems can cause a decreased immune system, elevated blood pressure and digestive issues, increased muscle tension, chronic pain, anxiety and sleep issues and higher blood sugar levels that can contribute to diabetes. Fix It: Biofeedback, breathing exercises and one-on-one counseling are some treatments.

2. Be more active: It can be difficult to get started, but anyone can benefit from simple exercise and movement. Physical activity helps maintain healthy cardiovascular and circulation systems, as well as lean muscle mass, healthy metabolism and more balanced blood sugar. Exercise also keeps bones strong, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Fix It: A brisk 30-minute walk is beneficial and will boost your mood and fitness if you do it regularly.

3. Care for your gut: The complex system of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract help you digest food as well as fight illness and lower inflammation. If your gut flora are unbalanced, you can experience asthma, eczema and food allergies, as well as digestive disorders like constipation or diarrhea. Fix It: Ask your doctor if probiotic supplements or foods are right for you; Kefir and most yogurts are good sources.

food4. Eat a whole food diet: It’s cheaper and healthier to get vitamins and minerals from the fresh foods you eat. For instance, green leafy vegetables are a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as electrolytes and minerals. Vegetables keep blood pressure low and support muscle energy. Fix It: Fill half of your plate at meals with fruits and veggies.

5. Get plenty of sleep: Sleep allows your body to recover, rebuild and restore itself. If it can’t, unhealthy chemicals build up that cause stress, weight gain and blood sugar issues. Many factors influence sleep, but the most common is artificial light. Fix It: Mimic the setting sun by turning down the lights 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, and avoid direct sources of light (like the TV and your phone). To relax, enjoy an evening bath with Epsom salt. Drink a soothing chamomile or lavender tea.

6. Limit toxin exposure: Unhealthy chemicals can affect hormones and natural processes in your body. Complications can include headaches, high blood pressure, inflammation, food allergies or kidney and liver problems. The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) offers consumer guides and lists of harmful chemicals. Fix It: Help limit the toxins in your life when you can. Use natural cleaners; put a water filter on your drinking tap; use glass bottles instead of plastic; and choose organic food, clothes and products when possible.

sun7. Get more Vitamin D: Vitamin D has multiple positive effects, like strengthening bones, boosting the immune system and maybe even helping prevent cancer. You can get Vitamin D in your diet, and exposing your skin to the sun for 10 minutes a day. In the Northwest, many people are Vitamin D deficient. Fix It: Ask your doctor if a Vitamin D supplement is right for you. Many people in the Northwest benefit from 1,000-2,000 IUs a day or more.

8. Promote healthy detoxification: Your skin, kidneys and digestive system process environmental exposure, food and medications, as well as get rid of waste appropriately. Your skin sweats out a lot of water-soluble chemical exposures. Your digestive system lowers cholesterol naturally using fiber. The big player is the liver, which processes all the medications, environmental exposures, food and hormones. Sometimes, the liver gets overloaded, especially during hormone changes like puberty and menopause. Fix It: Avoiding too much acetaminophen and alcohol can help. Key herbs like milk thistle may support the liver, but ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

9. Spice up your food: Many spices have medicinal properties. Fennel reduces gas and bloating, while mint calms the digestive system. Cinnamon supports diabetes maintenance and also calms the digestive system. Cumin is a good anti-inflammatory, especially for the muscular-skeleton system, which can ease arthritis and lower blood pressure. Pepper and ginger promote the circulatory system. Oregano, thyme and garlic are also good for the body. Fix It: Sprinkle cinnamon over your oatmeal, drink mint and fennel teas and spice up soups and stews, especially in the winter. For higher doses, talk to your medical provider.

10. Support mental, spiritual and social health: Maintaining solid relationships with family, friends and community can help boost your immune system. Fix It: Nourish your soul. Talk to counselors, ministers, mentors, coaches, relatives and friends early and often. Make sure to take time to deal with and process emotions. Meditate. Pray. And remember to smile often.

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