Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick
Photography by: Jonathan Skow + Pornchai Mittongtare
6. THEY MAKE FRIENDS A PRIORITY. Studies show that people with strong friendships tend to have more robust immune systems and are less likely to succumb to infectious diseases. In 2008, Harvard University researchers found that positive social attachments might protect against memory loss and other cognitive disorders. A 1993 Swedish study of male blue-collar workers (who are at increased risk of heart disease, statistically) concluded that men with strong social support lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease; and a 2009 study in Buffalo, N.Y., found that those with few friends were most likely to suffer from heart disease, depression and anxiety. If you feel the need to boost your crony count, try this little experiment for one week: Strike up at least two conversations every day with someone you haven’t talked to before. And aim to listen more than you speak; the more airtime you give someone, the more generous he or she will be with personal details. Also, keep the bellyaching to a minimum. Your tone can determine how often others will want to spend time and talk with you.
7. THEY STAY Ph BALANCED. According to some practitioners of alternative medicine, the body is healthiest when its systems are functioning midway between completely acidic and completely alkaline (i.e., pH balanced). When pH levels fall below that midpoint, the body suffers from a condition called acidosis, which even in minor cases can cause fatigue, rapid breathing, stomach problems and confusion. Many experts say that the typical American diet, chock-full of meat and sugar, has created an epidemic of acidosis in the Western world. Most vegetables are alkalizing, however, so eating them regularly can reduce your risk of being too acidic. Include lots of dark leafy greens, green beans, asparagus and carrots in your diet; other alkalizing foods to reach for include cucumbers, coconuts and avocados.
8. THEY EAT GARLIC. Studies have shown that garlic can act as a powerful antioxidant and antibiotic, as well as cut the duration and the number of colds you catch. In addition, garlic has proved efficient in reducing blood pressure and triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Some experts say that garlic’s medicinal value lessens when it’s in a supplement form and recommend that you eat it fresh if you want to get garlic’s health benefits.
9. THEY DETOX REGULARLY. Many chemicals used commonly today—such as phthalates, dioxins and PCBs—were absent from our environment a century ago. That might be why the rates of diseases (including cancer and liver disease) linked to toxic exposures are increasing, say experts. Although no long-term studies on the benefits of detoxification have been done, chances are good that your health will improve if you lower the level of synthetic chemicals present in your body. Digestive issues, fatigue, breakouts or muscle pain are often signs that you could benefit from a detox program, most of which require you to limit meats and avoid wheat, sugar, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. (See naturalhealthmag .com/detox for an easy, safe plan.) You can also purge toxins by sitting in a sauna or taking Bikram yoga classes, which are practiced in a hot room. Cleansing homeopathic or mineral baths might help, too. Talk to your doctor before embarking on a detox program of any length. If you’re pregnant or nursing, have an eating disorder or suffer from any kind of chronic health condition, it’s especially important to detox only under the supervision of a health care provider.
10. THEY TAKE MORE NAPS. Sleep deprivation has the same biological effect as stress: Overtired bodies ratchet up production of the hormone cortisol, which gives you energy but restricts production of human growth hormone, limiting your body’s ability to repair itself. Just like stress, sleep loss has a degenerative effect on your health, and lack of sleep is also tied to compromised immune function. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that the number and effectiveness of immune cells decrease without enough sleep. A counterintuitive napping tip: Consider drinking a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage right before your nap. Because it will take about 20 minutes for the caffeine to travel through your digestive system, you can fit in a short snooze before it takes effect. Japanese researchers found that subjects who did this were more alert when they awoke than those who didn’t, and that their post-slumber work productivity was higher.
Adapted from The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick (Workman Publishing, 2010) by Gene Stone