I’m sure it seems like quite a bold claim to say that I haven’t ever been sick. That’s not exactly what I’m saying. I have been sick in my life, but not very often. As an adult, I would typically come down with a head cold about once a year, either in the dead of winter or early spring. I’ve met several people who could say the same thing. They don’t get sick often, but usually suffer from one malady that sets them back at least once or twice a year. I was rather proud of this accomplishment. Even when I got sick, it would only last for a few days, nothing dire like the flu or bronchitis.
The Mysterious Trend of Perfect Health?
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Something has changed. I’ve started a new streak of good health. I haven’t been sick at all in three years. No Kleenex, no antibiotics, no cold medicine or sick visits to the doctor. I can hardly believe it myself! I had to double check the calendar to be sure it has actually been three years! So what has changed?
Previously when I was rarely getting sick, I had some really good habits. I would exercise regularly, eat plenty of nutritious foods without a lot of junk, and try to keep good sleep habits. The times I would end up coming down with something it would be after I hadn’t had adequate rest, or had been on a sugar binge, like the type of indulging that happens during the holidays. I may have been having some insomina and then would have to get up early and get ready for work. It was usually a combination of factors, but surprisingly I’ve stayed well while my husband had the flu and other colds.
Not Living in a Bubble
Maybe you’re thinking that I don’t get exposed to many germs. I used to work in an outpatient clinic at the hospital for four years and would get exposed to a variety of nasty germs in that environment. Then afterwards, I worked in onsite health clinics in corporate America, where employees would frequently come by to share their illnesses with our staff. Then, I’m a regular member of my gym, attending group fitness and using the equipment that everyone else is touching, so I know I was getting my fair share of exposure. Also my husband works at the hospital and surely comes home after being exposed to some nasty bugs there. The one thing I can say I don’t have is very young children in daycare, so there’s that. But I seem to be getting my fair share of exposure from other areas.
Had Certain Advantages in my Youth
So I’ve always had a healthy and robust immune system. I supposed I was blessed with a few factors in my favor. I had an excellent start to life that allowed me to develop a solid microbiome (gut flora). From a natural birth and breast feeding as an infant, I then played in the dirt as a kid, had dogs and cats and never had allergies. As an adult I’ve maintained a healthy diet and exercise routine and don’t slack on sleep as a regular habit. But despite all of these contributing factors, I was still searching for the explainable difference between getting sick one year and not getting sick for three years? Could it be possible to make it 5 years or 10 without a cold?
The Defining Factors
Over the past 3 years, I had made the decision to start my own business and leave a job that had lots of time and travel demands. I was able to set my own schedule. I had some commitments that I had to keep, but for the most part, I could decide when I wanted to see clients and I eventually got around to setting up late morning appointment as a habit. This let me sleep in if I needed it as well as get my morning exercise in most days of the week.
Having to work less hours along with commuting and traveling less and not getting frustrated working for someone else dramatically decreased the stress in my life. I used to have a bad habit of chewing insane amounts of sugar free gum at work (my version of smoking, I suppose) but this habit disappeared once I left my job. Being able to wake up naturally without an alarm starts my day without a jolt of the stress hormone cortisol and my body feels more relaxed and naturally energized. Sure self employment comes with its own set of stressors, but it’s much different than the day to day stress of commuting to work and balancing home life after working all week.
Having more time to spend at home permitted me to be able to prepare balanced meals as well. I’ve always managed to cook even when I was working full time, but occasionally I would grab some processed snacks when I was at work, enjoy the treats coworkers would bring in, settle for the semi-healthy meals when I was traveling out of town, more frequently grab some take out to feed the family like Indian or Vietnamese (which could have been worse). Most of the time, and I mean 90 percent of the time, most of the meals are made and eaten at home with wholesome, natural ingredients.
Ultimately, I think the defining factor in the past 3 years comes down to a variable of mind-body connection. After the last time I was sick, it was only a few months later when I decided to make a change in the way I was living my life. I thought it was going to be a gradual shift, but it ended up taking on a life of its own. I set off to start a business and 6 months later I had opened my own practice and left my job 3 months after that. Just to be clear, I don’t think you have to quit your job to be as healthy as possible. For me, it was a way that I could get a few more hours of sleep and less daily stress, but the effect it had on my overall happiness was measurable in booming immunity. I felt so free and independent, to have control over my career, my work and how I spent my time. I felt so inspired, challenged, enterprising, and successful. It made me happy. And the research is strong in this area, that happiness is strongly linked to good health. I may be a statistic of this, but it’s one area of science where I’m proud to provide a contribution.
What’s your longest streak?
Have you experienced anything similar in your health or immunity? What’s the longest you’ve gone without getting sick?