How you and your partner can eat, sleep, and shower your way to perfect health.
When two people start a relationship, their joy is shared by friends, parents—and microorganisms. Those lucky little germs that once only had one person to invade now have a second body to consider home. You don't have much choice about accepting these new residents—there's plenty of evidence out there that shows when one person in a relationship is sick, the other is going to be fully exposed to his or her germs.
Your new microbial residents aren't necessarily a bad thing. The more your immune system is exposed to microorganisms, the more it has a chance to meet them, understand them and defeat them. Living in a bubble isn't the answer to good health. Your immune system is like a locked and loaded army—it needs to stay busy fighting off invaders or the immune equivalent of friendly fire can take place, leading to auto-immune diseases. (This is also known as the Hygiene Hypothesis.)
If your immune system isn't up to the task of fighting off the microscopic enemies, you and your partner can help it out by taking some fairly easy steps to boost its chances. For instance:
1. Eat raw garlic. Yes, raw. A large body of medical evidence reveals that garlic, a natural antioxidant and antibiotic, must be consumed raw for its effective ingredient, allicin, to be released. Munching on a clove at the first sign of an itchy throat can be one of the best ways to ward off any disease.
However, 70 percent of those who eat garlic develop garlic breath—something your partner can probably smell even with that stuffed up nose. The solution? Eat some fresh parsley, which eliminates the smell—and is good for you as well.
2. Take a cold shower. No, we're not telling you to have less sex. In fact, although a cold shower has long been considered a great desire killer, a study from the UK shows that cold showers actually stimulate the testicles to produce more sperm. That's not why it's good for your health, though.
Hard to believe, but if you can stand it, a cold shower improves circulation, strengthens the skin (Paul Newman credited cold showers for keeping his skin looking great in old age), and most importantly, boosts the immune system. An added advantage: a cold shower increases the body's production of glutathione, an antioxidant that you can buy in pill form at a health food store for about $40, or get for free in the shower stall.
3. Spice up your life. Not with sex, though you can do that, too, but with actual spices. Long used as medicine, herbs and spices are nature's vitamin and supplements, except they taste a great deal better and cost a great deal less. For example lemongrass, used in Asian cuisine, is a potent antibacterial containing geranial, a powerful antimicrobial agent. Pepper promotes good health and is rich in vitamins and carotenoids. Studies have shown that cinnamon has natural antibacterial properties and is an effective antibiotic against certain dangerous Streptococcus strains. Turmeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent—and is even a natural pain killer as well. And wash your food down with green tea, which is packed with antioxidants called catechin polyphenols. Some new studies show that all tea, green, black, or red, are equally good for you.
4. Nap. Sounds too good to be true, right? The fact is, most of us have the wrong idea about sleep—we think we're supposed to get 7½ to 8 hours a night. Actually, we're supposed to get that much in the course of a 24-hour period. Humans have always been polyphasic sleepers, meaning we get our sleep in multiple doses. Are You Really Too Tired For Sex?
So don't stress out if your partner keeps waking you up snoring or coughing. Take a nap during the day—if you have the kind of job that allows you to do so. If you don’t, tell your boss that a multitude of recent studies show that workers who nap during the day are far more productive than those who don’t nap.
5. Consider getting your own bed. It sounds extreme, but according to sleep specialist Dr. Neil Stanley at the University of Surrey (UK), sharing a bed with a partner can be bad for your well-being. Between restless limbs and snoring, studies have shown that couples suffer an average of 50 percent more sleep disturbances if they share a bed than if they sleep solo. The marital bed is actually a relatively new phenomenon, dating back to the Industrial Revolution, when population growth meant more people with less furniture—in ancient Rome, for example, the marital bed was used only for sex, not for sleeping.
Still other steps you can take to ward off disease range from eating a plant-based diet to sprinkling brewer's yeast in your salad, from lifting weights to running, from stretching to, well, reading my book, The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick.
Gene Stone is a former Peace Corps volunteer, screenwriter, television producer, and journalist as well as a book, magazine, and newspaper editor. He has also ghostwritten more than thirty books (many of which were national bestsellers), specializing in socially conscious business and health. To learn more about his latest book, visit SecretsOfPeople.com.