Stuff and Bother

It was the year my Aunt Clara went to visit her cousin. Now, her cousin was not only gifted on the glockenspiel, but being a screech owl, also sang soprano in the London Opera.


The long silence has been due to illness. I got the flu and it was just too much to blog while living the rest of life. The main problem was not the illness per se, but all the pollution that greatly exacerbates the breathing difficulties of any illness that affects the respiratory system.

However other than having difficulty breathing, which is related to air quality, this illness was not nearly as bad as it used to be.

This is one of the benefits of living a life without refined flours and sugars: better health in general. You don’t get as sick as often, and generally when you do get sick it isn’t as debilitating or as lengthy. We all understand here that I’m talking about common illnesses, right? I can’t say what will happen if you go get malaria, tuberculosis, or polio.

Why is this? There are two reasons, positive and negative. First, when you don’t force your body to run on glucose all the time, you stop flaying your immune system at every meal. This particularly happens when you eat sugar. Second, when you fill yourself with healthy saturated fats you provide the immune system with the building blocks it needs to work properly and efficiently.

Recently The Roommate had a blood test specifically related to immune system function. The doctor called, mildly concerned because some markers were a little high. This made me laugh. “Nothing to worry about, just keep an eye on it,” she said. So we went looking into it. Everyone knows if the markers are low that’s bad. But high? Sure enough, we found that her values are actually safely within the true normal range–just the high end of normal. What this doctor perceived as “normal” is only the “new norm.”  Let me explain what I mean.

This kind of blood test has been available in developed countries for quite some time, and hence a true range of normal has had time to be established. Here in China, it has only been available for a very short time–exactly the same time that people have been turning to a low fat, high carbohydrate diet in line with Western nutritional standards, and sugar has suddenly become an important part of the everyday diet. (Purely coincidence, of course, that this is also the time when heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity have been skyrocketing mysteriously.) The Chinese have established their own range, with a bottom number the same as ours. But its top number is much smaller. This explained the doctor’s strange ambivalence.

The number she saw was higher than she ever normally sees: 3.7. But no doctor anywhere thinks you should bother to be concerned unless the number goes over 4 and stays there for a long time. And most don’t think you should really care until it gets over 5, at which point you should start looking for things like leukemia. Western testing standards have 3.7 as within the normal range, at the high end, meaning: Ninja Assassin Immune System function.

Which also explains The Roommate’s raging good health. During all her healthy whole grain and fruit smoothie years, she got every little sniffle that crossed her path. She lived in a constant state of getting a cold or getting over a cold. This happens when you live and work tightly packed with 20,000,000 other people. But a month or two into ditching the grain and sugar, and especially once she started drinking butter and coconut oil all day, she couldn’t seem to get sick no matter how hard she tried. I have had similar results. Now I’ve been more affected by years in the pollution, and respiratory illness is a little harder for me than for The Roommate. Not everyone has exactly the same results in an apples-to-apples comparison.  But the difference between my whole grain and smoothie years and my butter coffee and steak years is the same as The Roommate’s: dramatic. ,

So here’s what we’ve noticed, in particular:

  • We get sick far less often than anyone we know in this giant, over-populated, international city with sub-standard sanitation. By “sub-standard” I mean that no one thinks soap is important, either in washing their hands or cleaning places like bathrooms, or items like dishes. Most people don’t wash their hands at all, and if they do their idea of “wash” is simply rinsing them for 3 seconds under tap water too dirty to drink. This is also not a place that allows people to stay home when sick. You can’t miss work or school unless you are actually hospitalized, so offices are perpetually filled with ill people. By “far less often” I mean that it is not unusual for us to go two weeks in which most of The Roommate’s workmates are coughing, sneezing, and groaning their way through every workday, when we meet with five people during the week and every one of them is sick: and yet we never have a sniffle.
  • When we do finally get sick, most of the time we barely notice. “Getting sick” in the past meant sneezing, coughing, and having to bring back loads of over-the-counter meds like Nyquil from every trip to America. It meant developing coughs that kept us up at night for two weeks after the illness was otherwise over. Over the past year we’ve realized that when we’ve been exposed to enough sick people we’ll finally have about 24 hours when we feel more tired than usual, and we often get a small headache that doesn’t want to go away. That’s it. Tylenol or aspirin usually fixes it right up. Instead of worrying about running out before we can get back to the States, we now worry about our over-the-counter cold meds wasting space in drawers and expiring before we use them.
  • We used to live our lives at 5-6. Now we live them at 9-10. If you make a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best you’ve ever felt and 1 being just shy of dead, we used to get through every day at 5 to 6 and thought that was normal. We thought this was just normal aging. You always feel tired, and draggy, and depressed, right? Now we live at a constant 9 to 10. When we got sick in the past, we’d go from 5-6 to 2-3. Now when we get sick, we are at 6. Sometimes we don’t have any noticeable symptoms like sneezing or fever. We just feel tired, and draggy, and depressed…like our old “normal.” The Roommate’s constant refrain when she does finally get sick is, “I can’t believe I used to feel this way all the time.”
  • We recover much more quickly, and without any vitamin C, zinc, or echinacea miracle cures. A giant flu is trudging around our city even now, laying people low for weeks. Weeks of antibiotics. Weeks of dragging through every day feeling like death. Weeks of coughing. This week, we finally got it. I was sick from Sunday to Wednesday. I didn’t feel like doing much Sunday-Tuesday, but it wasn’t anything like being sick used to be. Wednesday I stayed in to recover, but I didn’t want to. I was starting to feel active and bored. Thursday I had a normal day running around in and out of the house, with the only consequence being I felt a bit more tired than usual. Today I feel myself. The Roommate, meanwhile, with her Ninja Assassin Immune System, killed it in about 24 hours.

Will you have the same results, guaranteed? Of course not. The immune system is affected by things besides what you do and don’t eat. Even the strongest immune system can’t beat off every illness. Other conditions can lay you low or hurt your immune system. You can have other conditions–such as my respiratory sensitivity–that affect the way you respond to illness. You might have inherent weakness from some other issue that make you susceptible.

But what I can guarantee is that things will be better if you eat right.


Plato says he’s hungry

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2 thoughts on “Stuff and Bother

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