A friend writes:
As of today I’m getting over my fourth cold since I began eating lots of yogurt (maybe 1-2 cups a day, homemade), which was roughly in March of this year. So that would be a rate of about a cold every two months. On the one hand that sounds pretty terrible. On the other hand, a couple of things to think about:
1. I used to always get colds and other sicknesses as well. They just seem to be attracted to me. By my intuition, the current rate doesn’t seem particularly unusual, although I never kept track before. If anyone had a cold anywhere around me, invariably I got it. It’s been that way as long as I can remember, especially when I was traveling, as I have been during these last few months.
2. Each of the colds I have had in this last eight month period has been remarkably short. Really remarkable, so I will remark, by way of example, that this cold came out of the blue yesterday evening with a fit of sneezing. I hadn’t felt bad at all earlier in the day although in retrospect it’s possible I was a bit worn down (or maybe not: I took a half-hour swim in the late afternoon and felt pretty good). So I sneezed my way through an evening, nose dripping like a faucet. Before going to sleep I took some sort of medicine for cold symptoms (maybe something made by Bufferin maybe? Night/day something…), and in the morning I took the same thing (day version). During that whole time I was still pretty symptomatic: sneezing, nose dripping etc., but I guess the medicine might have been somewhat useful. Now here it is 2:30 in the afternoon and all of a sudden I realize my nose is dry and I haven’t sneezed for hours. I reckon this is about the end of the cold: less than 24 hours. The other three were like that as well: very quick onset, then disappearing almost before I could have time to realize I had a cold. For me this is particularly noteworthy because in years past I always seemed to get the worst of the colds, going on for days and often progressing into a hacking cough that would linger for weeks.
I suspect if my friend improved his sleep he would get see further improvement of these measures of illness. In this study, the frequency of sickness episodes went down for workers given a probiotic but their duration, when they happened, didn’t change — perhaps because it was nice to be away from work.
After I copy-and-pasted that, I got sick. It wasn’t sickness as most people know it. After an afternoon walk (1 hour) I felt tired; that was the first sign. After dinner, I felt really tired. That was an unmistakable sign. I went to bed early, slept about 8 hours (1-2 hours more than usual) and woke up rested. But an hour later I fell back asleep for 15 minutes. At that point I was sure something was wrong. I had a class that morning starting at 10 am. Should I cancel it? I got much more tired and, about two hours before class, was too tired to get out of bed to turn off the beeping yogurt maker. Okay, I’ll cancel class. I phoned the TA to cancel the class but he couldn’t — he had a bad cold. I phoned a student and she phoned the other students.
An hour later, however, I felt much better. By class time I felt well enough to go to class, although I walked rather than ride my bike. (The student did her best to uncancel the class.) In the afternoon I took a long nap (1.5 hours). The next day I was just barely more tired than usual. Today I feel completely well.
I was sick, yes, but without chills, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat — without any discomfort at all unless feeling tired counts as discomfort. And I felt distinctly more tired than usual for only about a day. I think this is what happens when your immune system works properly. You fight stuff off much faster than the five days or so many people take to get better. Before I figured out how to improve my sleep, I got the usual 4-6 colds per year. After I started to sleep much better, I never got sick in the usual runny-nose way so long as my sleep was good. The current episode is striking to me because I was more sick — that is, more tired — than usual. I do only two things to make my immune system work better: (a) improve my sleep in several ways (eat animal fat, get plenty of morning light, stand on one foot); and (b) eat plenty of fermented foods (mostly yogurt, but also miso, kimchi, natto, and kombucha).