Updated: May 14, 2020
It's fair to say there were times when I was semi-neurotic about germs. This stems from my illness-ridden childhood & weak immune system. It was quite routine to catch the flu every flu season, strep as often as thirteen times in a year, some awful throat or respiratory nightmare every Christmas, & I thought it would always be that way. As I grew up, it improved somewhat, but the fear of germs stayed as did relatively frequent bouts of this or that illness. There is some causation but that's boring and depressing and I doubt you came here in search of boredom & depression but you may still just find both, s++t happens.
Anyway, one of the after effects of that lame immune system stuff was that I would avoid international travel and other germy activities. If America alone made me that sick that frequently, the idea of exposing my immune system to entire new strains of things sounded rather terminal. Regardless, international travel eventually became necessary. I figured quickly impending death was inevitable.
During my travels, I met someone who came from a very different, non-medical background, had never taken antibiotics (which were essentially a staple of my diet) and literally never got sick. He also had a relatively vast knowledge of how bacteria and viruses work which he didn't put into practice but seemed moderately aware of at least. He became a rather present part of my life and after enough mockery and eye rolls, I began to consider his way of germs/life.
Letting go of my germaphobic tendencies became somewhat necessary due to where I was in life. When you're traveling a lot and every week brings different climates, airports, people, cuisines, germs, etc., maintaining neurotic germaphobic habits is another level of complicated. These were the minor changes that were more or less circumstantially required but nonetheless eradicated the germophobia and invigorated my immune system:
- Instead of focusing on what germs I could be exposing my weak immune system to, I focused on enabling & strengthening it in every reasonable way I could. Germs are not avoidable, but you're bigger than them.
- I became less rigid and paranoid about diet & instead focused on nutrition and diversity. Naturally, taking obvious measures to avoid things like food poisoning is still necessary and I do all of it within reason--I guess there is a line between obsession and common sense precautions.
- Water is rad & I'm quite a proponent of hydration for its death-preventative qualities. I recommend - before traveling anywhere domestic or abroad - taking a second to check up on local tap water conditions. It is usually pretty easy to determine how careful you should be about local water. There is, however, a difference between what is deemed safe for consumption by government standards and optimal drinking water. There are many factors like chlorine, fluoride, microplastics & other additives and contaminants that in a perfect world, wouldn't need to exist. But on the road, spring water and the like, with the perfect alkalinity and mineral composition, does not exactly flow freely through every city. If you don't know much about what water is good or bad, this is a succinct and easily comprehensible guide to types of water quality.
- I moved more. Especially when traveling, remaining in motion is a great for a laundry list of health reasons including immune function, longevity, mental health, etc. Even walking a lot can be a game-changer if you're otherwise generally stagnant.
- I supplemented with things like quality probiotics, ashwagandha, & beta glucans. This is not for everyone and like all supplements, should be discussed in advance with a medical professional which I am nottttt.
- This spray hand sanitizer really came through for me. It has become an indispensable staple everywhere I go. Not only is it organic & just nice to use, but I also use it for my bags and such to quickly down everything after going through security, etc..
The number one thing I did was decrease stress, especially about germs.. I believe stress is the ultimate immunosuppressant. I also believe that a strong mind and strong immune system are intrinsically linked and to nurture one is to nurture both. Constantly stressing about germs may literally increase your susceptibility to them.
These days, despite incessant travel and exposure to things that would have previously panicked me, I haven't been sick in years. I don't catch anything despite the onslaught of international exposure. It makes travel an entirely different experience. Here's to reigning in neurotic tendencies. Clink.