Why I Haven’t Had the Flu in Years

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These days I very rarely fall prey to the regular cold/flu most people experience during this time of the year. I mean I still get an occasional running nose, or a cough that persists 2-3 days – but nothing like in the olden days where I would lay in bed, suffer from sore limbs, feel weak as hell, and be unable to get anything done. Luckily for me, these days are pretty much over ever since I have experimented with a few biohacks that have been monumental to keeping me on the flu-free side. This is my list:

1) Cold Showers

cold_showerBy far, the cold showers I have been taking each morning have contributed the most to boosting my immune system and keeping the flu off. I used to do cold showers only. But especially during winter, I think doing alternating cold/hot showers works just as well and it doesn’t shock your system as with „cold only showers“.

My cold shower routine usually goes like this: I jump into the shower, turn the faucet to max cold, cover my whole body with the cold water for around 60 sec, turn to hot for roughly 30 sec, and repeat the procedure 2-3 more times. The cold water doesn’t shock me as much as it used to (probably due to hormesis), but exposing my chest to the pour down of cold water still leaves me gasping for breath.

I haven’t experimented with „Cold Thermogenesis“ (CT) yet but apparently it helps burn through your body fat very effectively. I would also love to take part in a Siberian tradition of rubbing snow onto your body. Exposing yourself to uncomfortable cold environments also resonantes well with the idea of „Expanding Your Comfort Zone„.


2) Intense Exercise

Brief bouts of intense exercise that gets you seriously huffing & puffing will take your body out of its comfort zone and stimulate a muscle and immune system adaptation. I have been working out for close to 2 years now, and since that time I have become a more sturdy and muscular guy. I somehow have a feeling that muscle protects me not only physically but has a positive effect on keeping nasty viruses away.

Anecdotally, I have a few big jacked friends and they never seem to be sick. Does having more muscle mass cause a decreased chance for getting sick? Or is it merely a correlation? I don’t really know. But it seems to me that working out hard to become a big and strong physical specimen teaches your body how to respond to stress more efficiently. If your body is used to dealing with external sources of stress (such as the flu virus), you will be more resilient and not easily let a flu virus bring you down.


3) Sleeping in Cold Room


Sleeping in a cold room goes back to the idea of exposing your body to cool environments to toughen up the immune system – as discussed in #1.

Personally, I have become used to sleeping with my window opened throughout the whole night. No matter what the season of the year – I rarely can’t do without the breeze of fresh air during sleep. If I keep the window shut or the heater is on, I find it gets too stuffy and I tend to wake up with a slight headache.

However, I am not suggesting your room should be so cold that your quality of sleep suffers because of it. If you wake up several times during the night because the cold is disturbing you, it’s probably too cold in your room. Personally, I still love to create body warmth by snuggling into a thick blanket with only my head exposed to fresh cool air. If I had to guess my room temperature is around 10°C (sometimes lower) during winter and a bit warmer during summer (14°C).

Added bonus of open window: with spring not too far away, you can also hear birds singing and the sounds of nature waking you up (provided of course you don’t live close to a busy road).

I also think that most people overdress in the quest of constantly trying to stay warm. We evolved to go through phases of cold and warm, and our immune system has adapted accordingly. Therefore, I sleep naked no matter how cold it is. I also like to consciously underdress when I go out. This means that I may feel slightly cold when first stepping outside but I feel fine after I start walking, cycling, running etc.


4) Nutrient-Dense Diet

It is critical to understand that eating a nutrient-dense diet is at the centre of staying flu-free. Ingesting the necessary nutrients to bolster your immune system and keep the human cells healthy is key. I will keep this point shorter than the previous three because I previously written about nutrient-dense foods HERE, HERE and HERE.

rosol2However, I will leave you with a wonderful flu-fighting recipe idea. If you are already feeling under the weather try this classic Polish recipe that my mom always prepares. It’s called Rosół and it’s basically a chicken stock with veggies and noodles swimming in it. I like to replace the wheat noodles with Vermicelli rice noodles or I will just sip on a hot cup of Rosół.


Alright, the above are my 4 biohacks to keep the flu away. What are yours?


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  • http://criticalmas.com/ MIchael Allen Smith

    Ginger for the win! My kimchis is loaded with ginger. A recent Chris Kresser podcast went into the science why it works.

    • Stephan R

      I like to drink ginger tea once it’s already too late. I recently had ginger ferment together with my Sauerkraut – tasted great with a spicy crunch.

  • David

    Every 10 days, I go to a tanning salon. 10 minute session. It keeps my vitamin D levels high ( > 75 ng/ml). I get a cold no more than once every 3 years, and the flu only once per 10 years.

    • Stephan R

      Going to the tanning booth has been on my list for a while now. I have been supplementing Vit D drops on a weekly basis (70 000 IU). But I feel that this isn’t the ideal solution to boosting one’s blood levels – despite what all the experts say. I think I remember Robb Wolf mentioning the tanning booth as a great alternative to supplementing.

  • Marcel

    1.) Drinking a lot of tea every day.
    2.) Staying cool under pressure and being optimistic.
    I think this is a big one. While a lot people panic in difficult situations and aren´t able to relax I keep calm.

    Also point 2 and 3 count for me. Last winter I haven´t worn a winter jacket even once. Temperatures were around – 5°C (sometimes colder). A lot of people ask me all over the year if I´m not freezing at all because I´m always „underdressed“.

    • Stephan R

      For sure, I can personally testify to the fact that you underdress during winter time. :)

  • Felix

    I think another big point is to make sure that you get enough sleep.
    Especially when I don’t feel as healthy and fit as I usually do I go to bed pretty early and try to get at least 9 hours of sleep. Almost everytime I do this I already feel much better the next day.
    Just as you do I also always sleep with my window opened.

  • Doug Emerson

    I need to work on my ability to adjust to cold. I surf as much as I can and it’s usually in the morning. Here in Central California, that means air temp around (winter time) upper 40’s F and water temp in the 50’s F, not super cold, but cold enough for me. I try and wear less clothing when out and about, but it’s the wind that gets me. If it’s not windy, I can bear the cold a little better, but when the wind comes up, I throw on the jackets. Thanks to this blog, that I found through Critical MAS and Critical MAS’s blog, I am working on these things :)

    • Stephan R

      I have found that if I forget/neglect to do cold showers on a few days/weeks, and then go back to doing them again, I feel more cold during the day at the beginning. This feeling of cold goes away after practicing the habit for a few days.

      CriticalMAS is one of my fav bloggers. I am glad you found this website through him.

  • http://hughosb.wordpress.com/ Dom Hugh Somerville-Knapman

    Fascinating! As an Australian living in Britain colds get me regularly, and they get me down. Your shower tip will test my courage. Peace.