In several years of investigating why some people never get sick, Gene Stone found they all had a very positive mental outlook and "whatever their secret is, they do it every day."
Whether they chew garlic, dunk their head in a sinkful of diluted hydrogen peroxide, sprinkle a spoonful of brewer's yeast into their breakfast cereal, take bracing showers or make sure to catch daily naps, all follow a preventive regimen with consistency and the conviction that it's contributing to their disease-resistant constitutions.
"For the most part it's not accidental," that they have good health, the New York-based writer and journalist said in an interview Friday from Miami, where he was promoting his new book, "The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick." "People believe in health as a daily habit. I think that's a large part of why they stay healthy."
Stone spoke the same day as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that eight states had widespread cases of flu during the week ending Jan. 1, compared with five states the previous week. The same day, a quick check on Facebook showed people in cities like Philadelphia, New York and Chatham, Mass., were complaining that they picked up colds and viruses during the holidays.
But not Stone, despite a hectic book tour schedule that has him jumping on and off planes every few days.
A New Yorker who has spent decades covering diets, drugs, and health developments, Stone made up his mind that he would no longer suffer the two or more "blistering sore throats that turned into a lingering cold" every year. He sought to learn why some people could resist the same germs that were knocking him flat each year. "While I was enduring one cold after another, they were happily living under the cover of some personal secret that kept them healthy even as I twisted, writhed and sneezed, in thrall to whatever germ, virus, or unidentified life form was sweeping through my being."
After interviewing more than 100 people who seemed to keep illnesses at bay, he narrowed the field and wrote about the practitioners of the 25 techniques that seemed to work best. He has adopted – or adapted - 15 of these "secrets" (in addition to getting an annual flu shot) and in the process, he says he has eliminated or shortened the duration of his own illnesses.
The preventive that works best for him? Chewing on a clove of garlic (Secret No. 9 in the book). "Any time I feel that feeling at the top of your throat that something is happening, I immediately go for the garlic," he said. "I don't like the taste; I think it leaves bad breath in my mouth, so I always have a small piece of chocolate nearby and then I munch on (odor-neutralizing) fresh parsley."
Among the other health secrets he's picked up:
From Rip Esselstyn of Austin, Texas, a former firefighter with whom he wrote a book on veganism, "The Engine 2 Diet," Stone learned to eat only plant-based foods (Secret No. 17). In the process, his cholesterol dropped from 240 to 160.
From Barbara Pritzkat, 83, an engineer-turned-energetic-archaeologist from Los Angeles, he picked up the habit of starting off each day with brewer's yeast, which is rich in protein and B vitamins (Secret No. 2).