When I used to work in an office I dreaded the first sneeze of a neighboring colleague which was duly followed in the next few days by sniffing, wheezing and general tortuous noises. Not only would I wish this person (or people – by this time it was spreading) to go home, I was especially annoyed to catch it on the Friday and have my weekend taken out by their germs. So it came as quite a surprise when studying medicine and nutrition to learn that my thinking (and resentment) was misplaced as you cant actually catch a cold. Not only that, it would seem that you cant actually ‘catch’ any diseases. In fact, all the nutrition books clearly stated that you can only get sick if you are already sick in the first place.
Now I understand this may be hard to fathom and perhaps you’re thinking (like I did) that even if colds don’t circulate in the air conditioning units then what about epidemics? During the Great Plague of London 100,000 people, 20 per cent of London’s 1665 population got the same disease at the same time. Surely this was air borne? Well apparently not, Henry Lindlahr explains that groups of people falling sick at the same time is due to the people (who often live or work in close proximity) having the same similar, often polluted, lifestyles, eating habits and thought patterns. It would seem that following a similar track to our fellow neighbours creates a similar immunity which is why some groups of people fall ill and other groups of people stay healthy. During the Great Plague, the main victims were the London city dwellers as opposed to the better fed and healthier country folk who managed to avoid this uncomfortable fate.
This notion that diseases are ‘out there’, waiting to invade at any given opportunity comes from medicine following the works of Louis Pasteur; the highly revered French scientist. He based all his theories of disease on the concept that germs are caught from the atmosphere rather than being being connected to the person’s health and well being . However on his deathbed he revoked his former work by stating that ‘the germ is nothing; the internal environment is everything’, although current medical theory tends to ignore this and still follows his former thinking.
So what does this mean for us when we are surrounded by sickly people at work? Are we really safe from discarded tissues and rigorous coughing and splutterings? Well the good news is yes we are, the bad news is only if we have a strong immune system ourselves. If we are burning the candle at both ends and eating less than wholesome nourishment that we are very likely to be receptive to the germs of others. By concentrating on eating unprocessed foods, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep then we are in a great place to avoid the unwelcome office cold.