Tips to Avoid Illness in China

As week two kicks off here in Beijing, illness has become a part of our daily lives here. The Chinese blame some concoction of cold weather, pollution, and not enough sleep. But in reality there are some ways to keep the energy and health at suitable levels without a full health club and organic food selection.

First, water. Now, I know one should Think Outside the Bottle (, but in China, if it’s not boiled, it should be coming out of a plastic bottle. Except for brushing my teeth (which is risky for the uninitiated), I only drink bottled water. A 1.5 Liter bottle is around 3 kuai or less than $0.50. Now the other option is to drink boiled water. This works just fine except that Americans are not accustom to drinking the scathing hot liquid even during the winter. When was the last time you drank straight hot water? The other issue that folks here have had to deal with is that boiling water has to be poured into something that won’t scald your hands. For example, my Sigg aluminum bottle conducts heat and is actually hotter than the water it holds. Plastic is a better option for holding your hot liquids but I will defer to the latest NYTimes article on water bottle safety.

Second, eat. Eat breakfast. Eat lunch. Eat dinner. Yes, the food is greasy and all has MSG. That’s why I drink a little soda with most meals to help wash it all down. At home, I never drink soda. Also, hot soy milk in the morning will cure a lot of ills.

Third, stay inside. Beijing pollution eats at your lungs even if it’s a “clear” day. If you can, stay inside.

Fourth, eat fruit. Most bottled water and boiled water is void of the minerals that help your body absorb nutrients. How do you get those minerals (and vitamins)? Eat fruit. Any kind will do but be sure to wash or peel everything since it all has pesticides, a lot of pesticides. You ain’t getting any Whole Foods organic here.

Fifth, sleep.

Sixth, go smoke-free. China doesn’t have California’s high taxes on cigarettes so it’s chimney time. Stay away from the chimneys if you can because you can find plenty of cancer-causing chemicals elsewhere.

Seventh, wear clothes if it’s cold. If you see Chinese children here during the winter, their clothing is bigger than their bodies.

Eighth, shower. The best thing ever especially if you don’t wash clothes often.

Ninth, wake up early. This is just Chinese superstition.

Tenth, BYOM. Chinese medicine might cause more issues in your stomach than the illness to begin with.