It’s that time of year again.
It appears that my goal of a cold-less 2014 is foiled.
Considering I average about 1 cold per year, I really can’t complain.
When I do get them, they are usually very mild, and completely out of my system within a week.
As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever called out sick in the last five and half years as a personal trainer.
Since “Flu Season” is right around the corner, I figured it would be a good time to write about how I keep my immune system strong throughout the year, and how I’ve avoided the flu (without a flu shot) for the last few years.
I’ll also tell you what my plan of attack is if I ever do catch a cold (like now).
How To “Bulletproof” Your Immune System:
1. Manage Your Stress Levels.
There are two kinds of stress: short term (acute) and long term (chronic).
Acute stress is not a problem; most of us have very little (if any) acute stressors in our lives.
The problem lies in chronic stress levels; most of us have a lot of it.
Stress signals the body to release cortisol and adrenaline, as well as alter your immune system response.
Chronically elevated stress levels not only increase inflammation in our bodies, but the subsequent overexposure to stress hormones will disrupt many bodily processes including your immune system.
2. Sleep. A lot.
Aim for at least 7 hours.
Sleep is when your body repairs and restores itself from the day’s activities.
Aside from the obvious benefits like increased energy levels, more focus, heightened alertness, and a better mood, sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours per night will also boost your immune system.
Many studies have shown that when we are sleep deprived, our T-cells (a type of white blood cell responsible for immunity) go down, and inflammatory cytokines go up.
I know it can be challenging, but make getting enough sleep a priority in your life.
It definitely is in mine: I rarely watch TV during the week, and this has helped me get to bed earlier and ensure that I get the sleep I need to keep my immune system running on all cylinders.
3. Avoid Sugar, Dairy, and Gluten.
The “3 Horsemen of The Apocalypse”, as I like to call them.
These foods suck big time for most people, including myself; they wreak havoc on our gut lining and suppress our immune system.
While I avoid them as much as possible, I do give in every now and then.
Every time I do, however, I wake up the next day with a somewhat “runny” nose and an itchy throat.
Avoid these foods like the plague (or the flu) and I guarantee that you’ll not only drop pounds, but you’ll also safeguard your immune system and ward off any colds or sicknesses.
While no one knows for sure how exercise boosts immunity, there are several theories.
Among them are that physical activity may help flush out bacteria from the lungs because of the heavy breathing, as well as cancer causing cells by increasing the output of waste through sweat and urine.
Another theory is that exercise increases the rate at which white blood cells circulate throughout the body, thus increasing the rate at which illnesses are detected.
Exercise also decreases the release of stress related hormones which, as you have already read, suppress your immune system.
Regardless of which theory (if not all of them) is true, the point is that exercise is good for you and will prevent you from getting sick.
In the words of Ben Stiller as David Starsky, just “Do it, Do it.”
5. Don’t Over-Train
A very – and I mean VERY – small percentage of people fall into this category.
If you are exercising intensely anywhere from 3-6 days per week, make sure you give yourself adequate time to recover.
Remember that intense exercise like weight lifting and sprinting put stress on the body.
While they are healthy stressors, too much, too often can wreak havoc on your Central Nervous System and cause stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to shoot up and remain elevated for long periods of time, similar to the effects of chronic stress levels.
Make sure you cycle your training between high intensity and low intensity days, and always take at least one day per week to rest and recover.
If you are lifting heavy, like me, always take a “de -load,” or recovery week, every 8-12 weeks, depending on how you feel.
6. Eat A Sh*t Load of Fruits And Veggies.
Antioxidants, Phyto-nutrients, Vitamins and Minerals.
It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables have the nutrition we need to stay healthy.
I aim for 2-4 servings of fruit each day, and at least 6 or more of vegetables.
Eat them raw, juice them, steam them, boil them – I don’t care.
Just freakin’ eat ’em, ok?
If you are over the age of 18 and you “can’t eat vegetables,” you deserve to be sick.
But, not really.
Intermittent fasting is the bomb diggy, yo’!
Fasting has a number of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, reduced cancer risk, and increased gene repair and longevity.
Research shows that you can get most, if not all, of the health benefits (including increased immunity) of severe calorie restriction through intermittent fasting.
I don’t know about you, but
I like to eat. – Scratch that – I like to eat and stay healthy. Scratch that, again – I like to eat, stay healthy, and look good doing it.
That’s why I fast on a daily basis and why you should, too!
You can get 95% of what you need to stay healthy through diet.
The fact of the matter is, though, that no matter how hard we try, no one is perfect.
That’s where the right supplements come in to play.
I take a serving of Green Vibrance on a daily basis.
This ensures that I start my day with off on the right foot – with 74 ingredients including fruits, vegetables, grasses, probiotics and enzymes.
80% of your immune system is in your gut.
If you do not optimize your gut health, you will never be 100% immune to disease and infection.
Another one of my “go to” supplements is Vitamin D3.
D3 is more important than Vitamin C when it comes to fighting colds and the flu because of it’s ability to influence certain genes that help the immune system attack viruses and bacteria.
If you can’t get out in the sun for at least 20 minutes per day, get your levels tested and make sure you are supplementing with approximately 3,000 iu’s of D3 per day, or as recommended by your doctor.
Let’s face it.
Even if you do the things I listed above the majority of the time, occasionally life does get in the way.
A few late nights, a couple slips on the diet here and there, lack of exercise (or too much), and stress at work or home could lead to a few cracks in your armor.
What To Do If You Do Get Sick:
I can’t tell you how many clients show up for a training session with me with a cold and/or flu – I send them home every time.
The LAST thing you want to do when you are sick is exercise.
I know you’ve heard the phrase “sweat it out” before, but I happen to disagree with that theory.
Here’s why: Most experts agree that the ultimate cause of sickness is stress.
As mentioned above, although exercise is a healthy stress, it is still a stressor nonetheless.
Take this time to rest and recover.
Avoid intense forms of exercise, and if you must do something, go for a walk.
Do not resume your training until you are feeling 100%.
I know it sucks, trust me.
I haven’t exercised all week and it’s killing me, but I know that if I start back up prematurely it will only hinder my recovery and might even make me worse.
2. Up The Vitamin C and Zinc
Along with the supplements listed above, aim for 3-6 grams of Vitamin C and 11 mg of elemental zinc from a chelated zinc supplement for males, and 8 mg for females.
Zinc deficiency is associated with increased colds and flu and and many of us are deficient due to mineral depleted soil and diet.
Before you run to the doctor for expensive – and most times ineffective – antibiotics, try this combo out for a much safer, more effective, and not to mention cheaper form of relief from your cold and/or flu.
Drink a ton of water.
Water not only thins mucus which can help unclog that stuffy nose, but staying hydrated will help you clear toxins from the body and avoid the adverse health affects of dehydration.
Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces to make sure you are getting all the fluid you need to fight and recover from your sickness.
4. Eat a Sh*t Load of Fruits And Veggies, Avoid Sugar, Dairy And Gluten, And Sleep A Lot.
It’s sounds like a no brainer, but a lot of people think that just because they are sick that they can eat junk and stay up late watching movies.
If not sleeping enough and eating crap makes you sick, it should be pretty obvious that doing so while already sick just might impede on your recovery.
If your goal is to recover as fast as possible, you should avoid inflammatory foods like Rush Limbaugh avoids facts, and sleep for at least 8 hours a night.
This is the EXACT prescription I follow when I am healthy, and what I do when I am feeling “under the weather.”
It has worked for me throughout the years and, thanks to this routine, I have avoided a flu shot or taking antibiotics for the last few years.
Hopefully this will have been my first – and only – cold of the year; and I’ll make it through “flu season” unscathed, without a flu shot.
Apply these steps to your routine and I guarantee that you’ll not only look and feel better, but you will Fiddy Cent your immune system from colds and the flu all year long.