Okay party people. Our lead instructor is sick at home, I spent the weekend home in bed with the sniffles (although I’m feeling a bit better today), and some of our campers are starting to feel the season coming on.
How can you keep your immune system humming along, and what can you do to “fight back” at the first sign of getting a little scratch in your throat (or a little snot in your nose…sorry…couldn’t resist.)
First off, I am not the foremost expert on this, although through my nutrition studies, I have learned a ton of great natural ways to boost immunity, and it’s crazy how much of it has to do with food.
Here’s the one universal truth that you must know:
There are bugs and germs and gooey-icky stuff absolutely everywhere. So it’s not so much about the environment around you (although you can be proactive about this), but it’s more about how strong your internal environment is… ie..your immune system.
I will say that once I started doing most of my workouts outdoors, I am sick a whole lot less. I attribute that to a few things. First, even in the most upscale fitness cubs (yup…I’ve worked at many), it can get pretty nasty in there. Plus I think that because we spend SO MUCH time indoors, the outdoor workout environment increases endorphins and other “feel good hormones”, therefore giving a sense of health and well being. That last part is pure speculation, but I’m sticking to it!
So, it’s LESS about steering clear of germs, and more about building up your body’s ability to resist.
Below you will find my stess-busting, immunity-building, germ-fighting arsenal that I keep around all year long. Try it for yourself and see how it goes. : )
The basics: Build your immune system “stores”
- Building your vitamin and mineral supplies will give you a fighting chance when you do encounter the bugs.
- Insane amounts of veggies,veggie soups, add entire heads of kale into your soups, ¾ of your plate is veggies, while the other ¼ is lean (preferably organic) protein, add a little healthy fat. (this by the way is a great way to build your vitamin and mineral supplies!)
- Mineral broths: put every veggie known to man in a huge pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for the rest of the day until the veggies are brown and lifeless. Strain the broth (to drink and/or as a base for soups) and throw out (or compost!) the veggies.
- Green Powders in every smoothie and post exercise recovery drink (My favorite is Amazing Grass….great flavor and PACKED with super-foods)
- Decreased sugar/caffeine/sodas/processed junk. A diet high in this junk seeps important stores from your body, making your immune system have to work harder when dealing even with the little things.
- High Quality multi-vitamin, fish oil, and extra vitamin-C (your one-a-days are junk. Throw them out and make sure your vitamins are pharmaceutical grade.
- Nettie Pot!!! Yes, as many of you know…I swear by my nettie pot. The first place I personally get “attacked” by the outside world of germs is in my sinuses.The nettie pot kills and cleans out all the icky-stuff before it has the opportunity to incubate and turn into a head cold/sinus infection. If you don’t use a netti pot, you are absolutely crazy. Enough said.
- Decrease The amount of stress in your life. This requires a total paradigm shift that many people are unwilling to do. So instead…see next bullet point:
- If you can’t decrease the stress…learn how to manage it! This is why coming out to your boot camp training session (or whatever workout you do) can be the best thing for you. It can help you manage your stress levels through exercise, increased endorphins, connection and community, and of course that wonderful feel-good sense of well-being we all get when we are taking care of ourselves, showing up for our life, and doing what we KNOW we need to be doing. : )
All the above, when done on a regular, and consistent basis, will decrease systemic inflammation, so instead of evoking an immune response to deal with the insane amount of sugar and stress, your immune system can spend it’s time defending all the little creepy-crawly things that try to invade.
What I do right away when something doesn’t seem right:
- Reality check with all the stuff above. When I start to get sick, usually something above is out of whack and has been for a while. Here’s where I get a little course correction by re-introducing the rules above, and following them to the “T”.
- Extra Vitamin C: This is probably one of the most understated vitamins. People maybe get a little in their multi-vitamin, and then think the insulin-spiking OJ they downed with breakfast is enough to keep them going. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, and therefore only works its magic while it’s in your system…for a few hours at most. This is why it’s a good idea to take it more often throughout the day. It’s not special, but I love Emergen-C. I’ll take 1-3 packets (that’s 1-3 grams) per day WHEN I’M HEALTHY, and if I feel a bit under the weather, I’ll double it. (A little hint: everyone’s upper tolerable limits to vitamin C are different. Mine’s about 7grams a day. You can find out easily by increasing the amount of C by a 500-1000mg each day. You’ll know you are at your upper limits if you….well…get the runs. From there you can back it off by 1-2 grams. The point I’m trying to convey here is that higher doses of this super anti-oxidant can be very beneficial to your health, so I want you to know that you can (and probably should) take more than you are currently.
- Wish Garden:Kick-Ass Immunity and Kick-Ass Sinus. I swear by this stuff. As soon as I feel a little “funky-ness” going on, I start in with the regular dose just about every 2-3 hours for a minimum of two days. It tastes like liquid hell, but I pretend I’m 21 (back when I used to do shots of very bad liquor) and suck it down like a champ.
- Hot herbal tea all day long: I’ve managed many a sore-throat-days with herbal teas. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to realize that there’s more to tea than the standard “black” or “green”. Some of the healthiest teas are make from herbs that can have a profoundly positive effect on your health. Add a little lemon and maybe some raw honey, and you’ll be set for the day!
- Bio-K (increase your healthy micro-flora). I’ve written a TON about how healthy micro-flora can increase your health, improve digestion, and create balance in your gut. But the question is how? My favorite way is with a little product called Bio-K. It has some insane number (like 20 billion? or is it 50 billion? Whatever it is…it’s crazy good!) of acidophilus and other beneficial strands of micro-flora. I love Bio-K because it’s food based, which means your body will assimilate it more than a pill or chemical…so it’s like eating a miniature yogurt that packs a serious punch!
- Lots of extra sleep: Your body needs time to recover and sleep is where most of it happens.
- Careful with exercise: If I overdo it here, then I feel sicker than when I started. But on the other hand, doing nothing at all doesn’t always work for me either. Getting my heart pumping, and lymphatic system pumping usually will help me feel a bit better.