Christmas can be a tricky time of year for the goal orientated training population. On top of the ‘healthy’ stress of training comes inevitable social late nights out, alcohol and excess food. Although it is important to enjoy your life outside the gym there are a few points worth making to help better prepare you for the holiday season.
We are exposed to bacteria and viruses everyday. When your body is healthy, your immune system is constantly fighting off everything you come into contact with, even flu viruses. However if you are under a lot of stress, subsequently not sleeping or eating well then your immune system can quickly become over run, exposing you to every bug and virus going. Christmas time can play particular havoc as it is inevitably stressful for most people and usually involves alcohol and inconsistent sleep.
There are two ways you can approach this situation, you can be reactive and simply dose up on pharmaceutical drugs once you are ill or you can be proactive and take steps to support your immune system.
Here at CoActive we’d much rather you were proactive as we want you to be healthy in order for you to train hard and subsequently get the results you want. By implementing the following you will give your immune system a fighting chance:
Respect your bodies need for sleep
I know we are starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to the importance of sleep but in this instance it really does have a huge effect. You are far more susceptible to becoming ill if your sleep is impaired. The reason is our immune system is regenerated at night when the body ‘up regulates’ immune boosting white blood cells.
For this reason it is vital we get 7-9 hours of unbroken restful sleep every night. To find out more about some of our strategies we use at CoActive to optimise sleep please read the following: Back to basics: sleep.
Keep your gut healthy
Your gut health and immune system are inextricably linked. Approximately seventy to eighty percent of your immune tissue is located within your digestive system. A healthy gut also ensures the adequate digestion and absorption of nutrients from food, thus helping to optimise immune function.
To optimise gut health, firstly avoid inflammatory foods. This is an individual thing but the majority of us will be well served by cutting out gluten, soy, processed food and excess sugar. Cutting down on sugar is especially important if you already suffer from a compromised gut, as sugar feeds bad bacteria.
Next, eat a whole food diet with plenty lean protein and green veg to provide your body with adequate fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Shoot for ‘in season’ fruit and veg with as much variety as possible. Finally adding a quality probiotic is a great way of supporting the health of our gut micro biome.
The right kind of training and exercise can ‘up-regulate’ your immune system and help protect you from colds and flus by enhancing the body antioxidant system, lymph flow and white blood cell count. However, intense endurance exercise can sometimes be too much and can significantly depress the immune system leaving you vulnerable to getting sick.
Base your training around strength and ensure that you pay attention to your recovery. Sometimes less is more in the long run and it’s better to take a day off if your feeling run down as opposed to pushing through and potentially getting sick.
Ensure you are supplementing a good diet with quality basic supplements
Multivitamin – despite making every effort to eat a nutritionally complete diet, it is nearly impossible to get the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health and vitality. A quality multi will ensure your bodies immune system is fully supported when challenged.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D turns on an immune agent called Cathelicin, which is your body’s first line of defence for your cells to kill off germs and viruses. As Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin it is wise to get your levels tested before supplementing. You can learn more in our article: Everything you need to know about Vitamin D.
Zinc – Essential to human growth, zinc is key to proper T cell and natural killer cell function and proper lymphocyte activity. Zinc is essential to many enzyme systems and for normal functioning of the immune system.
We can’t always avoid being ill, but we can be proactive in building a healthier constitution that gives us the best chance of fighting off viruses and infections before they become debilitating.
The more pharmaceutical drugs we take, the harder it is for our body to recover, and the greater burden each illness takes on us. Therefore these should be the last line of defense against illness. By Taking the above mentioned steps to help boost your immunity in the first place is the way to come out ahead in the end and keep you fighting fit all year round!
Bonus 1: Steve Grant
If you are already applying all the above mentioned steps to optimise your immune system but are still suffering from regular colds and flus then it may but worth investigating further and getting your blood chemistry looked at. Our resident functional medicine practitioner Steve Grant will be able to offer advice with this.
Contact us for more information.
Bonus 2: Firecider
If you happen to be struck down with a heavy cold then the following recipe from Charles Poliquin is a sure way to help shift it, be warned it’s not for the faint hearted, just ask Roan!
“One of my favorite folk remedies for fighting off colds (in the early stages) and boosting immunity in the cold weather season is fire cider. Though it originated in this country over a century ago, it is still a helpful remedy in modern times. Raw apple cider vinegar is a fermented food with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Its acid content, primarily acetic with some malic, is antimicrobial in nature. And vinegar in general has antiglycemic properties, reducing insulin spikes when taken with starches or sugars. Fire cider traditionally contains a collection of pungents loaded with health-protective benefits: garlic (antioxidant, antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic), onion (antioxidant, antiviral, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory), and horseradish (inhibits bacterial infection, increases circulation). It’s also common to include capsaicin-rich peppers in the form of cayenne powder or fresh hot chilies – warming and stimulating. I’ve boosted this recipe with additional ingredients high in vitamin C: lemon, orange, and rosehips (whole chilies are also loaded with vitamin C); and both ginger (antiemetic, digestive aid, antimicrobial, antiviral, immune-boosting) and curcumin-rich turmeric (also a member of the ginger family) – warming, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Most of these ingredients are readily available and the method for making fire cider is an easy one –though you do need to plan ahead as it needs to sit for at least three weeks. Once it’s prepared, you can take it straight or diluted in a little water or apple cider (1-2 tablespoons), use it in homemade salad or vegetable dressings, or use it to make delicious cocktails – alcoholic or non-alcoholic. It makes a tasty and beneficial addition to your winter larder.
Cold Weather Fire Cider Recipe
- ½ yellow or red onion, chopped
- ½ peeled lemon, quartered
- ½ peeled orange, quartered
- 1/2 cup grated fresh horseradish root (if you can’t find the fresh root in your grocery store, use ½ cup prepared, well-drained)
- 1/3 cup grated fresh ginger root
- 1/8 cup crushed and chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoon dried rosehips, optional
- 1 chopped jalapeno pepper, with seeds (or habanero for more heat)
- 2 tablespoon turmeric powder
- Cayenne, to taste
- Slightly warmed raw apple cider vinegar, to cover all (about 3+ cups)
- Combine all herbs in a sterile quart-sized mason jar and pour warm vinegar over all.
- Mix well.
- Cover bottle opening with a double layer of plastic wrap and screw on the lid.
- Leave in a sunny place for 3-4 weeks, shaking daily to mixture.
- Strain and compost all veg material and mix in a small amount of raw honey, to taste.
- Store in bottles in the refrigerator.