Tips for a Strong Immune System
By Mike O.
Do you find yourself becoming sick as we transition from summer to fall?
Coach Mike is here for some helpful tips on how to boost your immune system to assist in fighting off colds and other illnesses.
The warmer days are starting to vanish, and a noticeable chill is in the air. This is the perfect time to start prepping your immune system against new viruses and germs it may not have antibodies for.
Dressing for the day can be a tough dilemma in New England. We often can experience cold mornings, warm afternoons, and chilly nights. This change in temperature can cause the cold virus to replicate more frequently. And thus, it makes dressing for the weather very important. Consider dressing in layers. This way, you can remove a layer when it gets unexpectedly warm and add a layer if the chill appears. Always bring a jacket just in case.
Many of us are aware that vitamins and minerals can help combat these germs that lead to illness. But do you know which ones are most beneficial? Some important vitamins and minerals that help boost your immune system are: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A and Zinc.
My favorite way –and most definitely the best way–to get vitamins and minerals is from real food, such as citrus fruits, peppers and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, because they contain lots of vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all. Since our bodies don’t produce or store it, it’s very important to ingest it. Luckily, Vitamin C is in so many foods that it should not be difficult to access, and normally we don’t need a supplement unless the doctor calls for it.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infection. You can consume Vitamin E by eating nuts, seeds and spinach.
Vitamin B6 supports biochemical reactions in the immune system. Foods that contain B6 are chicken, cold water fish, green veggies and chick peas (think Hummus!).
Sweet potatoes (which do come in french fry form) and carrots and other similarly brightly colored veggies contain copious amounts of Vitamin A.
Zinc helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses, assists the body’s resistance to infectious pathogens and can be found in wheat germ, which is also a great source of antioxidants.
Now that we are getting more vitamins from food, we need to make sure we are staying hydrated. In order for vitamins to do what they are needed to do, we must rely on the body’s hydration level.
A holistic approach to boosting the immune system can be done by using medicinal mushrooms. My two favorites for immune support are Red Reishi and Chaga. Red Reishi is high in polysaccharides and triterpenes that give the mushroom many of its immune-boosting properties. Chaga mushroom contains betulinic acid which helps fight off the cold. Elderberry is another natural way to boost the immune system. Studies have shown that it increases cytokine production, it’s full of antioxidants and can help slow down a virus.
Believe it or not, exercise can play a role in helping the body fight off a cold. When exercising, the body starts to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. White blood cells help the body detect illness. Exercise causes the white blood cells to circulate faster.
Unfortunately, over training can actually cause the immune system to have a negative response. The body’s stress hormones are released during exercise, which elevate cortisol levels, and thus can weaken the immune system. This is why getting the proper vitamins and minerals from either food or supplements will help support the immune system. Also, never exercise if you have a fever or a stomach illness.
Do not forget the importance of washing your hands after leaving the restroom or before preparing and/or consuming food. Even the healthiest person will still get sick if you don’t, but because we have taken the time to prep the body’s immune support, our ability to get better more quickly will have increased. This support is like armor for the inside of the body.
Above all, as the seasons change, I wish you optimal health and wellness.
Mike earned his personal trainer certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and has been a personal trainer since 2015, training youth athletes in both baseball and hockey, as well as training runners in strength training, specifically for half and full marathons. He has also trained and helped a wide variety of the senior population, focusing on better balance and strengthening the core. In addition to his NASM Personal Training certification, Mike is also a TRX-certified trainer, and working towards completing his NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist certification.
“I believe that having a positive mental attitude will help anyone overcome any obstacle in their way.”