From the importance of hydration to the power of protein, here’s everything you need to fight off illness (most of the time). This post from Born Fitness shares the every-person’s guide to immune system support.
The mistakes never seemed to end. At least, that’s how it felt when I started spending half my year on the road…and subsequently half of my year sick or fighting to solve my busted immune system.
The thing is, when I started running my own business I planned for many things. I did not plan for how spending more than 150 days per year traveling might create a universe of perpetual illness. In reality, my problems are no different than yours. The same pathogens and pitfalls that made me sick make you sick. The only change is that my travel schedule might make me a little more susceptible to reoccurring illness. Or, that’s what I thought.
You know that sometimes getting sick is inevitable. What you may not know—or at least what I never realized—is that you can set up your day in a way that protects your body and reduces the likelihood of the flu, upset stomach, or any seasonal sickness from taking you down.
Want to be healthier more often? Here are some suggestions that you can make a part of your day without much inconvenience to support your immune system. Your goal: apply three or more of these tips, and you’ll avoid the majority of errors I made.
Tip #1: The Hydration Fix
Airplanes are notorious as a sickness hotbed and a major threat to your immune sytem. You probably assume that it’s because you’re in an enclosed space. While that’s true, most people are also enclosed at their jobs. The difference? Airplanes lack humidity. Some studies suggest that humidity can be as low as 10 to 20 percent on a flight, in order to help maintain air cabin pressure.
While that might not seem important, the low levels of moisture can leave you dehydrated, which leaves you an increased risk of catching a respiratory virus.
Your defense is drink, drink, and drink more water. If you know you might have trouble drinking as much while flying, start hydrating early. Have at least 30 ounces of liquid (preferably water or add something with flavor like Emergen-C®, keeping in mind the recommended serving), and aim for 60-80 ounces of water the entire day of travel. And when the beverage cart comes around, try to make sure to get something to keep you hydrated during the flight. (More on this in a moment.)
Tip #2: Seep Your Thirst
If the hydration aspect wasn’t clear, it’s not just how much you drink, but also what you drink. Water is great, but tea is a valuable beverage that protects your immune system. Specifically, black tea has been found to release interferon, which helps your body fight off disease.
Tip #3: Breakfast For Immune System Support
Many people know me for my thoughts on intermittent fasting (which can be an effective diet routine). While breakfast is not necessary for weight loss, it’s not unnecessary either. And when I’m on the road and trying to stay healthy, eating an earlier breakfast is a part of my immune defense protocol. Much of my beliefs come from personal experience: when I eat breakfast, I seem to handle life on the road better. But I wanted to know why.
Research from the University of Wales offers some correlational support from the “eat early-stay healthy” hypothesis. The scientists found that people who skipped breakfast were more likely to have an infection at some point during the 10-week study. The main question is why, and research from the Netherlands presents an interesting theory. Those scientists found that a big breakfast (more than 1,000 calories) increased the production of anti-viral agents by more than 400 percent.
It’s too soon to say that big breakfast = no sickness, but if you struggle with your health, it might be worth the try.
Tip #4: The Protein Cure
Motion sickness is a real problem when traveling, and some are stomach problems, in general. And while your issues could be with your equilibrium, usually it’s nausea that sends you down a dangerous path to sickness.
Your best bet for prevention might be what you least suspect: protein. For years, researchers have examined the relationship between protein and pregnant mothers as a way to reduce nausea and stomach pains. But it might apply to anyone not carrying a child, as well.
Penn State researchers have found that eating a protein heavy meal—compared to carbs or fasting—helped reduce nausea up to 26 percent. And additional research has found that protein also reduced stomach discomfort associated with motion or seasickness and travel-related stomach discomfort and bloating. The key is not going overboard. Try using 20 to 30 grams of protein (usually just 1 scoop of protein powder or a few eggs) to see if it does the trick.
Tip #5: When In Doubt, Go For More Protein (Powder)
Very few supplements are worth the hype, but protein powders might be one of the few that won’t let you down. As you just learned, protein can help prevent stomach discomfort and nausea, and whey protein specifically can boost your immune system by fighting against inflammation.
Specifically, glutathione, a powerful antioxidant in whey, helps protect your body from illness. Whey can also trigger an increase in healthy bacteria (bifidobacteria) in your gut, which has antimicrobial benefits and heightens your immune response by producing higher levels of white blood cells, lymphocytes, and cytokines—all which protect your body and fight infections.
Tip #6: Invest in Nutritional Insurance
I’ve discussed it before, there’s no way to “cure” a cold, but there are things you can do to stay healthy, such as making sure you take B vitamins (specifically biotin, which helps with white blood cell activity), vitamin C, and vitamin D (which might be the best vitamin for fighting off upper respiratory infections, according to Canadian researchers.
In an ideal world, you’ll eat fruits and vegetables with every meal and you’re covered. But when traveling—or following a general work schedule—every day won’t be perfect and your diet might be less than desirable. Your approach? A multi-vitamin supplement or greens powder or juice that supplies the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that help protect your body.
My approach is either drinking my typical morning smoothie or—especially when traveling—I simply take a couple of Emergen-C Chewables (I like the Immune+ Orange Blast), which has me covered for all the basics and removes the need for shaker bottles and mixing a powder.
Tip #7: Challenge Your Brain
Like most things on this list, sometimes the best thing for your body is the least obvious. So take this to heart: a little stress is good for your body.
You see, your body possesses many immune system proteins that help protect you from illness. Recent research has dug deeper into understanding these proteins, their roles, and what triggers them to do their job. One such protein, SIgA, receives a boost when doing challenges that are mentally stimulating.
The secret sauce: don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you create prolonged stress, instead of receiving an immune boost, you can overwhelm the system and cause shutdown.
Small work projects, crossword puzzles, or trying to solve a few problems each day can be enough to provide a daily boost to keep you healthy.
*These statements has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.