13 Tips on Friday the 13th

Let’s address the elephant in the room 

Covid-19 is now in Chester County  

There are people who are freaking out and buying up ALL the toilet paper and there are others who show no concern at all. Most of us are going to fall in the middle, you’re not freaking out but you’re worried (maybe not for being infected yourself, but for infecting others).

One reason this virus is so scary is that it’s new and the best thing we can do is to wash our hands. It kinda feels like you can’t do much about it. 

But there are a few steps you can take to “boost” your immune system just in case you do become infected with it (or the flu or common cold which are also rampant right now)

Normally, I’d give detailed information on how the immune system works here, but since most people are in information overload between the news and the markets, I get it if you don’t want to read it. 

But to sum up for those that don’t know you have two systems: Innate immunity and adaptive. There is a brief description of both below, if you want to skip to the tip, go to the italic text. 

Innate immunity is your “natural immunity” and are white blood cells, like NK cells, your chemical barriers (like stomach acid), and physical barriers like the mucous lining in your nose. Think of this like a general system, it’s there all the time to deal with the day-to-day but when something big comes along (Covid-19, the flu, the common cold) it’s not equipped to deal with the problem, but can kinda “hold back the flood gates” until the adaptive immunity kicks in. 

Adaptive immunity is a specialized immunity. When your body learns that something isn’t supposed to be there, it releases specialized cells to deal with the problem. These cells “remember” pathogens so when chicken pox virus enters your system, it is already seen as a threat and taken care of ASAP. Vaccines work by creating an adaptive immune response to these pathogens. This is why vaccines work or after you get a disease and recover, you’re “immune” to it in the future. 

Here are 13 tips for staying healthy

1) Don’t stop exercising 

If you don’t want to come to the gym, we get it! But don’t stop exercising. Light to moderate activity boosts the immune system. Chronic resistance training (lifting weights) seems to improve your innate immune system while chronic moderate exercise (running, biking, yoga, etc) seems to improve your adaptive immune system. If you don’t want to go to the gym, workout at home a few days a week to stay healthy. 

2) Don’t Overdo it

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. There is a J-curve to exercise. Moderate exercise three times per week seems to be the perfect amount, the immune system is stronger than those of sedentary people but if you push to four days of vigorous activity, all the sudden the immune system starts to weaken. 

Now isn’t the time to try and break PRs (personal records). Chronic vigorous exercise (four times a week or more) is shown to decrease immune function. Working out for more than an hour is also shown to decrease immune function. 

Your goal is to do three days a week of moderate exercise between 15-60 minutes, and the other days of the week can be light exercise (walking, jogging, swimming, biking, yoga, etc).

3) Prebiotics

These are food sources (usually fiber) for the microbes in your gut. A large portion of your immune system is found in your gut, while this won’t keep you from getting sick, keeping your gut healthy can help improve your overall health.

Foods that contain prebiotic fibers include: asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), beans, oats, quinoa, barley, rye, wheat, potatoes, yams, apples, bananas, citrus, berries, kiwi, flax seeds, and chia seeds.

This isn’t an all encompassing list, but these are fairly common foods with high amounts of prebiotic fiber. Now, if you don’t eat a lot of these foods, don’t go eating a whole bunch of them. We all know the jokes about beans, and while they’re funny, you could potentially cause an overgrowth in your digestive system if you decided to go from zero to four cups a day. Start small (¼-½ cup a day) if you don’t normally eat these foods. 

4) Probiotics 

There is debate if the bacteria in these foods can survive and get into your intestines, but it appears some can. Eating probiotic foods a few times a week can help keep you healthy by potentially restoring balance to your gut flora. 

Now, even if the bacteria don’t survive, they create what are called postbiotics in the food you are eating. One example is vitamin K in sauerkraut. The bacteria eat the sugars in the food and create vitamins and health-promoting organic acids.

Probiotic foods include: sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, yogurt, fermented sour cream, creme fraiche, and kombucha. There are many other probiotic rich foods, these are just ones you can find fairly easily without needing to make them yourself. Please check labels to make sure the probiotics are still alive in these foods, regular sour cream doesn’t contain any live bacteria as an example. 

5) Avoid Nutrient Deficiencies 

Your diet should be full of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts and seeds. If you don’t get enough micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) then your body can’t function at 100%. 

Not getting enough nutrients and then putting your body in a demanding situation (like getting sick or even training hard five days a week) is like trying to get a car to go 60mph in second gear. You might be able to do it, but it’s going to be tough on most engines a and cause wear and tear and some cars won’t be able to do it at all. 

Eat mostly whole unprocessed foods, limit the processed stuff as much as possible. 

6) Vitamin A

Most people know vitamin C is important for the immune system, but so is vitamin A. Now, don’t go and eat a bunch of carrots here, I’m talking about getting retinol into your diet. You see, there are two forms of vitamin A: plant based and animal based. 

Plant based vitamin A (like beta-carotene) is okay for some, but 50% of the population has a mutation in their BCO1 gete that converts plant based vitamin A into the usable animal vitamin A known as retinol. 

My personal BCO1 gene mutations are really bad and I have around a 75% reduction in conversion of carotene to retinol. 

So foods that contain retinol are: liver, eggs, full-fat dairy, fish, shrimp, cod liver oil, and most meat contains a little bit. Now, you can get toxicity from retinol, but the only way to do this through diet is eating too much liver for most people. Limit it to around 3-4 oz per week. 

Vegans and vegetarians, if you don’t eat any of the above foods, plant sources of vitamin A need to be eaten with fat for absorption. Eating a raw carrot by itself won’t allow for vitamin A to be absorbed. Studies show best absorption was when eaten with roughly 28 grams of fat in the meal. 

7) Don’t Crash Diet

It’s estimated that the average person would need to eat roughly 2500 calories a day to meet all the vitamin and mineral needs due to soil depletion now. On top of that, the immune system takes a lot of energy to function at 100%, so if you decide to stay home, don’t cut your calories down to 1000 a day. 

Also, don’t overeat because that also has a negative effect on the immune system. 

8) Sleep

Lack of sleep decreases your immune function. Yes, you might be a tough guy and say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but your immune system doesn’t work that way.

There is no exception to this rule. Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, 6 at the very least if you can nap during the day (but it’s best to shoot for 8 hours). 

9) Limit Stress

Easier said than done, but chronic stress levels will depress your immune system. Most people stress out about things they have no control over and lose sight of the things they can control (like the stuff in this email). Limit the excess stress to keep the immune system strong. 

10) Limit the Booze

Getting drunk not only decreases immune function, it also depletes the body of micronutrients so when you do sober up, you don’t have the building blocks to get the immune system functioning 100% until you replace them. 

Limit it to no more than two drinks if you’re worried about getting sick. 

11) Collagen

Most people don’t get enough collagen in their diets. Everything is boneless and skinless and that’s where most of the connective tissue is at which contains collagen (and other good stuff). Collagen isn’t just important for your skin and joints, it also helps heal your gut lining which, like I posted about above, can help with your immune health.  

Supplements are great, but it’s easy to get it from whole foods. Buying a whole chicken and roasting it or making a soup in a slow cooker or instant pot with the whole bird are great ways to get more collagen in your diet without much effort. Bone broth is another way. 

12) Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil has antiviral properties for viruses enveloped in a lipid layer. Now, before you cover yourself in coconut oil, it works for other viruses with similar structures but it is not confirmed on Covid-19. So the best I can give you is that it might kill the virus. If you have coconut oil in the house and are worried about infection, start cooking with it once or twice a day. 

13) Immune Boosting Supplements

There are some supplements that you can take, but this one is last because you need to follow the above steps for this one to work. A crappy diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, or over exercising won’t help your immune system. 

A general multivitamin is a great start so you don’t miss out on any micronutrients (Seeking Health is a great supplement company).

 Cod liver oil is a great supplement for vitamin A, D, and your omega-3s (Green Pasture is a great company with both liquid and pill forms).

 Adaptogens like rhodiola, ginseng, chaga, reishie, or many other plants out there may help improve immune function with chronic usage. 

Vitamin C is a big maybe, the RDA is the level for not getting scurvy, but probably not optimal amounts. It can be safe to assume that optimal amounts might be in the range of 500mg to 1,000mg per day. One orange has 70mg of vitamin C, one cup of brussels or broccoli have about 50mg, and red and yellow bell peppers are a great source at around 250mg per cooked cup. So, it can be tough to reach the optimal levels, so you might want to supplement. 

So to wrap up, if you want to get your body ready for a possible infection you need to:

  1. Eat mostly whole unprocessed foods

  2. Get enough sleep

  3. Stay active, but don’t go overboard either

  4. Wash your hands

The 13 points I wrote above are important, but if you can’t remember all of them, follow the ones I listed here. And as another reminder, if you do experience any of the symptoms of the coronavirus please

follow the CDC guidelines

for getting medical treatment. 

Please note, as we learn more about the virus, these recommendations could be changed. Remember, the staff at Gage Strength Training are not medical professionals, this post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your physician before making any changes or if you feel sick.