Q: How to Prevent Getting Sick?

Hey Lauren,

While I am diligent about strength training and core work in addition to my training in order to prevent injury, I am always being sidelined by sickness and/or allergy induced sinus infections. It’s so frustrating!

I haven’t been able to run some of my most anticipated races because of a high fever or infection! I have been to a few doctors, including a natural doctor for ideas to boost my immune system, and I’ve tried them all. I’ve got the diet down with high fruits and veggies, and take supplements for ones I am naturally lacking in.  But every doctor seems to say the same thing: long distance running brings down your immunity shield too much to the point where viruses/ bacteria can invade, and nothing really can be done to improve my immunity except for scaling back on my running intensity/ mileage.  Obviously I want to keep training!
Is there anything I can do to boost my immune system so I can stop being sick all the time?

Thanks!

-Melissa

 

A:

Hi Melissa,

I’ll give you three things to think about from my personal experience:

1.  Tonsils:   I had my tonsils removed because they had pockets that seemed to be the starting point for several infections.  I used to get 2-4 upper respiratory infections a year.  After removing those, I haven’t had a single infection in over three years.

2.  Sleep/Stress:  It doesn’t matter how good your diet is if you aren’t producing growth hormone and lowering your cortisol levels with a level head and lots of sleep.  If you ate nothing but pizza but you slept nine hours a night and used mental strategies to buffer stress, you’d get sick less often than if you ate a perfect diet but lived your life with a constant stream of cortisol (stress hormone) running through your system.

3.  Weight:  In my experience, I am more prone to getting sick when I’m leaner.  I’ve talked to some of my peers and several health professionals about this over the years and its a common experience.  My approach is to carry some extra weight through most of the year until its time to focus on racing, and I don’t allow myself to stay at that lower weight for longer than 6-8 weeks.  I don’t know the science, (I’m sure its easy enough to find) but something about having a slightly higher body fat makes me very resilient in both training and immune function.  A minimum buffer of 3 pounds (probably more like 5) keeps me healthier.  It sucks racing with a little extra jiggle in the early season, but its totally worth it.

I hope one of those helps you out!

Sincerely,
Lauren