Flu & cold season is upon us – what to do about it

I often tell people that I haven’t had a cold in 2 years, despite working in an office that’s practically a petri dish, spending 6 months of the year in air-conditioned environments, training, racing, traveling extensively, etc.

So here are my tips on how best go through this season unscathed. I’ll finish it by running through my personal protocols.

Think of your immune system as an army: 

Build a strong immune foundation

The army needs soldiers, food, water, equipment/ammunition, and intelligence to be effective at defense.

  • Build soldiers by not restricting your diet. Cutting calories aggressively (especially cutting fat) will severely hinder your ability to produce “soldiers”.
  • Give your soldiers food by consuming a full range of minerals and vitamins from whole foods. 
  • Supplement with good quality vitamins and minerals. In an ideal world, you would get all of these from whole foods, but unless you’re eating vegetables 5 times a day and straight from the ground, then chances are (i) you’re not consuming enough of them and (ii) these store-bought ones have lost a big portion of their nutrients on the journey to your local Spinney’s
  • Give your soldiers plenty of water. Dehydration is one of the biggest threats to your immune system. Hydrate frequently (with water and tea)
  • Give your soldiers equipment, weapons and ammunition by ensuring that you can enough anti-oxidants (Vitamins C and E, and Omega 3). You can skip the Omega 3 on days you eat good quality fatty fish (e.g. salmon). Use Glutathione only when strongly exposed to germs (otherwise your body naturally produces it).
  • Intelligence: your soldiers would be useless if they don’t recognize their enemy. So go easy on the hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, etc. If you’re seriously concerned about exposure, then use them, otherwise avoid. And remember, your skin is EXTREMELY absorbent: whatever you put on your skin goes straight into your bloodstream. Think about that before using chemicals on your skin. 

Give your soldiers a chance to regroup and grow in numbers

During periods of exposure to germs and high stress, increase your sleep! It’s during those hours that your army regroups, organizes itself and prepares to defeat the enemy. 

Protect your digestive system

Based on different studies, between 70% and 90% of your immune system resides in your digestive system!
In fact, most of the infections you pick up (including colds), you pick-up through your digestive system.

  • Minimize the consumption of “inflammatory” foods, which increase gut inflammation and severely weaken your immune system
    • These foods includes things like gluten, grains, legumes, commercial eggs, processed soy, processed dairy, commercial meats and chicken, etc.
  • Use Oil of Oregano. It’s a natural and extremely powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial 
  • Use Activated Charcoal capsules when you don’t “trust” the meal you’re about to eat
  • Use raw honey: it’s also an excellent natural anti-bacterial
  • Eat smaller quantities of food more frequently: this helps avoid energy being diverted towards digestion instead of defense

Focus all your forces on the biggest threat – minimize multiple threats

Basic rule of defense: concentrate your forces on the biggest threat.
That last thing you need when fighting off a cold is to have your defense forces get diverted to deal with some other emergency. What could these be?

  • Dealing with inflammation arising from inflammatory foods (we talked about that)
  • Dealing with inflammation arising from hard exercise / training – so reduce exercise intensity and duration, and sometimes take a few days completely off (know how your body reacts)
  • Avoid exposure to environmental pollutants: dust, pollution, stale air (get out of the office frequently and aerate your house), chemical products/detergents, etc.

Get some sun and R&R

Have you seen these pics of WWII soliders sitting in the sun in Europe? (WWII history is my obsession). It’s important for soldiers to get some R&R (rest and relaxation) and sun exposure.

Relaxing your body and mind will allow you to divert resources to train more soldiers, let the injured ones recover and prepare a stronger army

Sun exposure lets you produce Vitamin D, a critical component of the defense mechanism as well. (Note however that if you’re following a strict low-fat diet, you won’t have the raw materials to make VitD and you still have to supplement). 

My personal protocol: 

  • Avoid all types of inflammatory foods
  • Be extra-careful with avoiding them when flying, stressed at work, training hard, or exposed to germs
  • Minimize other stressors when I feel myself fighting off a cold: reduce training, increase sleep
  • Increase intake of anti-oxidants when highly exposed to germs: I increase VitC, E, Omega 3 and add Glutathione before getting on flights
  • Take activated charcoal before meals “I don’t trust”
  • Frequent cold exposure: to teach my body to deal with it without utilizing defense resources

What about vaccines? 

I’m personally not a fan. They work for some and not for others, and rarely do they cover all strains of germs. My biggest issue with them however is that they’re all based on egg albumen, which in itself is highly inflammatory (and I don’t think they’re obtaining the egg albumen from organic free-range chickens!).