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Health & Disease

5 Proven Ways to Bullet Proof Your Immune System to Avoid the Cold or Flu

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Any form of cold or virus only sets you further away from your physique goals.

When a cold or the flu occurs we typically scramble, trying to find ways to shorten its length and decrease or mask the severity of the symptoms.

While there are plenty of over-the-counter medications to help alleviate cold symptoms, using preventative measures to avoid catching it in the first place is obviously key.

With heavy training, a strict calorie intake and external stress, athletes are highly susceptible to the cold and flu. While it’s true that exercise at moderate intensity boosts your immune system, those who train everyday can actually be far more susceptible to illness.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to boost your immune system and reduce your risk of infections, cold and flu. Here are 5 proven methods to prevent the cold and flu.

Garlic For The Cold & Flu

Garlic is one of my favorite health supplements and has been used to boost the immune system for centuries.

Interestingly, research has determined that garlic is beneficial in terms of maintaining a healthy and balanced immune system. This means that garlic allows the immune system to function optimally in response to threats, such as a cold virus (1, 5, 10).

In fact research has revealed that if you supplement with garlic regularly, the incidence in which you will contract a cold virus is significantly reduced, compared to if you were to not taking a garlic supplement (5).

Additionally, garlic consumption may also reduce how sever your cold is if you do actually come down with one (10). One such study revealed that supplementing with garlic not only reduced symptoms of colds once contracted, but reduced the number of days during which individuals were ill, by close to 50%!!

Even better, the same study showed a reduction in symptoms and even reduced the duration of these symptoms by almost 58% (10). Based on these findings, it makes sense to regularly consume garlic for prevention and a reduction in cold symptoms if you do happen to contract one.

To supplement with garlic, take around 1 to 2 grams per day.

Although consuming the required amount from real garlic can be tough (you need to eat several cloves per day), if you do decide to consume whole garlic, be sure to either crush or chew the garlic. The reason for this is that Allicin, the main bioactive compound in garlic which provides these benefits, is only released once certain membranes in the garlic clove are destroyed (2).

Get A Good Night’s Rest To Reduce Cold/Flu Risk

 It’s no secret that regular and high quality sleep is beneficial for health, fat loss and our immune system.

As you may expect, getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night can really help prevent contracting a cold virus, even if you are directly exposed to it (4).

In fact, a recent study treated volunteers with nasal drops that contained the cold virus. Afterwards, the researchers monitored their sleep habits for the next two weeks.

They revealed that participants who slept less than 7 hours per night were almost 300% more likely to show symptoms of the cold compared to subjects who had at least 8 hours per night (4).

These amazing findings really emphasize how important sleep is for cold/flu prevention. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night and ensure it is of good quality (i.e. a deep sleep, without interruption). You can learn how to optimize your sleep in this article.

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Have A Consistent Sleep/Wake Cycle To Reduce The Risk of a Cold

Another reason sleep is so important for maintaining good health is that your immune response to threats, such as the rhinovirus (cold), is highly correlated with a consistent circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle (7, 9, 12).

The same study mentioned earlier using nasal drops containing a virus, revealed that participants with less than 92% sleep efficiency were 5.5 times more likely to develop symptoms than participants with at least 98% efficiency (4).

Sleep efficiency relates to the time needed to actually start sleeping after lying down in bed. The shorter the time, the more efficient you are. Typically, if you have a consistent sleep/wake cycle, your efficiency of sleep will improve.

Additionally, research indicates that almost every cell in our body works according to a circadian rhythm, including immune cells and substances they release, such as cytokines, which help strengthen the immune system against future threats (9).

To optimize your circadian rhythm and your immune function, try going to sleep and waking up at a similar time each day. Before long, you’ll begin to promote a regular circadian rhythm that may help boost your immune response to threats such as the cold.

Finally, remember a regular circadian rhythm also equates to better general health, more energy and can even help with fat loss.

Use Zinc Supplement to Boost Your Immune System

Zinc is an awesome mineral that, along with many other things, has immune boosting benefits.

Studies show that supplementation of zinc seems to be associated with a reduced incidence of infection, meaning that it’s likely that you’ll become sick less often if you supplement with it (11).

Additionally, a recent meta-analysis of the effectiveness of zinc supplementation revealed that high doses of zinc, taken in the form of lozenges within 24 hours of cold onset, can reliably reduce both the duration of the cold and the severity of symptoms (13).

Based on the evidence, using zinc regularly may help reduce the chance of contracting a cold virus and may help reduce symptoms if taken immediately upon onset.

Aim for around 30-50mg of Zinc per day, this can be taken by itself or in a popular ZMA mix before bed.

Fasting To Prevent The Common Cold

Periodic fasting also seems to be a fairly effective preventative measure when it comes to the common cold.

Studies have revealed that periodic fasting (extended periods of time without eating) promotes a process called autophagy in which proteins, called proteasomes, breakdown unnecessary or damaged parts of a cell (3).

Interestingly, this process also plays a role in degrading other microorganisms that have invaded the cell, such as the cold virus (8).

It seems that prolonged periods of fasting up-regulates this autophagy process. In doing so, fasting may be a reliable means to help rid the body of viruses via the autophagy process (3, 8).

Fasting comes in many forms. Intermittent fasting, for instance, periods, when you fast for 8-16 hours per day, seem to be the most popular form as they can be practiced on a daily basis. This fasting period can be achieved relatively easily, simply by eating the last meal of the day early and then postponing the first meal the following day.

Otherwise, it is likely that other forms of fasting, such as alternate day fasting, in which you fast every other day, will be just as effective as a daily practice.

Bullet Proof Immune System; Bye-Bye Cold & Flu

There you have it, 5 research-proven techniques to bullet-proof your immune system and avoid the dreaded cold or flu.

Rather than waiting until you already contract it and then trying to treat the symptoms, take preventative measure to stop it before it even starts. Remember, once it hits the body, it will likely take several days to fix, even with these advanced methods.

The use of supplements such as garlic and zinc seem to provide promising results when it comes to avoiding getting a cold and will also provide benefit if you do get hit by it.

Of course, ample sleep and a regular sleep-wake cycle may also provide immense benefit when it comes to regulating your immune system’s response to threats such as the cold virus.

Apply these strategies today and see how you benefit. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with a friend who’s always getting sick (they’ll thank you later!).

References

1. Arreola, R., Quintero-Fabián, S., López-Roa, R. I., Flores-Gutiérrez, E. O., Reyes-Grajeda, J. P., Carrera-Quintanar, L., & Ortuño-Sahagún, D. (2015). Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. Journal of immunology research, 2015.

2. Borlinghaus, J., Albrecht, F., Gruhlke, M. C., Nwachukwu, I. D., & Slusarenko, A. J. (2014). Allicin: chemistry and biological properties. Molecules, 19(8), 12591-12618.

3. Chen, L., Wang, K., Long, A., Jia, L., Zhang, Y., Deng, H., … & Wang, Y. (2017). Fasting-induced hormonal regulation of lysosomal function. Cell Research.

4. Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Alper, C. M., Janicki-Deverts, D., & Turner, R. B. (2009). Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Archives of internal medicine, 169(1), 62-67.

5. Josling, P. (2001). Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Advances in therapy, 18(4), 189-193.

6. Kyo, E., Uda, N., Kasuga, S., & Itakura, Y. (2001). Immunomodulatory effects of aged garlic extract. The Journal of nutrition, 131(3), 1075S-1079S.

7. Labrecque, N., & Cermakian, N. (2015). Circadian clocks in the immune system. Journal of biological rhythms, 30(4), 277-290.

8. Levine, B., & Kroemer, G. (2008). Autophagy in the pathogenesis of disease. Cell, 132(1), 27-42.

9. Miaskowski, C., Lee, K., Dunn, L., Dodd, M., Aouizerat, B. E., West, C., … & Swift, P. (2011). Sleep-Wake Circadian Activity Rhythm Parameters and Fatigue in Oncology Patients Prior to the Initiation of Radiation Therapy. Cancer nursing, 34(4), 255.

10. Nantz, M. P., Rowe, C. A., Muller, C. E., Creasy, R. A., Stanilka, J. M., & Percival, S. S. (2012). Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical Nutrition, 31(3), 337-344.

11. Prasad, A. S., Beck, F. W., Bao, B., Fitzgerald, J. T., Snell, D. C., Steinberg, J. D., & Cardozo, L. J. (2007). Zinc supplementation decreases incidence of infections in the elderly: effect of zinc on generation of cytokines and oxidative stress. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(3), 837-844.

12. Scheiermann, C., Kunisaki, Y., & Frenette, P. S. (2013). Circadian control of the immune system. Nature Reviews Immunology, 13(3), 190-198.

13. Singh, M., & Das, R. R. (2011). Zinc for the common cold. The Cochrane Library.

About the author

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Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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