Wonder Woman Fitness

The Winter Blues

Posted on: November 14, 2010

Cold cartoon

The winter blues

As I suffer from Ulcerative Colitis I have an impaired immune system which unfortunately gives me an increased risk of catching the cold.  Like most people I can catch a cold at this time of year quite easily.  As your walking around, on the bus or in the shops you will hear or see someone sniffling and coughing away.  It unfortunately affects us all.  Boo!!!! This is particularly annoying if you are training for an event or trying to do your winter training, a wee cold can knock you back a few weeks and if you are like me when your sick you like to feed a cold (with all the wrong stuff) lol

 However there are some things that seem to protect us from picking up colds.  One of those things is moderate consistent exercise.  So the good news, and this even comes from research, is that there appears to be a link between moderate exercise and a strong immune system through the increased speed in the circulation of immune cells around the body which are able to battle bacteria and viruses more efficiently.

 But beware!!!! There is also evidence that too much exercise may decrease your immunity.  If you are training extremely hard the body produces hormones which temporarily lower your immunity.  During extreme training or doing too much training your body produces extra cortisol and adrenaline which raise the blood pressure, increase cholesterol levels and can suppress the immune system.  So listen to your body if you are run down, doing too much training, or have symptoms of over training (increased resting heart rate, slower recovery heart rate, irritability, general heaviness and fatigue) then you may have to tone down your training or take some days off from it, it will do you good I promise.

 I am sure you will have heard people say “it’ll either kill me or cure me” in reference to training when ill or having a cold.  So should you exercise with a cold?  The answer is it all depends on your symptoms.  Your immune system is already being over worked trying to fight your infection so adding the exercise into the equation you are adding additional stress and could undermine your recovery.  Normally if you have mild cold symptoms and no fever then possibly very light or moderate exercise may help you feel a bit better and could actually boost your immune system.  Intense exercise will only make things worse.

 Other things that will help boost our immune system:

  • Eat a balanced diet.  The immune system depends on many vitamins and minerals for optimal function.  These can be found in a balanced nutritious diet with fruit, vegetables, protein, fats and carbohydrates.  A good rule is to eat 10 – 15 calories of “desired body weight”.  For example if your ideal weight is 170lbs then consume 1700-2500 calories a day (1700 for sedentary individuals and 2500 for extremely active people).
  • Avoid rapid weight loss.  Low calorie diets, long term fasting and rapid weight loss have been shown to impair immune function.  Also losing weight while training heavily is not good for the immune system.
  • Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep or not getting enough can reduce immune functioning making you susceptible to illness. Also make sure you get at least 8 hours sleep a night if possible (6 at a minimum) as major sleep disruption has been linked to immune suppression.
  • Continue a moderate exercise program.  Try to maintain a consistent exercise routine over the cold periods.  Aim to do some form of moderate exercise (i.e. swimming, exercise class, gym session) at least 3 times per week for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Limit alcohol intake.  Although this time of year it is the season to be jolly alcohol can be dehydrating and it may increase your resistance to bacteria.
  • As I have said before, listen to your body.  If you are less than 100% you will feel better and recover faster if you let yourself rest.

 As I was speaking to one of the members in the gym where I work she told me of a few vitamins and minerals she has been taking and how much they have helped her battle the winter blues.  So I decided to increase my vitamin and mineral intake through supplementation.  So here are the tablets that I am going to try for 2 months:

  • Vitamin C which is a big time immune booster.  Can be found in citrus foods but I have to limit them with my colitis.  The benefits of Vitamin C in your diet may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease and even skin wrinkling.
  • Zinc which increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively.  It also helps the pancreas make insulin and keep normal sugar levels, adds calcium to the bones and teeth and improve brain function.
  • Echinacea when used correctly can be the closest thing to a cure for the common cold.  It stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection.  Unlike antibiotics, which directly attack bacteria, Echinacea makes our own immune cells more efficient at attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells.
  • Gentle Iron.  Iron is efficient in providing a number of benefits including increased brain function, increased muscle health, increases concentration, increases the strength of your immune system and many more.  My body does not absorb iron particularly well and I have to have blood tests every couple of months to check my iron levels.  When I have low iron levels I suffer from decreased energy and I lack in concentration. I have tried iron tablets in the past and let’s say they made me run to the toilet a lot I just couldn’t keep anything in my system.  So gentle Iron is that it’s a gentler supplement of Iron

 I will let you know how I get on with my increased vitamin and mineral dosage…..

 So look after yourself this winter and keep active as this will help keep you healthy and ladies it will certainly get you ready for the LBD you are going to wear at all the Christmas parties, keep active folks…. 

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