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It seems as though everyone is getting sick right now.  Did you know those long runs we’re doing week in and week out actually suppress out immune systems?  It’s true, endurance athletes are chronically taxing their immune systems with the training routines they keep.
Did you know that 70-80% of your immune system is located in your gut?  It is interesting how many long distance athletes also deal with gut issues when training and competing.
Supporting your immune system can actually make your gut more resilient to running those long distances saving you from the pain of what goes wrong in the poop department.
Whether the latest cold/flu has gotten you or not, the following pointers can help you recover faster and avoid getting sick altogether.

Food Do’s & Don’ts for Boosting Immune System:

Close up Healthy Fresh Salad Ingredients

The Don’ts:

  • Sugar!!!!
  • Alcohol
  • Processed Foods
  • Fast Foods
  • Foods You’re Sensitive To – Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, etc.

The Do’s:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Grass-Fed Butter (I LOVE Kerrygold Irish Butter)
  • Avocado Oil
  • All Cruciferous Veggies
  • Lemons (Squeeze juice from half to one lemon in a glass of lukewarm water and consume first thing in the morning before anything else)
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric (Curcumin)
  • All Berries
  • Fermented Foods

Don’t get overwhelmed by the food restrictions if you consume a lot of these.  Instead, focus on adding in more of the Do’s.  You’ll find that, eventually, you won’t be consuming or be drawn to the Don’ts as much.  Try to buy organic of these when you can as well.  The cleaner the source, the better.  Here’s a list of the produce you should absolutely be buying organic.

Immune Boosting Nutrients:

  1. Probiotics:
    Heal and enhance the function of your gut.  Eating yogurt does not work.  Studies have shown you’d have to consume on average 42 tubs per day to get enough probiotic in.  By PicsArt_03-03-03.21.25then, you’ve consumed so much sugar you’ve just killed off the good bacteria and fed the bad bacteria.  Best food sources to stimulate growth of the good bacteria are your fermented foods: sauerkraut, kombucha, anything pickled, etc.  There are a tons of recipes online for making your own too.  Just google it!
  2. D3:
    Acts as a natural antibiotic in your body.  If you feel like you’re starting to come down with something, you can megadose for about 3 days on D3 to help nip it without risking overdosing on it.  Try to get out into the sunlight often.  A little sunlight without the sunblock won’t harm you and will help your body be able to produce it’s own vitamin D.  Otherwise, food sources that generally contain some vitamin D are salmon, sardines, tuna and then milk, milk alternatives that have been fortified with vitamin D.  Note, you need the full-fat versions in order to be able to absorb the vitamin D.  It’s a fat-soluble vitamin.
  3. Curcumin (Turmeric):
    Major anti-inflammatory benefits, healing to the gut, cardiovascular system and the nervous system as well.  You can add the spice of turmeric to your food quite easily.  My recovery protein shake always contains turmeric, along with black pepper.  The black pepper helps the body be able to absorb the turmeric.  I also throw in ginger and cinnamon.  To me, it’s quite tasty.

When purchasing your nutrition, I highly recommend getting it from a medical professional: chiropractor, acupuncturist, naturopath, etc. as they generally will have nutrition that is safer, cleaner, more effective and pharmaceutical/professional in it’s grade.  If this isn’t an option, then please get your nutrition from  your local health food store.  Ask the person in charge of that section to help you out.  Please DO NOT purchase your nutrition from places like Costco, Sams, Walmart, etc.  One of my favorite quotes – “The most expensive supplement is the one your body cannot use.”  If you have any other questions about nutrition or want a source that is professional, pharmaceutical, meets and exceeds all GMP, NSF, NSF Sport and TGA standards, here’s the line I use in my office with my patients and consume myself: PureShock Nutrition.

One other important variable that impacts the immune system is sleep and rest.  Try to shoot for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.  If that’s not doable, opt for as much uninterrupted sleep as you can.  Make sure the sleep you’re getting is quality sleep.  For more tips and pointers for optimizing sleep, check out Top 5 Sleep Hacks.  Also, no over-training please!  Pay attention to how  you’re feeling.  If you’re constantly sore and tired, maybe it’s more important for you to rest than train that day.  Over-training not only increases your risk of injury, but it also negatively impacts your immune system.

You can watch the Periscope interview with Dr. Kelly here where we go a little more in-depth on this topic.

Here is Lauren’s (Ultra Mama contributor) typical daily nutrition: 

Pro-biotics with 1/2tbs ginger and 1tbs lemon juice

Sweet potato scramble-  1/2 sweet potato, 1 cup arugula, 1/2 avacado sea salt and pepper + my “anti-inflammatory” smoothie

Pumpkin seeds and a Kind bar (gluten free version), coconut milk latte.

Buffalo burger and salad or some kind of rice pasta dish with sauteed zucchini and squash

Banana or apple.  Sometimes on a day I am working out a ton I make some homemade salsa and have chips and salsa.

Salmon, rice and veggies or a Udi’s gluten free pepperoni pizza with berries for dessert.

Lauren’s anti-inflammatory smoothie recipe:

  • Cinnamon
  • A splash of orange juice
  • Coconut milk
  • 1 cup spinach (not shown)
  • Cucumber
  • Hemp Hearts or flaxseeds
  • Frozen mixed berries

Happy training and here’s to stronger immune systems and becoming more ultra!



Scott is the founder of Becoming Ultra and spends most of his time with his family and ideas to get people moving!