Do viruses really have their own “season” when they go out and start infecting people? No, of course not, we are the ones that create a suitable environment for them to grow in. The environment we create for our body constantly changes, while we’re constantly being attacked by various pathogens. When we start drinking more, eating without control, and get stressed out (usually during the holidays), we seem to enter the flu season as well.
Flu season is the time when we bombard ourselves with things like alcohol and sugar. Alcohol is known to depress the regenerative HGH (human growth hormone) at night during sleep, while sugar may depress the immune system for up to few hours.
Cortisol vs. Immune System
The relationship between the immune system and stress is often pointed out today, but people still tend to overlook this connection. There is something called a state of “fight or flight”. It is a natural defense mechanism – when some kind of danger approaches, the body releases cortisol (the stress hormone) to prepare you for the attack, as well as norepinephrine and epinephrine to mobilize glucose into the bloodstream. Cortisol levels drop back to normal once the stress is gone.
However, when in a state of constant stress (that may last for days, weeks, or months), the body responds in the same way, but this time cortisol levels get chronically high. Handling cortisol for extended periods of time leads to a decrease in immunoglobulin A, which is the major antibody that protects us from pathogens. When it drops, the immune system becomes vulnerable.
Should You Train when Sick?
Imaging you’ve been training for months, staying focused, minding your diet, and resting well. However, you haven’t been treating yourself very well during the last couple of weeks due to other stuff that is going on in your life. You’ve been indulging more in alcohol and sugar, while sleep has been sparse. One morning you woke up with body aches, a runny nose, and a sore throat. Should you avoid exercising?
Exercise can sometimes be what you need, but it depends on the severity of your condition. If the flu has you nailed to the bed, you need to save your strength, while exercising can get you to slip into a catabolic state. Listen to your body and opt out of exercise if you have a fever and body aches. However, if the symptoms are just a sore throat and a runny nose, there’s no reason not to hit the gym.
When sick, your body needs to have an abundance of minerals that will help reduce recovery time and support it in every possible way. Ascorbic acid, better known as Vitamin C, is important for the immune system, because it stimulates white blood cells. Take it every 3 hours, because blood levels peak in 2 to 3 hours.
Another essential fighter against the flu is Vitamin D. A lot of people are deficient in it, which is bad news, because it can lead to hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illnesses. Vitamin D plays a supportive role to the immune system due to its anti-microbial effects and anti-inflammatory actions.
Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid, and is important for the functioning of your immune system. Besides vitamins, which you should load up on in natural or safe synthetic forms, you can also supplement with vitamins such as those from Fusion Health that are created to address the flu and other types of common health problems.
Sleep is the Best Prevention
Better prevent than to treat. If you don’t watch yourself, you’re going to get injured. When injured, you can’t work out, and if you can’t work out – progress can’t be made. It’s the same with the flu. How to protect the immune system and keep it up and running? Get some deep and restful sleep, because it’s the time when the body regenerates and recovers. Dim the lights, turn off the computer, disconnect your smartphone from your home Wi-Fi, and de-stress before sleep with some chamomile tea.
When it comes to staying healthy, prevention is crucial. Too much stress can create holes in your immune system through which pathogens simply can’t wait to come in. As for working out, listen to your body. If you feel that you have the energy to perform your pull up and bench presses, hit the gym, but don’t forget some tissues to blow that runny nose.
About the author
Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogospere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter at or in a tea shop. You can find more of her work on Ripped.Me, an excellent website detailing everything from healthy recipes to workout motivation.