“What a catch!”
You can say it about a fly ball to left field. You can say it about landing a stunning marlin. You can say it about living with the love of your life.
Nobody, though, says it about a nasty cold, the flu, or any other viral gunk that can infest your body and make you feel miserable, weak, and like your sinuses caught the wrong end of a Mike Tyson uppercut.
Unfortunately for me, my DNA has dealt me the “I’ll catch anything” gene. I’m just like my mother, who would catch any bug or sniffle that came around. I’ve been like that since I was a kid. (My wife is the exact opposite—she rarely catches anything and if she does, it’s usually very mild.)
I am lucky in that I do seem to fend off whatever I get very quickly, and I chalk that up to both a genetic disposition to have a fast-fighting immune system, as well as to doing things that can boost my immunity on my own.
Especially as we age, we need to be aware of how we can take care of our immune systems, which are even more compromised when we have other risk factors like high blood pressure and other conditions.
Over the past few years, I have been really taking time to learn about the best ways to bolster immunity (some of this was pandemic-related, and some of it was just about diving deep into this fascinating world of science).
Your immune system, of course, is your body’s complex ecosystem of cells and processes that go through an intricate process to protect you when foreign invaders decide they want to make space in your body—and then result in any number of unwanted symptoms.
What we know from the research is that there are several things that can help improve the function of your immune system. For example, sleep—one of your body’s best self-improvement mechanisms—helps immunity. In addition, vitamins C and D, as well as zinc, have immune-boosting effects. I consider them all an important part of my own cellular-boosting arsenal.
I may not always be able to prevent myself from catching every bug (thanks, genetics!), but I can do my best to help make sure to minimize the damage—and bounce back as fast as I can.
What to Do When You Get Sick
So what’s the first thing you do when you feel a cold coming on?
It’s an interesting question, right? Some people ignore it and hope the nastiness just goes away. Some people immediately hit the bed and cozy up to a 12-hour date with Netflix. Certainly, there are so many variables at play here—your symptoms and their severity being the big ones.
For me, I can tell exactly when something is coming. I almost always feel a little achy in the shoulders and neck, and that’s my sign that a cold or flu is knocking on my anatomical door.
Rather than welcoming those little buggers in with open arms, I try to slam the door on them. My approach:
- I first grab the supplement of N-acetyl cysteine, which has been shown to boost immune strength. Many times, it helps abort the episode so it won’t turn in to a full-blown cold or flu. It’s my go-to first line of defense. I also make sure to have vitamins C and D, as well as zinc.
- Next, I won’t try to fight it. I try to get as much rest as possible right from the start. That doesn’t mean I sleep 24 hours a day, but I know that rest and sleep allow my immune system to work better, so I let them do their job. In between rest, I like to mix in short sessions of exercise (like on the treadmill or riding the bike). My body craves sweat when I start to feel something come on, and this method has always worked for me—it’s something I’ve really been doing since college, alternating rest with a little exercise. If you’re able to take a steam shower, that also helps with clearing out lungs and cutting episodes short.
- I don’t eat a lot, but I do hydrate often—usually water with some electrolytes. I find that a minimalistic approach to eating works really well, as does the old standby, chicken soup or some kind of bone-broth-based soup.
Wash Your Hands of It All
Certainly, one of the most effective things you can do to protect yourself against enemy invaders is to wash your hands. In one study in the Journal of Environmental Health, researchers found that only 5 percent of the two-thirds of people who actually washed their hands with soap and water in public restrooms washed them long enough to remove germs. (One in 10 didn’t wash their hands at all.) Aim for 20 seconds at a time and scrub them thoroughly with soap.
Your Favorite Recipes
Chicken soup is the long-time favorite food to fight off sickness. Do you have a favorite recipe? If so, send it over and I’ll share it with our readers. I’d love to see a photo too. Send to DrRobSinnott@AtthePeakofHealth.com.