The best and easiest plan to support your immune system and help fight off infections this flu season
Quick 4 Minute Read (And well worth it)
Resilience to viruses has never been more important than during this flu season – and resilience is a strategy not just a supplement (although our immunity stack is a great help) so we’ve together these small steps to help you make the most of your immunity in just short three weeks.
It is clear from looking at the published research that people who are overweight and suffering from conditions associated with (but not exclusive to) obesity, are at significantly increased risk of complications from many infections like the flu.
The underlying root cause of conditions that compromise our immune system’s response to infection are related to lifestyle (fueled by the environments in which we grow up, live and work) and dietary changes along with other strategies can rapidly and substantially improve many of these risk factors. There are a good number of preventable and modifiable lifestyle factors that lead to an immune system that is not as resilient as it could be.
A Go Condition action plan
A solid three-week immune system reboot plan is one centered on nutritious food, regulating and reducing inflammation (which Go Condition is shown to help), combating insulin resistance and improving overall metabolic health.
The goals are to;
- Lose excess body fat in a sustainable and enjoyable way, which will improve metabolic health irrespective of weight loss.
- Support normal immune function and make you more resilient to fight infection through food, nutrition and lifestyle measures.
- Help control blood glucose and the need for medication.
- Significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia and cancer.
This plan is all about eating well, moving your body daily, doing breathing exercises, and improving your sleep habits. Also you should be aiming to reduce your stress and improve your mental well-being by making a concerted effort to spend time with friends and family (even if only over Zoom)!
Step 1. Move, at least 5 times per week. Ideally outdoors (to build vitamin D)
We know that prolonged sitting and being more sedentary in general increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Regular cardiovascular exercise has the strongest evidence base when it comes to reducing the risk of many diseases. It has even been shown to significantly reduce insulin resistance within three months for those who start off with a sedentary lifestyle, even without weight loss.
Aim to go for at-least a brisk walk that leaves you slightly breathless for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week. If you want to be very precise, then measuring your heart rate provides a more objective measure of activity intensity. You want to aim to get your heart rate within a range of 50 to 70 per cent of your maximum, which is related to your age.
The reason for this heart-rate range is based on numerous studies which reveal beneficial physiological changes in the body start to occur once you exercise at this level, including reduced insulin resistance.
To calculate this range, you deduct your age from 220. For example, if you’re aged 40, the figure would be 180. You will need to aim to get your heart rate working at between 50 and 70 per cent of that number, which in this instance is 90 to 126 beats per minute.
If you’re starting to exercise like this for the first time then perhaps start in bouts of 10 minutes per day and build up gradually over a few weeks. Listen to your body; if you start to feel exhausted, your body is telling you that you’re overdoing it.
You are aiming to move as much as you can. Do not sit for more than 45 minutes at a time – take two-minute movement breaks. Take the stairs wherever possible and, most importantly, move in ways that you enjoy, whether it be dancing, cycling or whatever floats your boat.
Step 2. Breathe…consciously and conscientiously
Psychological stress is a significant contributing risk factor in up to 90 per cent of all chronic diseases but the human body and mind can quickly achieve balance and freedom from stress by using a holistic approach.
Focusing on your breathing is one of the easiest and best ways to activate the part of the nervous system that is involved in reducing stress – the parasympathetic nervous system.
Within just a few seconds of deliberately slowing your breath, our heart rate will also slow down. I suggest you do the following breathing technique every day when you can;
- Choose a comfortable position that allows you to let go of any tension. Start by paying attention to where your breath is located; notice if you are breathing with your belly or using the upper chest. When you exhale, gently soften the shoulders and let go of any tension. Free up the neck with gentle micro-movements from right to left. When you feel ready, softly close your eyes and let your body sink into a deep state of stillness. Notice how your skin starts to let go of the tension too.
- Gently direct your awareness towards the lower portion of your rib cage and notice the gentle sideways movement as you inhale and exhale. Focus on the softness of your breath and avoid creating resistance at the end of the inhalation. This exercise is about letting go.
- If you prefer something more directed, just breathe in slowly counting for five seconds in your head, and then breathe out. Another helpful technique is to breathe in for four seconds through your nose, hold it for seven and then exhale for eight seconds.
Start by doing a breathing exercise such as these for 10 minutes every day and slowly build up to 20 or 30 minutes.
Step 3. Eat the rainbow
Focus on getting as much of your nutrition as you can from fruits and vegetables. What fruit and veg should I be eating?
- Fibrous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, egg-plant, spinach, onions, peppers, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cucumber, celery, tomatoes and zucchini.
- Low-sugar fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, avocados, lemons and apricots
- Medium-sugar fruits are apples, pears, oranges, peaches
Sometimes when you can't get enough of these Go Condition's health and performance supplement is a great gap filler.
Step 4. Avoid hidden and added sugars of every type and stripe
All added sugars, fruit juice, honey and syrups. Also avoid over consuming excess quantities of the high-sugar fruits, such as bananas, pineapple, mangoes and cherries.
- Avoid all low-quality carbohydrates and starchy foods that lack fiber. This includes all packaged carbohydrates, pastries, cakes, biscuits, pasta, couscous and rice. One of the best alternatives that doesn’t tend to spike blood glucose is quinoa.
- Substitute cauliflower rice for rice and zucchini or celeriac for pasta.
- Avoid all highly-processed foods. If it comes in a packet and has five or more ingredients, especially if containing additives and preservatives, avoid it.
Step 5. Try fasting to improve metabolic health
Intermittent fasting, or time-restricted eating, has attracted a lot of recent attention. At a very basic level, intermittent fasting allows the body to use up stored energy by burning up excess body fat. During periods of prolonged fasting, such as 16 or even 24 hours, the body switches from using glucose as its primary source of fuel to using fat in the form of ketones.
Again, although intermittent fasting may help you lose weight, a number of studies have shown that many of the benefits of intermittent fasting are independent of weight loss. They include improvements in lowering insulin, controlling blood glucose levels, lowering blood pressure, aiding abdominal fat loss and enhancing exercise endurance. In other words, fasting improves metabolic health.
If and when you feel confident that you can introduce some form of fasting into your daily routine, do so over a few weeks by gradually reducing the time window in which you eat from 12 hours to eight hours. What you’re ultimately aiming for is to fast for 16 hours per day, i.e. for your eating window to be between 10am and 6pm; 11am and 7pm or 12pm to 8pm.
During that eight-hour window eat according to your hunger levels, still sticking with the plan to avoid ultra-processed foods and refined carbohydrates. If you feel you need to eat three meals in that short time frame, that’s fine, but many people get by with two and include healthy snacks in between.
When you make this switch you may experience hunger, irritability and impaired ability to concentrate. These side effects usually disappear quickly, so don’t give up too early! During a fast you can still have as many non-caloric drinks as you like, such as water, black coffee, green tea or herbal teas. If you’re stressed, keep caffeine to a minimum.
Step 6. Get social…even if at a distance, and especially outdoors (to top up vitamin D)
Make an effort to increase time spent with friends and family each week. It’s not only good for our mental health but helps reduce stress too. Research reveals having meaningful relationships is the biggest predictor of happiness and is also linked to health and longevity.
Step 7. Sleep...a lot, especially before midnight
Research reveals that once you drop below seven hours of sleep a night, insulin resistance starts to increase. So make sure you get as much sleep as you can. Turn off the noise and screens as early as you can at night…it’s a good rule of thumb to try to get a third of your sleep in before midnight. Something all new parents know is that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after.
The overall lifestyle changes in this plan will also lead to longer and more productive sleep.
The major cause of poor sleep is stress, so you need to find ways of mitigating your own stresses through activities such as mindfulness meditation and by taking regular moderate exercise.
Try to switch off from social media and computer screens at least two hours before bed. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime, especially if your sleep is already poor, as the stimulant effect of caffeine can continue for many hours.
How to keep at it.
If this is to become a lifestyle that you follow easily, then try sticking to the 80/20 rule.Follow the plan at least 80 per cent of the time and if you want a treat, such as a sweet dessert, a take-out or a different kind of carbohydrate, you can indulge in them 20 per cent of the time without feeling too guilty or blowing your plan.
..and don't forget to keep our immunity stack handy to help keep you on track and compensate for any gaps.