5 VARIABLES THAT INFLUENCE IMMUNE HEALTH

5 VARIABLES THAT INFLUENCE IMMUNE HEALTH

The cold season is among us!  Left and right, it seems just about everyone is getting sick.  One of the unfortunate results of feeing under the weather is that we miss out on our physical activity.  And rightfully so!  No one enjoys exercising when they are sick.

(by the way, if you prefer to WATCH instead of reading, click the link here or view the embedded video below!)

There are many different variabes that can help and hinder your immune system.  For the sake of this article, we will focus on 5.

  1. Nutrition
  2. Exercise
  3. Life Stress
  4. Sleep
  5. Environmental Extremes

 

 

Nutrition.  This should not be a big surprise! If we are not feeding the body what it needs, it will not be working optimally.  Chronically not eating enough calories is also a part of this mechanism.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Consider Vitamin D supplementation (especially during the cold seasons)
  • Replenish what you expend (make sure you eat enough calories!)

 

Exercise. After very long and heavy exercise bouts (>90 minutes), it’s not uncommon to have a small dip in your immune system to take a bit of a dip for up to 24hrs.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Use gradual increments in load (~10% per week)
  • Have more frequent shorter training sessions rather that fewer very long sessions
  • Implement recovery strategies post-workout
  • Schedule a de-load week every few weeks

 

Life Stress.  Being in a state of constant low-level stress can impact your sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system and your neuroendocrine system, all of which can impact your immune function.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Monitor mood and anxiety levels
  • Implement stress management techniques, such as meditation

 

Sleep.  Although one night of missed sleep may not impact your immune function, chronic sleep disturbances can raise inflammation markers in the blood.  Disruption of your normal circadian rhythm (AKA, your biological clock) can also negatively impact immune function.  This is most often seen in shift-workers and those travelling to new time zones.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Sleep at least 7hrs/night
  • Monitor quality of sleep with wearable devices
  • Nap during the daytime
  • No electronic screens close to bedtime
    • If not possible, invest in pair of blue light blocking glasses
  • If travelling to new time zone, acclimatize to new sleep schedule ahead of travel departure

 

Environmental Extremes.  Being in either very hot of very cold weather for long periods challenges your central nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system.  These systems also play a huge role in producing your immunoregulatory hormones.  Thus if they are already under lots of stress, immune function may be impacted.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Contrast baths can help boots immune system function
  • Avoid breathing large amounts of cold dry air, especially if exercising outdoors during the colder climates

 

 

“I’m a shift worker and it’s not possible for me to change jobs.  Does this mean I’ll always be prone to get sick?”

Not necessarily!  It is my opinion that we can mitigate certain factors by “overcompensating” in the other factors.  For instance, because in your case, sleep will always be a problem.  Thus, we need to investigate the other factors that we talked about and find ways where we can “overcompensate”.  For example, make meditation part of your routine (even if you are not feeling stressed), be a little stricter with your nutrition and make sure you implement naps as often as you can.  (the linked video has a great visual representation of this concept of “overcompensating” – I recommended giving it a watch!)

 

I hope this article helped shed some light on ways that we can help boots our immune system this cold season.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our facility and book a complimentary consultation!

 

Stay healthy!

 

Dr. Eric St-Onge

 

 

Additional readings:

Walsh, N. P. (2018). Recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes. European Journal of Sport Science, 0(0), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2018.1449895

Mountjoy, M., Burke, L., Ackerman, K. E., Blauwet, C., Lebrun, C., Melin, A., … Budgett, R. (2018). International Olympic Committee ( IOC ) Consensus Statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport ( RED-S ): 2018 Update, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099193

 

 

Dr. Eric St-Onge

Dr. Eric St-Onge graduated with a B.Sc. (Hon) from McMaster University, and subsequently obtained his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic College. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. Dr. St-Onge understands that there is no single method that will treat all injuries and movement dysfunctions. This is why he uses an integrative approach to care. A lifelong learner, he is determined to make the best decisions for his patients for the best outcomes. He recently completed a 2-year intensive post-graduate Sports Sciences fellowship at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. St-Onge competed internationally in Kettlebell Sport, a form of weightlifting. He has also achieved the North American record in one of the events. Dr. St-Onge has endured sport injuries himself and understands the physical and emotional strain that come along with it. He abides by the rule that the best way to treat an injury is to prevent it all together.
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