Monday, January 16, 2012

How to avoid getting colds and flu

Colds and flu disrupt training and make it a chore to get back into it. Before flu puts a kink in your training regime have a look at my top tips for avoiding getting sick this January. 
Hygiene - Wash your hands with liquid soap, not a bar of soap. Use disposable tissues. Don’t share drinking glasses. Don’t touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth after being exposed to bacteria and viruses. Clean communal surfaces such as stair rails, phones, counter tops and door knobs to avoid hand to hand contamination. Avoid smoking. Smoking acts as a respiratory irritant which increases susceptibility to viruses.
Exercise - Following a regular moderate workout program can boost your T cells (type of white blood cells). However, ongoing intense vigorous exercise has been linked with lowering immune system functioning. Athletes often use the antioxidant quercetin to reduce the risk of developing flu. 
Sleep - Get your full 8 hours. I know Arnold Schwarzenegger swears by 6 hours but I would recommend getting the full 8! Otherwise lack of sleep will weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds and flu.
Flu shot - Not 100% effective, but every little helps. If you hate needles you can try the nasal flu vaccine but it isn’t recommended for children under the age of 5 with asthma/wheezing issues.
Stress - Enduring prolonged periods of stress has been proved to have a negative impact on your body’s immunity. Try meditation, tai chi or yoga to relax. 
Vitamin C - Get it through food, not supplements - because you get all the other good stuff too.  For instance, when you eat an orange you get antioxidant rich flavonoids, magnesium, folate, potassium and vitamin B6. Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins A and E, which in combination with flavonoids and vitamin C help keep your immune system functioning well. There’s no proof that high doses of Vitamin C will prevent you from getting sick. 
Herbs and supplements - Astragalus, echinacea and elderberry help reduce the length of your illness. Take them as soon as you start to feel cold or flu like symptoms. 
Diet - Generally people don’t eat enough vegetables, particularly in Winter. Try adding juices to your diet and fruit with your breakfast. Try to ensure you have fruit or vegetables with every meal. A healthy balanced diet should include lean meats, fish, poultry, low fat dairy, legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds. Lean meat, dairy, eggs and legumes provide the body with amino acids. Lean meats also contain iron and zinc which help support the immune system. Avoid trans fats! Choose healthy fats such as Omega 3 rich fatty acids in oily fish, flaxseed and krill oil. Keep hydrated and avoid sugary drinks. 
Here is what I do for the first 24 hours when I start to feel sick. 
  1. Take ibuprofen regularly for the first 24-48 hours.
  2. Make (from scratch not a can) chicken soup for lunch.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids.
  4. Keep warm.
  5. Take a rest from exercise.
  6. Have a hot Indian curry for dinner (with lots of turmeric in it).
  7. Have an early night. 

Stay happy and heathy! :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Useful stuff you ought to know but no one ever told you...

  • Tanning is an addictive behavior.  Frequent exposure to UV light stimulates areas of the brain associated with reward.  This explains why people keep tanning even though they are aware it increases the risk of skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles. 
  • Exercise is great!  It increases your energy levels and encourages production of seretonin in the brain which results in clearer thinking.  It acts as a stress buster helping you to relax thus improving relationships with your family and co-workers.  The more you engage in exercise the more efficient your body becomes at burning fat rather than storing it.  Regular exercise has been linked to better sex (as you have improved body image, energy levels and self esteem).  Exercise can lift your mood.  It reduces the symptoms of PMS. It also helps protect against the catalysts of disease e.g. high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and reduction of muscle mass. 
  • 4 vitamins have been linked with higher cognitive functioning - these are vitamin B, vitamin C, Vitamin D and (I’ve mentioned them before and you can be pretty sure I’ll mention them again) Omega 3 fatty acids! They have been linked to higher amounts of healthy blood vessels in the brain and better cognitive functioning. Ingesting high levels of trans fat impairs mental ability and results in a smaller brain volume. 
  • When you’ve had a pee take a look.  Urine can tell you a lot about your current state of health.  It can provide clues to a host of different problems including infections, kidney disease, bladder cancer, diabetes, toxins and excessive or insufficient fluid intake.  Pay attention to odor (ignore if you’ve recently consumed asparagus or coffee).  Sweet smells can indicate diabetes.  An unpleasant odor can indicate an infection.  Urine should be clear and pale yellow.  If there’s blood there and it doesn’t go away check with your doctor for kidney disease or cancer.  If it’s dark you’re probably dehydrated. Drink water immediately.  Consistent dark urine is a symptom of hepatitis and liver disease. Seek medical help immediately.  However bear in mind beets stain your urine red, fava beans make it tea colored, asparagus and B vitamins can make it green and high doses of vitamin C and carrot juice can turn it orange. 
  • They’ve proved it!  Neck pain is more effectively alleviated with chiropractic manipulation and light exercise than pain medication long term.  Patients feel empowered because they are in control of their own care.  The exercises are easy and effective and don’t have the gastrointestinal complications caused by long term use of medication.  A demonstration of the exercises can be found at