We are coming out of cold and flu season, however spring allergies are on the horizon. All the coughing and sneezing and the spreading of germs, along with the immune suppressing effects of endurance training = many of us are still at risk of getting sick.
While it is pretty hard to prevent exposure to all those germs (wash your hands!), there are some things we can do nutritionally to support our immune systems.
1. Make sure your eating enough to support exercise and maintain an energy balance. This sounds basic but your immune system cannot function properly if you're not properly nourished.
2. For runs that last longer than 90 minutes, consuming carbohydrates before, during, and after training can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which lessens the stress response, and thus can reduce immune system suppression.
3. Help fight against oxidative stress by eating antioxidant rich foods high in vitamin A, C, and E (oranges, cantaloupe, blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms).
4. Help activate immune defenses by eating foods high in vitamin D (salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks, milk).
5. Help fight inflammation by eating foods high in omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts).
6. Support immune function by choosing lean protein sources high in iron and zinc (chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, eggs, legumes).
7. Eat a variety of soluble fiber (oats, beans, nuts, seeds, apples, citrus) insoluble fiber (wheat bran, whole wheat, whole grains), and probiotic (kefir, yogurt, saurkraut, kimchi) containing foods to support gut health.
You may have noticed that many of the nutrients listed above come in supplement form. However, by aiming to meet your vitamin and mineral needs through food, you are not only getting those nutrients but all the active components in food. New phytochemicals are being discovered all the time. When you replace whole foods with supplements you miss out on those food components that are benefiting your health (if you're deficient and have been prescribed supplements that's another story).
Cheers to good health!
(this post is meant to be informative, not provide medical advice)