Pre-paleo, I had a bunch of annoying life-style issues (heartburn, weight gain, etc) which are resolving nicely. However, I almost NEVER got sick (as in virus-type sick). Since I've been paleo, I've caught 3 different head colds. Not anything horrible, but seriously, it'd been 3 years since the previous one. I've been paleo since the beginning of the year, so 3 colds in 2 months seems like I must being doing something wrong!
I'm moderately low carb (~100g/day), eating a variety of veg, some fruit, and supplementing as recommended by Mark Sisson. I've been trying to keep the chronic cardio under control but it IS ski season (I do cross country) and there have been some long days -- gotta ski when there's finally snow! Usually not more than one or two a week, though.
asked byzot (273)
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on February 27, 2012
at 06:20 PM
There are a lot of factors affecting the immune system, and cutting out grains, legumes and processed foods definitely helps. Even though cold weather cannot give you a cold per se, it does divert considerable energy to keeping your body temperature constant, so, if your immune system is already under strain for some reason, that could make you more potentially susceptible to infections; also, physical activity in cold weather means you are more likely to breathe intensively through your mouth; when you breathe through the nose the hairs warm the air before it reaches the lungs which doesn't happen if you breathe through your mouth; this can irritate the mucous membranes and make you more susceptible to infection.
Healthy gut flora is a significant factor in immunity; do you have any issues with your digestive system? Since you had digestive issues prior to paleo - you mention heartburn - I think its possible that you could have some lingering gut flora imbalances. Make sure you're eating fermented foods; even consider taking a probiotic multi-strain supplement.
Stress/cortisol significantly undermines the immune system. Are you sleeping enough? Are you stressed in any way? Are you getting enough sunlight (vitamin D deficiency can also play a significant role in resistance against disease - consider supplementation if you don't get much sun)?
Do you have a varied diet? Make sure you're eating a wide variety of colours in your fruit & veg (greens, cooked tomatoes, bell peppers, beets, garnet/beauregard sweet potatoes, carrots; blueberries, currants, raspberries, cranberries, etc), since the pigments are actually antioxidant compounds that help prevent free radical damage and decrease inflammation. They're also high in immune-boosting vitamin C. Make sure you eat brassica & sulfur-rich vegetables, which have antimicrobial properties (garlic, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage). Spices are also rich in anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties (ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne). Make sure you are eating organ meats & gelatinous cuts (oxtail, marrow) and bone broth which are very nutrient dense, rather than just muscle meat; also make sure you are eating shellfish, and fish roes.
An unfavourable omega 3 to 6 ratio could also be the culprit: are you eating predominantly pork & poultry? Favour grass-fed ruminant meat (beef, lamb) and game (venison, rabbit), which have a more natural fat-to-meat proportion, more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and more omega-3. Eat wild-caught, oily fish; if you don't get much, take a Cod liver oil supplement. Fermented is best since it's best digested & absorbed.
Do you eat coconut oil? Its rich in MCFAs and lauric acid, which is found in breast milk and contributes significantly to immune resistance (children who weren't breastfed tend to get sick more often).
Raw, pastured, full-fat dairy is very nutritious; however, some people find they do better without it, or only consuming fermented dairy. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to experiment with removing dairy, since it can be pro-inflammatory for some people, and see how you feel. Though if you're lactose-tolerant and don't notice negative effects from consuming dairy, I wouldn't blame it.
Also, on an aside, consider some natural remedies such as steam inhalations with essential oils such as pine needle, eucalyptus, cedarwood; these are anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and are also good as prophylactic measures; we live in the city where the air is not the cleanest, and buildup of harmful substances on the villi in the bronchi can weaken the defense mechanisms and make you more susceptible to infections.
You could also try drinking rosehip, echinacea and pau d'arco infusions and taking propolis (found in raw honey cappings; you can also get it in supplement form) which are all anti-microbial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Hope I helped.
on February 27, 2012
at 09:33 PM
Get your D level tested.
I was getting sick all the time, even while eating a great diet.
Once I started supplementing D and kept my level on the high side, I haven't been sick in over 2 years.
(I keep my level around 80 ng/ml, but 50-60 ng/ml is sufficient for most folk.)
on February 27, 2012
at 06:00 PM
Everything that happens--or not--is not due to what you're eating although your eating patterns over the past year can be a negative/positive factor.
There were many years on SAD when I went an entire year without using a sick day. There were others when I had one cold/flu/strep throat after another and dug deeply into my bank of sick days.
I do agree that nutrition affects your immune system over time, but we are still vulnerable to viruses and pathogenic bacteria/fungi which is why healthy/vibrant paleo people could die very young--they didn't have high-tech meds.
As it happens, everyone around me this winter has been sick with intestinal/respiratory infections including my family and I have somehow escaped scot free--so far. And despite what others may say, I have been eating home-made yogurt and heavy cream daily until I went on ADF (alternate day fasting) last week.
But even if I provide my body with 100% high-quality modern nutrition for the next year, I know I may find myself having a bad streak next winter. Nutrition can't prevent/heal everything, it just helps you survive and bounce back faster.
on February 27, 2012
at 04:54 PM
I ski (cross-country) every single day for one or two hours. Never ever get sick when on Paleo. Every time I deviate (eat something that is not exactly Paleo but still gluten free) I feel a cold coming up. But when I go back to Paleo, the feeling goes away and I am fine again.
Let me ask you this: do you eat tubers? Onions? Garlic? Enough cabbage and green leafy vegetables on a daily basis?
Do you consume dairy? I am totally, I mean 100% dairy-free.
How often do you have slip-ups?
Do you consume alcohol?
What do you drink?
on February 28, 2012
at 04:26 PM
Not an answer really...
But my situation is very similar, as I usually catched a minor cold (which would pass in 24hrs) once in 2-3 years.
Now that I'm 6 months on Paleo, I had the worst flu (lasted almost a week), 2 weeks later another one which lasted just 1 day, and a week later I felt like it starting again but it left me only with a running nose.
I do have a little child in kindergarden that was sick many times this year. I try to keep a very strict Paleo, cook with coconut oil daily, and eat dairy-free food.
If you find any answer to your problem, I'd love to hear! Thanks.