T Nation

Enhancing immune function

I’m training extremely hard these days and find that I’m increasingly susceptible to colds. I’m looking for ways (preferably cheap ways) to enhance my immune function. I currently train 5 days per week, including 2 weights sessions and 5 sessions on the indoor rower that vary between long steady distance work and intervals. This probably looks like a lot of cardio, but my training is geared toward indoor rowing competition, and this type of training volume is required.

Would love to hear any experience you have with immune-enhancing techniques and products, including:

  1. Foods
  2. Supplements
  3. Relaxation/recovery techniques (e.g. massage, hot/cold showers)
  4. Recovery workouts

My diet is relatively good, though not perfect. A typical day includes:

8am: casein/whey protein shake, nuts, apple, 3g fish oil, multivitamin, 500mg vit C, 400iu vit E

12pm: half a large chicken breast sandwich with salad, apple or banana

4pm: half a large chicken breast sandwich, glass of milk

6pm: training, half of protein/carb shake

7:30pm: post-training, half of protein/carb shake

8:30pm: 200g of chicken or lean beef, big plate of veggies, kidney beans or chickpeas

10pm: protein shake and a crappy carb treat (2 muffins or chocolate bar or pita bread with honey)

Any comments on this diet and its potential effects on my immune function would be appreciated.


taking colostrum daily will boost your normal immune function. then there are a couple of things that come to mind that upregulate your immune response
olive leaf extract
soma latha
pau d’arco
also medicinal mushrooms like reishi, maitake, and coriolus can function as stand in immune support

hope that helps

well, there’s a lot of things you can do for your immune system. i’ve never heard of those herbs… i don’t take them either. i would suspect that if you want to really ‘support’ your immune system for every day life, you should not take any herbs. first, your diet looks extremely low in fat. you need to eat cholesterol for your body to repair itself. throw a half dozen eggs in there, maybe some liver and onions fried in butter. you need to eat fat. i know there’s evidence on both size of the story, but you need not worry about saturated fat if it’s not hydrogenated. fish oil is a great supp. you can take quite a bit of it, but watch out with the nuts. that’s a lot of unsaturated fat, which is not great for the body. i’m sure i’ll get flamed for some of this, but i have info about it if anyone cares.

also you need to make sure you get plenty of sleep. even take naps if you can’t sleep for a long time at night. you’ll figure out what is the best rest time, but if you’re getting sick it’s probably not enough sleep.

glutamine is a cheap and good supp. for the immune system and overall for bodybuilding etc. you might consider taking that.

you could take coconut oil, which is a natural antiviral. they often give it to aids patients to help them so you can imagine it’s a great thing! don’t worry about the fat, trust me, it’s awesome. you can even read in the archives about the coconut milk post we had just a little while back and how great it is for you.

colostrum may be good, but it’s incredibly hard to find and expensive from what i’ve seen. if you can get it, go ahead and use it, but don’t rely on it. i would boost your own immune system with food and healthy habits before relying on fancy stuff like that (which by the way hasn’t been proven anywhere that i’ve seen, so it’s your cash :wink: )

if you feel a cold coming on, up the vitamin C. i would take at least 2g a day or more daily, but if you feel like you’re coming down with someting take more. LOTS more. 5 or 6 g if you can (and not get digestive issues ;). take with food etc.

relaxation is also good for the immune system and the adrenal glands. try 15 minutes a day of meditating or other relaxation, no stresses on you.

hmmm, and of course, just eat well. sugar compromises the immune system so if you don’t feel good, don’t do the honey or fruit, or even white bread such as your pita bread. especially ditch the junk food at night. it’s not helping you in any way.
if you can get to a Whole foods market, or some other organic type market, see if you can find Coconut Macaroons, made by Jennies. and limit yourself to two as a snack. coconut is beneficial as i told you earlier and it’s also got fats which slow down that nasty sugar response from the honey. they’re also free of wheat and other nasties. it’s a WAY better snack than nasty muffins with their gross fats and sugars!!

if you have more questions, let me know. i would love to help. it took me a while to build my immune system and lower the adrenal stress i was having, but i feel much better now and i was lucky enough to not get any of the christmas germs or even the ‘spring’ bugs that went around!

I haven’t been sick in a year and a half, and the only consistent thing I’ve done is to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Might be worth looking at.

have a blood test done to see how all your different hormones are doing. Eat a high protein balanced diet. I’m looking at stuff like colloidal silver and crushed garlic to kill off viruses. Take a ZMA supplement before you go to bed. laters pk

Hey seminal I’m interested into what you said about nuts. I’ve been eating some of them everyday for some time now and I’m wondering what’s is wrong with them.

Also, what would be a replacement for them as a snack between full meals?

Thanks anyway

Hey seminole, I’m curious about what you have mention about nuts. Can you elaborate a little bit about the unsaturated fat too?

Lately, I’ve been eating nuts everyday ans I’d like to know if I should stop eating them. Thanks!

Hey seminole, I’m curious about what you said about nuts and its unsaturated fat. How are they not good for bodybuilder?

Lately I’ve been eating nuts everyday and I’m wondering if I should stop or not. Also do you know any thing that can replace nuts as a snack between meals? Thanks a lot!


I too am interested in hearing what seminole has to say about nuts. I eat raw pecans and almonds nearly everyday. Usually with hardboiled eggs and fish caps.

Zinc and vitamin c are good and cheap.

I heard transfer factor plus was really good for boosting the immune system. Never tried it though. Too expensive.

If you realize that your high volume is making you get sick more often that should tell you something.

Nuts are an ok food in small quantities. raw nuts are ok, but they should be soaked to neutralize the sprouting inhibitors in them (like phytates). if you eat a lot of raw nuts don’t you get a nasty stomach ache? that’s why! roasted nuts are not good because of the high temperatures used to process them, which makes the unsaturated oils rancid.

to properly prepare nuts you should soak them overnight in salt water, then dry them out at low temperatures. some nuts don’t soak/dry well, such as peanuts but then again, they’re not really a nut and they’re the least healthy of the “nuts” anyway.

also, due to the high amounts of unsaturated fats, you would want to limit your intake. especially if your’e taking other oils such as fish or codliver oil. (or flax, blech! you don’t take that mess do you? it’s got too much estrogen in it for me).

my favorite snack is cheese (raw, full fat, cheddar and gouda are my faves). i also like beef jerky or veggie sticks with sour cream dip. coconut macaroons are also awesome and have great fats (lauric acid which turns to energy and not fat in your body!). Jennies brand is the best.


What is the heck wrong with unsaturated fat? Where do you get the infomation from? I just tell everyone to stay away from trans fat(processed), consume balanced saturated (beef and eggs), monounsaturated (olive oil,nuts,natural peanut butter, etc) and polyunsaturated (flax,hemp,fish oil) totaling around 30% of daily total intake calories. That’s interesting about kokonuts… That got my attention. Also, CFM whey isolate (Glanbia) can do wonders for immune system. Maybe Micellar casein. Don’t drink too much alcohol which can supress the immune system as long as 3 days. Sleep is also important as others mentioned. Sure, taking antioxidiant supplements will help support the immune system by fighting off free radicals. Get a good multi-vit& min such as opti pak from super nutrition or from LEF (Life extension foundation). They’re the best overall from what i’m told. i looked at what they have so i have to agree… stay away from processed sugars as others mentioned. Eat alot of veggies, mostly dark green leaves plus all variety of colors for phytochemicals for your health. Don’t be too afraid of eggs and beef. Just get those “healthy” eggs and leanest beef you can find. Use those SMART BALANCE butter, mayo, etc since they do not have trans fat and taste just as good. Glutamine might be good but who really knows? It might work better for someone who’s really sick or recovering from serious injuries that requires alot of recuprating, just my guess. R-ALA is a good antioxidant but fairly expensive. Green tea extracts (with high polyphyenol amd EGCG) is a good one.

Thanks for all of the great responses and the interesting discussion. I know very little about herbs - I’m going to investigate the ones that have been mentioned to see how expensive they are and what benefits they might offer. Colostrum may help but it’s more than I’m willing to spend on a long-term basis. I’m going to see if I can pick up some cheap glutamine this weekend. I already take a good multivit (a UK brand called Wellman) and I’ll up the C and E when I feel any signs of a cold coming on.

Seminole chick:

Point taken about my low fat intake. I think I’ll change my first meal of the day from a protein shake, nuts and an apple to 4 eggs and an apple. I’ll also add a bit more olive oil to my dinner. I’m also going to try to cut out the junk food at night. It’s a bad habit that I’ve been trying to break for years. You mentioned Jennie’s brand macaroons, but I’m in the UK and I’m not sure those are available here. Do you have any other treats up your sleeve that might be a good choice?

One thing you said that strikes me as odd is that unsaturated fats are unhealthy. I was under the impression that monos were heart healthy and supported testosterone production, and that certain polys (i.e. EFA’s) were good for the heart. In fact, I thought there was also some evidence that EFA’s were anabolic to muscle cells and catabolic to fat cells. I know that trans fats are unhealthy and I avoid them apart from my evening junk food. I’m not afraid of saturates and I eat lean beef at least 3 or 4 times per week.

From what evidence have you developed your views on fat? I’m not challenging you, just interested to know where your views come from.


I didn’t say that all unsaturated fats were bad! In fact, if you read my post above, i said that you should continue or even up the fish oil! but you don’t want to be eating a lot of nuts on top of taking a lot of fish oil. Traditional people ate no more than 6% of their fats as unsaturates. the body makes all unsaturated fats you eat into saturated fats anyway, so you don’t need to get too much of them. personally, i know 6% is a hard number to stay at, but i try not to eat more than 10%. i know some people recommend more, up to 30%, but i don’t think that’s warranted and in fact can be dangerous. EFA’s are great for burning fat and whatnot. i’m not saying not to take them, but if you’re taking a lot of EFA’s then you don’ tneed to be eating a lot of nuts. one or two ounces is good.

the evidence i have for not eating a lot of unsaturated fat comes from
www.westonaprice.org as well as a few other sites. if you want to know more, i can dig them up for specifics. i can’t do that at the moment, but i’ll look into references more tonight.

Ummm…I’ve heard an awful lot of knowledgeable people discount the information quoted on the westonaprice site. Also, application of the nutritional practices of “traditional people” to modern lifestyles relies on a boatload of problematic assumptions.

I really appreciate your help and insights on my question, though. You’ve been a great help. I just don’t agree about the saturates/unsaturates issue. I think I’ll try to get a 33%/33%/33% balance of polys/monos/sats, as Berardi recommends.

6% unsaturated? are you saying we should consume the other 94% from saturated? I think that’s crazy. i would stick to beradi’s recommendation on 33%/33%/33% for “healthy” saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated although it’s not really necessary to be that strict.

Colloidal Silver. One of the strongest bacteria fighters around with no known side effects. Do a google search.

no, not 94% unsaturated, however, maybe 60-80% saturated and the rest mono unsaturated. 6% POLY unsaturated (sorry for any confusion if i left the POLY out). the best is butter, which has the ideal ratio of fats in it. coconut oil is awesome too.

i know many people will say things about WAP and that it’s not applicable to today, but i tend to believe what they say because they’re not sponsored by anyone. not that everyone who is ‘sponsored’ by a drug company is corrupt or whatever, but i think you can be much more unbiased in your theories when noone is ‘helping’ you.

what sort of assumptions do you mean? there is solid evidence for the diet i follow and the information presented on the WAP web site. perhaps even more evidence than many modern studies. you might want to look into it more. the thing that really appealed to me about the t-mag folks was that they seemed to have an open mind and not follow the goverments diet. so, why would you just casually toss off the research of Dr. Price and the modern researchers who have discovered some truths that don’t line up with your current line of thinking? did it take time for you to realize that the food pyramid was a bad idea? i bet it did…

so, part of the problem with poly unsats is that they are hard for the body to deal with. they oxidize VERY easily (hence why you keep them in a dark bottle in the fridge). like i said before, you body had to go and change them after you eat them. large doses can be therapeutic for stress or other times when you need it, but long term, a large dose is not needed.

i’m not the pro on that, but i do know that if you take some unsaturated fat, it’s good to take saturated fat with it to help keep the unsaturated fats from oxidizing.