Thomasville Times Enterprise

December 14, 2013

Don’t compromise immune system

Amanda May

— I think it’s fair to say we all get sick from time to time. In fact, it seems there isn’t a person in town that hasn’t been hit with something already this year. While we may not be able to avoid it entirely, eating well, exercising and leading a generally healthy lifestyle can go a long way for health and avoiding getting sick. While exercising is definitely good, keep in mind too much is not better. Here’s why.

Dieting or overtraining can comprise your immune system. When you are consuming fewer calories than you are expending, your body at some point will need to preserve energy by cutting back on calorically costly functions. Pretty high up on that list is your immune system and, unfortunately, when this happens, your natural defenses will suffer. This is just one more reason why, when dieting, it’s better to keep your calorie deficit minimal (i.e. slow and steady weight loss) so you will still have the ability to maintain optimal body function and health.

To keep your immune system in top shape this year — whether exercising or not — my No. 1 recommendation is to take a fish oil supplement. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are especially good at increasing the activity of phagocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that destroy bacteria.  The American diet in general does not contain enough Omega-3 fatty acids, so supplementing with fish oil, especially during periods of dieting, is highly recommended.

Second, ditch those sugary foods that suppress your immune system for ones with lots of antioxidants and vitamins, like fruits and vegetables.

Finally, don’t skimp on sleep. Fatigue increases your susceptibility to illness — period. Rest is sometimes the most important thing you can do for your body. 

What do you do if you’ve already caught a cold and are not sure whether you should be working out? The general rule of thumb is if the symptoms are above the neck only (e.g. coughing, runny nose, etc.) working out is fine and may even help give your immune system a boost. If you have any below the neck symptoms such as a fever or body aches, it’s best to stay at home.

Amanda May is a Factor X Fitness personal trainer. Reach her at and