operation immune system

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I’m sick. Again. That’s twice already in 2012. I’ve only had about two healthy weeks so far this year. This blows. Literally and figuratively.

And not only does it blow because, well, I feel like hell, but also because I feel like my immune system should be doing a better job than this. In college, my immune system was a broken down puddle of nothing. I had a cold every, single month and at one point, had a cold so long that I had to go to the emergency room because my body broke out into a rash. I wasn’t taking care of myself and my immune system was suffering.

Then I started on my journey to get healthy and the colds became less frequent. Eating the right foods, drinking enough water, exercising and getting enough sleep all helped make my immune system nice and strong. It became the norm for me to only get sick once a year. I liked it that way.

I’m not sure exactly when I started regressing. I’m tempted to say it was around the same time I started long-distance running, but for some reason, over the past 18 months, my immune system has been back to its college self. On its own, the frequency is ridiculous—I’m now to the point where I’ve had 4-5 colds in the past 6 months, but also the longevity. Babyface can have a cold and it lasts 3-4 days. I get the same bug and I’m out of commission for a week or more. Pardon the pun, but I am sick of this. And I’m ready to do something about it.

Below you’ll find my plan for building up my weak immune system. Honestly, most of these are just good wellness practices that I’ve gotten out of the habit of completing. Hopefully, with a little bit of work, this will be my last cold for a nice long while.

  • Drink one cup of both echinancea and decaf green tea daily. Echinancea has long been used as an herb to build the immune system. Green tea has a ton of health benefits, but one of them is to help build up the immune system.
  • Enact work-free Friday nights. Stress is one of the biggest causes of a suppressed immune system, and honestly, I feel like it is probably the big culprit for why I’ve been sick so many times in the past year. Once work is over on Friday, there is no working until Saturday.
  • Relax without technology one hour a day. No computer, no TV, no iPad. Just me and some chilling out. Maybe spend some quality time with magazine or book or just sit around talking to Babyface.
  • Take my multi-vitamin daily. I’m terrible about taking my vitamins, but I know I have nutrient gaps that need to be filled in.
  • Cut out all caffeine and alcohol. I’m not a big drinker of either (one or two alcoholic drinks a week, one or two caffeinated drinks a month) but they can both suppress the immune system. Since I’m not really “into” either, it should be easy to completely cut them out while I boost my immune system.
  • Remove almost all added sugar. Oooh, this one is going to be hard. But refined sugar is just generally bad news for the body, and in recent studies, it’s been shown that sugar does a doozy on your immune system.

What do you do to keep your immune system strong?

P.S. Want to do something to help me feel better? Go join in the Cook for the Cure Raffle! For $5 you could win a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Seems like a pretty healthy deal to me!


Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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23 Responses
  1. Hope you feel better soon! We use oil of oregano in our house when we feel the cold bug approaching and it seems to work for us – even if I do have to endure spaghetti burps afterwards 🙂 A good friend of mine eats raw garlic when she is feeling sick. The other night she had it sliced up on a piece of toast, I think I’ll stick to the oil of oregano.

  2. Doesn’t this increase in sickness coincide with you going back to school? Maybe you are just being exposed to more things and need to work on sanitation as well like not sharing pens, wiping down your desk at school, using hand sanitizer, etc.

    1. Cassie

      It does, except my classes this semester are online. So I haven’t been to campus since December. 🙂 But DEFINITELY good to keep in mind for when I do get back in the kitchen/classroom.

  3. Cassie

    I’m coming from a place where I used to be the one with the kickass immune system. I hadn’t been sick in several years until recently. Since June I’ve been on anitbiotics TWICE and I’m just now recovering from an almost 3 week stint of misery. I used to think my kickass immune system had to do with my healthy lifestyle but honestly? Now I’m beginning to wonder if these things don’t just go in cycles. I remember being sick A LOT before my sick-free years. Was my body building immunity then? Now enough time has passed that the immunity towards those bugs wore off or new bugs were produced? I certainly think that might account for part of it. Maybe you’re going through the same thing.

    I attribute some of my own sickness to being a SAHM for awhile, moving to a new place, and having a kiddo in daycare. New places = new germs. You have been traveling some AND just started at a new school. It isn’t a far stretch to think that that could be part of it as well.

    Also…it does kind of seem like this started to happen around the time of the tornado. Is it possible that you have some kind of residual mold left over in your place? That could possibly cause a weakening of your immune system.

    Feel better!

    1. Cassie

      Oh my gosh, so many good points that I didn’t even consider! The mold thing really freaks me out because they didn’t end up replacing our carpet. The ceiling caved in, the carpet was wet for weeks and they just ended up cleaning it with a steam cleaner before we moved back in. It makes me worried that the carpet is making us sick.

  4. awww, I hope you feel better soon! I think those are some great tips for recuperating. Whenever I start to feel the tickle of a cold, I eat mostly steamed veggies, green smoothies, and fresh fruit. Within 2-3 days MAX I feel way better, and I haven’t been sick in years 🙂

    1. Cassie

      Those are suggestions! I’m pretty terrible about wallowing in my own illness as soon as I get sick instead of being proactive about it. 🙁

  5. Honestly, I think some of our immune system has to do with factors outside of our control. Some people just get sick a lot and others don’t. Of course I still try to take whatever measures I can to keep myself healthy, but sometimes there’s nothing I could do to prevent illness.

  6. Matt has a terrible immune system. It doesn’t help that he’s a teacher so he’s always exposed to those germy kids. I told him he should see a naturopath to get some insight as to how he can boost it.

    1. Cassie

      Oooh. I was wondering if maybe it might be a food issue that was causing the lower immunity. Granted, I just bought $425 worth of bulk organic beef, so I’m not sure I could afford to go veggie now. 😛

  7. Back at the end of 2008, I was sick 4 times in 2 months. I attribute this to not sleeping well, not eating well, not drinking enough water, and… being very, very stressed out. Stress DEFINITELY affects my immune system. Hopefully giving yourself a work free Friday night and some time away from technology will help! I hope you feel better soon!

      1. Agreed. We were in Boston all day on Sunday and I had forgotten my phone at home! It was great to just enjoy my time in the city without checking Twitter every 10 minutes.

  8. Josephine

    I’m very rarely ill, but I doubt it’s because I have a particularly strong immune system. Rather, I’d like to think it’s due to me minimising the risk of contracting something. My two best weapons are: 1) Disinfectant (alcohol, since there’s no risk of it creating resistant bacteria), and 2) Common sense (i.e. thinking ahead).

    Germs and viruses are ubiquitous. That’s a fact of life. They are, quite literally, everywhere. But it’s absurd trying to avoid them. One cannot go through life and not interact with the world. What’s better is to practise damage control. I don’t mind germs and viruses accumulating on my hands by using door handles, handling money, and just being out and about. But I never bring it farther than that. I never give the germs a chance to enter my body. I disinfect my hands when I come home, and before I eat anything with my hands. It doesn’t make my immune system better, but it limits the pathogen exposure.

    I know it’s common sense to wash one’s hands. It feels fresh, for one! But it’s also important to wash in order to prevent. Because, fact is, germs and viruses are parasites that need to infect you to reproduce. And they’re damn good at it. Without your immune system you wouldn’t be here. Without an immune system the body becomes laissez faire for pathogens. Disaster follows. I don’t think you have a poor immune system. But maybe you expose it to enough pathogens to every once in a while stumble across the strain that can break through your defences. (Because we’re not immune to everything, and we’re immune to other things than other people, because our immune systems are a scramble that is unique to the individual.)

    My recommendation to you would be to at least try it, for a week, a fortnight, and maybe even a month: to try to limit your exposure. Even if fruit is organic, wash it, to get rid of germs, and not pesticides. If you have a snack, wash your hands before handling it. If you rub your eye, make sure your hands are clean.

    I have a bottle of 85% alcohol by the sink in my kitchen. I run to it the moment I get home, use it, and then wash my hands. Clean. I’ve done that for 15 years, and I haven’t had a serious infection since. The occasional cold, but that’s it. There’s a reason they use disinfectants in hospitals. Because germs are everywhere, and they make a living by infecting people. And they’re damn good at that. Don’t give them the chance!

    And do get well soon!

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