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Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:00 am
by NPV
Hi everyone,
Immune system limitations have been the main barrier for me in achieving my superhuman / bulletproof aspirations for 10+ years, particularly in weight lifting, but also in other areas. To put it simply, when I push myself hard enough at the gym, I tend to get sick (basic stuff - sore throat / common cold / influenza which quickly deteriorates into stuff like bronchitis if I do not stop exercising and start taking antibiotics). Which of course leads to losing my progress and therefore going in circles. This tends to happen even more often when there are other pressures on immune system - e.g., a lot of air travel and changing time zones, cold weather, influenza epidemic, prolonged low carb diets without refeeds, air con.
There is a lot of knowledgeable people on this forum, hence I was wondering if you guys (and gals) could chime in with some better ideas and hacks.
Here are the key factors I observed which influence this in one way or another.
Key offenders - i.e. factors that put strain on my immune system and likely to push me to getting sick
* Heavy exercise. Especially when I go all in on deadlifts/squats
* Flights and changing time zones (last couple of months I have been on the plane almost every week, often on intercontinental flights, and this really pushes my immune system. basically have to stop exercising for 1-2 weeks after any big (5+ hour) time zone change
* Stress
* Cold weather (this is much worse in winter)
* Air conditioning
* Heavy mental strain (really pushing my brain is not as bad as really pushing my body, but can also lead to exhaustion and challenge immune system)
* Very low carb diets - fine as long as I do refeeds every 1-2 weeks or so, but bad if 3+ weeks without refeeds. Shame as mentally I feel great in ketosis
* Milk (not sure why; butter/cheese/kefir do not seem to have this effect)
* Fasting for more than 20-24 hours
When the rubber really hits the road is the combination of these factors. E.g., if I spend 12 hours on a plane changing time zone by 8 hours flying to a colder location and not get much sleep under aircon in the hotel room where windows don't open, then go heavy on deadlifts next morning, getting sick is 80%+ probability.
Basic enablers - i.e. factors that need to be in place to sustain effective functioning of immune system
* Sleep until I wake up without alarm going to bed about 9:30 pm
Hacks that work and I am still using them (but do not solve the problem entirely)
* Brewed ginger (almost) every morning - life saver
* Bee products such as propolis - during higher pressure periods, e.g. in winter or when traveling
Hacks that worked but I have not used them in a while (but do not solve the problem entirely)
* Immunofan
* Probiotics
Hacks that did not work for me at all
* Omega 3 - interestingly, my immune system got worse most times I tried adding a significant amount of omega 3 supplements (mostly fish oil)
* Multivitamins - did nothing
* Vitamin C - megadoses might be doing a bit sometimes, but generally not much
* Glutamine - slight benefit but not much
Look forward to your suggestions!

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:56 am
by 7Wannabe5
I don't have any suggestions for solutions, but this is a very interesting topic. I have a lifelong tendency towards over-active immune system problems, and have noticed that strength-training (never more than very moderate in may case) has correlated with reduction of allergenic triggers. I have been blaming some recent very bad bouts with combo viral/asthmatic bronchitis on working with young children, but maybe there is something else at play?

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:06 am
by daylen
Anxiety issues? Maybe you just need to relax more?

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:07 am
by jacob
One thing that I did not see on your list was
  • Not touching your face or washing your hands right before you do it. This eliminates the "touch infected door handle, wipe your nose"-vector.
  • When flying and sitting in a viral incubator tin can with 300 other people for multiple hours, consider wearing an N95 mask.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:18 am
by Campitor
Eat a lot of deeply colored vegetables, berries, and fruits. Plants grow in mediums filled with bacteria and fungi that forced them to evolve polyphenols that protect them from the multiple pathogens and insects they are exposed to in their growth cycle. When you ingest these plants, some of those polyphenols make it into your system and help you combat disease and infection. The way you can "hack" this is by sticking a bunch of veggies with some berries and fruits in a blender and making yourself a smoothie - you can eat a daily allotment of veggies/berries/fruits in a single serving. But if you stop eating fruits/berries/veggies, the positive effects of plant based polyphenols evaporates.
And you have to blend - no juicing (aka removing pulp and drinking only the fluid). The polyphenols are bound into the pulp and it requires your gut and its bacteria to break down as much of the pulp as possible to extract the needed benefits. If you're trying to stay "low carb" just blend deeply colored vegetables with your liquid of choice. By the way - some plants also have anti inflammatory properties.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257627/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991921/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23679237
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2737735/

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:03 pm
by RealPerson
I have to agree with Jacob. Everyone in a gym touches everything. It is like a perfect place to get sick. You may consider wearing gloves, but not touching your mouth, nose and eyes (i.e. mucous membranes) is key. Thoroughly wash your hands after your workout, but no need to use a disinfectant soap or wipes.

While there are things you can do to suppress your immune system, there isn't much you can do to effectively boost it, besides a generally healthy lifestyle and good nutrition. Also remember that, although the inflammatory response is part of an immune response, generally healthy things like fish oil are anti-inflammatory but don't improve your immune system.

At least that is my understanding. Be careful to not read too much into "fringe" studies such as the type usually discussed in Men's Health. They can be interesting but that does not mean they have actual clinical significance. A healthy lifestyle and avoiding exposure to the many viruses hanging around in public places is by far the best you can do.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:15 pm
by classical_Liberal
It could be related to viral infection from contact with other infected humans (ie colds), but there are only so many and your active immune system should fend them off after one infection, hence avoiding reinfection. The symptoms you provided... sore throat leading to cough/bronchitis. These are likely not influenza related, if you have the flu, you will know it!

I'm thinking out loud (or in writing). It sounds like your symptoms could be related to recurrent bacterial sinus infections. Sinus drainage to throat and then into lungs, this is why the antibiotics work to fix it. Do you often have stuffed nasal passages? Blow out yellow or green mucus (Yuk, I know)? If you have a constant infection it would worsen when your body is worn down as you describe. A decongestant (natural or otherwise) may help if this is the root cause.

I'm also assuming you don't smoke (anything) as inhalants could cause this type of problem without a sinus infection. Edit: Anything inhaled environmentally as well, like poor air quality at home.

Regular, recurrent, cold-like symptoms would warrant a trip to a Primary care doctor get a CBC to make sure nothing looks obviously awry

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:24 pm
by NPV
jacob wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:07 am
One thing that I did not see on your list was
  • Not touching your face or washing your hands right before you do it. This eliminates the "touch infected door handle, wipe your nose"-vector.
  • When flying and sitting in a viral incubator tin can with 300 other people for multiple hours, consider wearing an N95 mask.
RealPerson wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:03 pm
I have to agree with Jacob. Everyone in a gym touches everything. It is like a perfect place to get sick. You may consider wearing gloves, but not touching your mouth, nose and eyes (i.e. mucous membranes) is key. Thoroughly wash your hands after your workout, but no need to use a disinfectant soap or wipes.

While there are things you can do to suppress your immune system, there isn't much you can do to effectively boost it, besides a generally healthy lifestyle and good nutrition. Also remember that, although the inflammatory response is part of an immune response, generally healthy things like fish oil are anti-inflammatory but don't improve your immune system.

At least that is my understanding. Be careful to not read too much into "fringe" studies such as the type usually discussed in Men's Health. They can be interesting but that does not mean they have actual clinical significance. A healthy lifestyle and avoiding exposure to the many viruses hanging around in public places is by far the best you can do.
Interesting ideas. I might be clueless about this, but I was coming at this problem more from a hormesis standpoint: i.e. increasing the body's ability to neutralize bacterial and viral threats rather than hiding from them. Exposure to more pathogens should make the immune system more robust in the long run, no?
classical_Liberal wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:15 pm
It could be related to viral infection from contact with other infected humans (ie colds), but there are only so many and your active immune system should fend them off after one infection, hence avoiding reinfection. The symptoms you provided... sore throat leading to cough/bronchitis. These are likely not influenza related, if you have the flu, you will know it!

I'm thinking out loud (or in writing). It sounds like your symptoms could be related to recurrent bacterial sinus infections. Sinus drainage to throat and then into lungs, this is why the antibiotics work to fix it. Do you often have stuffed nasal passages? Blow out yellow or green mucus (Yuk, I know)? If you have a constant infection it would worsen when your body is worn down as you describe. A decongestant (natural or otherwise) may help if this is the root cause.

I'm also assuming you don't smoke (anything) as inhalants could cause this type of problem without a sinus infection. Edit: Anything inhaled environmentally as well, like poor air quality at home.

Regular, recurrent, cold-like symptoms would warrant a trip to a Primary care doctor get a CBC to make sure nothing looks obviously awry
This is a very interesting hypothesis as the symptoms indeed align: I do have stuffed nasal passages and mucus quite often in cold weather (rarely in warm climates though). This is at least part because I broke my nose at some point. My CBCs are usually fine. Any known solutions for recurrent bacterial sinus infections that you are describing? And no, I do not smoke.
Campitor wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:18 am
Eat a lot of deeply colored vegetables, berries, and fruits. Plants grow in mediums filled with bacteria and fungi that forced them to evolve polyphenols that protect them from the multiple pathogens and insects they are exposed to in their growth cycle. When you ingest these plants, some of those polyphenols make it into your system and help you combat disease and infection. The way you can "hack" this is by sticking a bunch of veggies with some berries and fruits in a blender and making yourself a smoothie - you can eat a daily allotment of veggies/berries/fruits in a single serving. But if you stop eating fruits/berries/veggies, the positive effects of plant based polyphenols evaporates.
And you have to blend - no juicing (aka removing pulp and drinking only the fluid). The polyphenols are bound into the pulp and it requires your gut and its bacteria to break down as much of the pulp as possible to extract the needed benefits. If you're trying to stay "low carb" just blend deeply colored vegetables with your liquid of choice. By the way - some plants also have anti inflammatory properties.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257627/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4991921/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23679237
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2737735/
This is an interesting idea as well. I have started looking into mushroom extracts based on this discussion: http://www.longecity.org/forum/topic/84 ... ne-system/
I do eat a reasonable amount of vegetables (probably a kilo a week or so), but much less fruit / berries (as I usually eat relatively low carb diets).
daylen wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:06 am
Anxiety issues? Maybe you just need to relax more?
Not really. Very calm and happy overall. I also find that the whole "relaxing" thing (beyond quality sleep and an occasional movie on a weekend) tends not to do very much for me. I am more aligned to the quote Jacob often references: "a master in the art of life makes no sharp distinction between his work and his play...". I'd rather be achieving / learning something and vary domains / geographies / angles to keep it fun rather than alternate between "work" and "relaxation".

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:05 pm
by classical_Liberal
The mucus from sinus passages is supposed to drain to protect from infection. If something is partially blocking the drainage (like trauma) bacteria stopped by the mucus can sit there, reproduce and form a colony. Sore throat comes from mucus dripping in your throat; the bacteria irritates tissue/gain a foothold. From there possible spread to brochus.

If you don't have sinus pain(or ear pain), sinus infections are not a big deal. Even with pain they will generally will resolve untreated. As a result, medical providers are hesitant to provide antibiotic Rx's due to resistance, although a documented history of recurrence may change their mind. As a layman, If I thought I had recurrent sinus infections, I would proceed by taking a decongestant whenever I felt sinus pressure or excess mucus. Hot shower/steam and try to blow out excess. If symptoms of sore throat arrive, immediately gargle with antiseptic or salt water to avoid the downward spread of bacteria to bronchial mucosa. I'm sure a google search will provide dozens of alternative "home remedies" as well.

If they are indeed recurrent sinus infections from the trauma, the underlying issue is the physical defect. You could consult an EENT if you feel it's worth the hassle and preventative measures are unsuccessful.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:39 pm
by NPV
classical_Liberal wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:05 pm
The mucus from sinus passages is supposed to drain to protect from infection. If something is partially blocking the drainage (like trauma) bacteria stopped by the mucus can sit there, reproduce and form a colony. Sore throat comes from mucus dripping in your throat; the bacteria irritates tissue/gain a foothold. From there possible spread to brochus.

If you don't have sinus pain(or ear pain), sinus infections are not a big deal. Even with pain they will generally will resolve untreated. As a result, medical providers are hesitant to provide antibiotic Rx's due to resistance, although a documented history of recurrence may change their mind. As a layman, If I thought I had recurrent sinus infections, I would proceed by taking a decongestant whenever I felt sinus pressure or excess mucus. Hot shower/steam and try to blow out excess. If symptoms of sore throat arrive, immediately gargle with antiseptic or salt water to avoid the downward spread of bacteria to bronchial mucosa. I'm sure a google search will provide dozens of alternative "home remedies" as well.

If they are indeed recurrent sinus infections from the trauma, the underlying issue is the physical defect. You could consult an EENT if you feel it's worth the hassle and preventative measures are unsuccessful.
Thanks. This makes sense. I don't think there is a blockage issue as there is no pain and it flows fine when it is there. I looked into doing the surgery to fix nose shape but decided against it because apparently it quite often reverts within a few years.

I must add that overall my immune system is not bad at all. Last year I lived on the West Coast with limited travel (just a few flights a year) and quite significant exercise (probably more weightlifting than in the previous 3-4 years, 4-5 times a week for 1-1.5 hours) and I don't think I was sick even once. But this year I am traveling a lot (a few dozen flights a year, a bunch of them intercontinental) and that is much harder to combine with decent exercise hence I am trying to see if there are solutions to this.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:50 am
by Crazylemon
Well to me it seems you have identified several triggers most of which are not odd/rare

Humans get sick with self limiting illnesses from time to time. This is normal. There is no way to stop this. Good hand hygiene and avoiding people who obviously are unwell is about all you can do. Exercise, eating well etc help and will make an illness more manageable as will rest once unwell.

Yes being sick is annoying as it requires rest to recuperate. I find it annoying myself (currently have a viral URTI myself - thanks kids). But ultimately I know I should rest up and it too shall pass.

If you think you are having major issues with infections by all means see a doctor to check you over.

Lots of flights with recirculated air and changing time zones leading to inadequate sleep will not help.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:21 am
by Scott 2
You are doing too much at times. Even if the experience is positive, being a hard charging world traveler is extremely stressful. So is heavy training.

I think you have to pay more attention to over extending you recovery capacity. Some berries and hand washing won't solve this.

For a hack - you could try monitoring your heart rate variability as a proxy for stress. Use that to identify events that drain you. Don't dig the hole deeper when you are drained. Carefully choose the draining events in the future, saying no when you can.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:23 am
by daylen
Scott 2 wrote:
Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:21 am
You are doing too much at times. Even if the experience is positive, being a hard charging world traveler is extremely stressful. So is heavy training.

I think you have to pay more attention to over extending you recovery capacity. Some berries and hand washing won't solve this.

This is what I meant when I said you should relax more. Give your immune system a chance to do its thing. Nothing to do with work/play.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:09 pm
by Riggerjack
Airliners have very little fresh air. This makes sense when you think of it as a pressurized capsule with wings. 10 cu ft/minute, dispersed by the little adjustable air nozzles that blow in your face.

For reference, the cheap bathroom fans at HD blow 80-110 cu ft/minute.

Even if uncomfortably cold, I open those fully. It's the only fresh air in there. If you insist on air travel, at least do yourself that courtesy.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:30 am
by Michael_00005
If a person is constantly finding themselves sick they are setting themselves up for serious poor health down the road. With proper lifestyle the body should rarely to never be ill, mostly this is diet, but long flights and stress are very hard on the body. Also smoke, lack of fresh air, sun shine, drugs and alcohol all have negative effects on the immune system.

Dark leafy greens and fruit is key. For beginners, plan for one month where you start every day off with a green smoothie: banana, apple, lots of raw greens, nuts, dates and water. Don't worry about adding super foods; greens and fruits are the best super foods. Ginger, turmeric and nutritional yeast are all good, but most important is to find something you like and can add as a regular part of your diet. Do not add pasteurized juices, heat destroys nutrients. Make a habit of taking fruit as a snack, your taste buds change, and in time you crave real, healthy food. Drink lots of water, this helps to flush toxins from the body.

If you are planning for a shock to your body, like a long flight, build up your immune system with lots of raw foods... and by "raw", what is meant are foods not meant to be cooked like dark leafy greens and fruit.

I'd do a little research on taking antibiotics, from what I've read it should only be used as a last resort, and it can have some serious long term negative effects to your gut bacteria. That really sounds disastrous, I don't know why anyone would use antibiotics for a cold. Who advises this sort of practice anyway?

I used to be one of those who believed it was normal for a cold to last 3-5 days, and your body drags through it. Now I now for a certainty they can be avoided through proper diet. A cold can be destroyed by a properly functioning immune system in hours, not days... that's been my experience since adjusting diet to real food and ~ 30% raw. If I do get a cold, it's so low grade it's almost a joke - I"ve had 3 (normal) colds in the last 3 years, and none lasted more than 4 hours. One exception, but that included 24 hours of travel, twice in a week, and then minimal sleep, about 3-4 hours each night. If it weren't for everyone around me getting sick, it probably would not have been an issue. I don't take flu shots.

Having a super charged immune system is worth experiencing, that and learning to eat to maximize bodily health. It takes a little sacrifice to get there, but once you have the momentum it's easy.

Fruit and greens works from day one, and just keeps on building. If you put the advice into practice let us know of the results.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 7:47 pm
by NPV
Michael_00005 wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:30 am
This works from day one, and just keeps on building. If you put the advice into practice let us know of the results.
So is the advice to eat more vegetables and to eat them raw or is there more to it? I eat a fair amount (~2-3 kilos a week or so, mostly carrots, leafy greens, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes etc.). On weekdays I am pretty low carb but on weekends I also add fruit. Increasing it to something like a kilo a day seemed to have a detrimental impact on immune strength if any.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 4:20 pm
by frihet
Out of the box hardcore solution. Start practicing like Wim Hof the Iceman. Basically breathing exercises and cold baths/showers. That way you can learn to increase the body's temperature. Like a self induced fewer.

In one of the documentaries about him on YouTube scientist inject him with bacteria/flu? Don't remember exactly but he to their amazement fights it off. I know he has teached others so it is learnable.

When I summon the right hardcore attitude I might start it myself.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 5:36 pm
by CS
I noticed fasting on your list... you are going to hit a wall after you burn through all your glucose and your body switches over to a different energy mechanism, which happens at about the 24-hour mark. That is true for everybody. Have you fasted longer than 24 hours, like for five days or more? There is a documentary out on Netflix called The Science of Fasting. I found it worthwhile to watch for details on this.

Also, for exercise, you might have borderline histamine overload - i.e. any additional histamine is going to make you sick, even if most of the times you aren't over the limit. This blogger is a good source to learn more - https://healinghistamine.com/blog/ She is a former reporter, and provides references to the original articles if you want to read the science itself. The key here is to drop/manage histamine so you live the way you want to. Histamine and inflammation are necessary to live - it's when it gets to be too much that you get into trouble.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 6:50 pm
by NPV
frihet wrote:
Sun Dec 24, 2017 4:20 pm
Out of the box hardcore solution. Start practicing like Wim Hof the Iceman. Basically breathing exercises and cold baths/showers. That way you can learn to increase the body's temperature. Like a self induced fewer.

In one of the documentaries about him on YouTube scientist inject him with bacteria/flu? Don't remember exactly but he to their amazement fights it off. I know he has teached others so it is learnable.

When I summon the right hardcore attitude I might start it myself.
Interesting idea. I have been taking cold showers more or less regularly for 10+ years, but nothing of Wim Hof levels. Is there an accessible methodology pf his available somewhere? There is a book on Amazon but reviews say it contains a lot of irrelevant stuff from the co-author.

Re: Radical immune system hacks?

Posted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 6:51 pm
by NPV
CS wrote:
Sun Dec 24, 2017 5:36 pm
I noticed fasting on your list... you are going to hit a wall after you burn through all your glucose and your body switches over to a different energy mechanism, which happens at about the 24-hour mark. That is true for everybody. Have you fasted longer than 24 hours, like for five days or more? There is a documentary out on Netflix called The Science of Fasting. I found it worthwhile to watch for details on this.

Also, for exercise, you might have borderline histamine overload - i.e. any additional histamine is going to make you sick, even if most of the times you aren't over the limit. This blogger is a good source to learn more - https://healinghistamine.com/blog/ She is a former reporter, and provides references to the original articles if you want to read the science itself. The key here is to drop/manage histamine so you live the way you want to. Histamine and inflammation are necessary to live - it's when it gets to be too much that you get into trouble.
I have not done more than 30 hours or so of fasting. WIth histamine, is testing blood histamine levels the starting point to test this hypothesis?