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How to Supercharge Your Immune System

Posted by Phil McDougall on 31st May 2021

Here are the best ways, in my opinion, to optimize immune health and live forever (not guaranteed).

Maintain hydration. You crave water both when you’re dehydrated on a hot day and when you live in a perpetual state of hydration. That’s right, when you’re fully hydrated, you crave more water. I’ve been boring myself senseless coaching people to drink more water over the years. Now, thanks to COVID-19, it’s fair to say, hydrate to bring your immune cells closer to commando status!

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Regular cold-water immersion = less fat and a better immune and circulatory system. Put your body into healing mode. Cold water immersion is amazing for circulation and lymphatic drainage. Your lymphatic system rids the tissues of toxins. The increased lymphatic drainage improves immune cell production. Besides, if you haven’t felt the exhilaration of post-cold shower or post-ice bath, you’re seriously missing out. It’s totally addictive. Regular cold water immersion significantly increases brown fat cell production. Brown fat cells are great! They consume white fat cells. Read this wonderful article by THE READY STATE for a lot more about that.

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Flush your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system gets rid of the toxins and bad bacteria in your tissue by transporting it to the lymph nodes, leading to a stronger immune system. A good lymphatic system relies on hydration, but we've already covered that. The lymph is not pumped by the heart. It relies on three-dimensional movement and locomotive muscle contraction to move the lymph against gravity, up to the nearby nodes.

Foam rolling and hanging out upside-down is a great way to help flush the lymphatic system. Foam roll slowly and deeply toward the heart for multiple reps. I suggest foam rolling your lower legs from the heel to the back of your knee (popliteal nodes) for multiple reps. Then roll from the front of your knee, up your quads and inside leg, to the front of your bikini line (assuming boys and girls wear bikinis). The nodes are approximately 6" below the belly button and 3" across on both sides (inguinal nodes). Side note: there are nodes all over the place but these two will give you the biggest bang for your foam-rolling-lymph-drainage buck. After a good 10-minute foam rolling session, do an inversion of some sort, such as a headstand, handstand or put yourself upside-down some other way.

This session will make you feel lethargic, like you would after a good lymphatic sports massage, while the lymph nodes work hard to remove of those toxins.

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Intermittent fasting. It’s pretty much undisputed, nowadays, that intermittent fasting is great for health because cell growth and repair occur when the body is in a fasted state. However, despite there being so many excellent theories, we don’t actually know which fasting formula is best for health and longevity. If the metric is increasing lifespan, scientists and researchers can’t measure which fasting protocol is best without a 50-year trial. To that end I recommend picking one of these, where fasting means nothing but water to pass your lips.

15 hours everyday (personal fave) which involves eating within an 9-hour window every day

One full day per week

First three days of every month

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Eat your veggies. Yeah, yeah, you know already. But seriously, how many different kinds of veggies did you eat yesterday? If less than ten, you’re underperforming. Obviously, you want to thoroughly wash all of your fruit and veg. My homegirl, Missy Bunch, highlighted the risk of not washing avocados and other fruits that have skin on them. When you cut down to the seed the knife draws the nasty pesticides and germs into the flesh then they make their way into your beautiful ecosystem causing ill effects in your gut and decreasing immune health.

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Laughter and gratitude. Laughter is one of the two best forms of cardiovascular exercise (along with sex) and we know that a good healthy cardiovascular system is a major player in the defense against COVID-19. However, that isn’t my main reason for including these. It’s brainwaves. I appreciate I’m sounding a little Californian, but bear with me. Do you accept that our brains emit brainwaves? All living cells emit waves and all waves have a bio-frequency. The brainwaves emitted from a human brain that’s thinking hateful or angry thoughts sit at a very different frequency than those emitted when the brain is feeling grateful or during laughter. Interestingly, the hate brainwaves are almost the same as the bio-frequency of cancer cells. The gratitude brainwaves are very similar to the bio-frequency of healthy white blood cells. Look up the works of Dr. Joe Dispenza if that piqued your interest. Consider what all centenarians have in common. They all seem to have a very positive outlook on life.

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Eat at home. Fat loss is an outcome of home cooking. In fact, the best weekly habit that anyone can adopt, if the goal is fat loss, is planning meals and making a shopping a list. Home cooking helps ensure high-quality ingredients, raises immune cell production through healthier eating and significantly mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission.


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Gut health foods. In addition to eating mostly veggies, you can’t go wrong with probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yoghurt or sourdough bread. Also, bone broth (ideally homemade), high-quality olive oil (from a single farm), nuts and seeds will rock your world.

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Vitamins. Especially vitamins C, B6, E and D. The most concentrated source of vitamin C in real food (that I know of) is camu camu powder. I put half a teaspoon in my oats every morning along with about nine other magical ingredients (see appendix at bottom for all the ingredients I put in my morning oats). Vitamin B6 can be sourced from cold-water fish, green veggies and chickpeas. Vitamin E can be sourced from nuts, seeds and spinach. Vitamin D can be sourced from sunshine (says the smug Welshman in California), fatty fish, beef liver and egg yolks (from happy free-range organic chickens, obvs).

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Take a brisk walk. Walking briskly is probably the highest value exercise we humans have available to us. I think every able-bodied human alive should walk briskly and purposefully for a minimum of 10 minutes per day. However, for optimal immune cell production, health and longevity shoot for at least 30 minutes, nonstop, every single day.

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Swings and get ups, yay! I’m not just including these because this is a blog for Kettlebell Kings, I genuinely think that these are the highest value exercises you can do. If your training exclusively consisted of swings, get-ups and walking for the rest of your life you wouldn’t be deficient in any movement pattern and you’d be in great shape. I’ll share a secret formula that you can do with these two that will give you the best cardiovascular response. 

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Better aerobic capacity (better cardiovascular system) = better immune health. This protocol will have the biggest impact on the efficiency of your heart and blood vessels to supply oxygen to the working muscles:

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Get up, 1/1

Swings, 10/10

Unloaded locomotive activity*, 2 minutes

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Unfit: 6 rounds, light kettlebell, *march-in-place or walk briskly for 2 minutes

Mildly fit: 8 rounds, moderate kettlebell, *jump rope for 1 minute, march-in-place for 1 minute

Fit: 10 rounds, as heavy as good reps allow, *jump rope or run for 2 minutes

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Why is this so effective? Short version: the get-ups and swings offer a bout of high intensity that restricts blood flow back to the heart. The unloaded locomotive activity then gives the circulatory system enough time to catch up and remove the lactic acid. The constant cycle of tension and recovery make for a healthy and elastic heart. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to play with the variables and see for yourself. I’ve found (after extensive experimentation on hundreds of different people) that reducing the unloaded locomotive recovery time or increasing the volume of kettlebell work per round creates a different physiological outcome that isn’t as optimal for pure cardiovascular capacity.

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I think it's worth noting that, if the goal is immune health, you would do well to avoid any kind of exercise that requires your muscles, nerves or lungs to work near maximal capacity for extended bouts. Super intense training certainly has its place, but when immune health is such an issue consider that it raises cortisol levels (stress) and toxins in your tissue, which lead to a higher susceptibility to illness. Sure, train for strength and hit some max weights, but keep the overall volume of the session lower than you would normally.

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May the force be with you… always.

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Phil McDougall

IG: @phil.mcdougall

www.philipmcdougall.com

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APPENDIX: Morning Oats Magic

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Organic quick oats (1 cup)

High-quality dairy-free protein powder (usually Designs For Health Pure Paleo Vanilla)

Organic goji berries (tablespoon)

Organic raisins (tablespoon) OR Manuka honey (teaspoon) TO SWEETEN THE TASTE

Cinnamon powder (teaspoon)

Camu camu powder (half-teaspoon)

Sprinkle from my nuts & seeds mason-jar (pumpkin seeds, cashews, pistachios, pecans)

Chia seeds (tablespoon)

Flax powder (tablespoon)

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Cover in boiling hot water (not milk - people are only attached to milk due to lactose sugar addiction). It's sweet enough with the goji berries and raisins or Manuka honey.

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