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How To Build An Ironclad Immune System

It’s cold and flu season, are you ready? If not I want to give you some tips to help keep you from getting sick this winter.

And if by chance you already have the sniffles, a sore throat, or some other cold and flu symptom as you’re reading this, you’ll find some tips on how to drastically speed up your recovery.

I hate being sick, I mean really, really hate it. When I tell you that I get angry when I start to feel run down, I’m not exaggerating.

I guess it’s because I know how unproductive I’ll be if I get sick. Progress pretty much comes to a standstill when you get sick. Sure you might be able to function but your productivity at work, with workouts, you name it, is likely to suffer.

While everyone is susceptible to catching a cold or virus now and then, I’ve been able to successfully avoid getting the flu or full blown cold for years. Sure, I’ve had symptoms come on from time to time but nothing that slowed me down for more than 48 hours.

Do battle with your cold and flu symptoms!

Part of this I believe is due to my mindset of doing “battle” with anything that threatens my health. When I first feel even the slightest of symptoms I go into full-scale attack mode. I guess this makes me a little weird, or so I’m told, but so be it…I’d rather be weird than sick!

I just believe with all my heart and soul that our bodies are designed to be resilient and strong. If you get sick it’s a sign that something is definitely wrong and you’re out of balance.

I think a lot of people get to the point where they literally accept getting sick. Like it’s completely normal to catch a few colds or a virus each winter.

If that’s you, this is your wake up call!

You’re not supposed to get colds and the flu just because it’s winter. You’re not supposed to get sick period! If your immune system is compromised and you’re getting sick several times a year let’s get it built back up.

This way you can fight off the cold or flu virus from the jack wagon that doesn’t cover his mouth when he sneezes. You’ll inevitably run into this character at some point during the holiday season be it at the check out line, on an airplane, or somewhere…I can pretty much guarantee it.


Whether or not you get sick will come down to how resilient your immune system is. In other words, it’s what you do now that will determine what happens then.

FACT: You’re more likely to have a depressed immune system and get sick over the holidays…

I don’t know exactly what it is, but it seems like I always run into or talk to someone who is fighting a cold or flu this time of year. I’m sure it probably has something to do with the increased stress levels that seem to accompany the holidays.

Never-the-less, I guess this is a timely message and hopefully you’ll be able to pick up some tips that you can use to stay healthy.

I promise I won’t bore you with telling you to use hand sanitizer or to wash your hands with hot water and soap. Look, if you don’t already know that you should wash your hands you’ve got bigger issues than I’m going to be able to address in this article.

Eat a little dirt, it’s good for you!

I tend to be on the other side of the argument for “over-sanitizing” anyways. I think it’s actually part of the problem. If you’ve got kids, for heaven’s sake let them go outside, eat a little dirt, and roll around in the yard now and then, I say it’s good for them!


Our bodies build up immunity over time by being exposed to viruses and bacteria and then building antibodies. This is the reason why kids are sick more often than older adults. They just need time to become resilient. My advice is don’t try to over-protect by sanitizing everything.

You may be surprised by some of the things I have to tell you. But hey don’t just take my word for any of this stuff, experiment and see for yourself. I’m all about questioning things for yourself as you’ll see.

A lot of my ideas and philosophies on wellness that I have today came about because I questioned everything that a so called “health expert” said, especially if they didn’t appear to be fit, healthy, and strong.

You say I should do what? And because it’s working so good for who?

Seriously, who wants to take advice from a chubby nutrition expert or an out of shape personal trainer? You get my point. I’m just saying you should always question the advice and see how it’s working for the person who’s giving it.


It’s like this strict vegetarian friend of mine that claims my practice of eating meat is so “unhealthy” but yet he’s the one that always seem to be “down with something.” No disrespect to the vegetarians, I’ve got nothing but love for you.

I’ll just have to agree to disagree with you like I do with my friend on the idea of what humans are designed to eat. We’ll still be cool, you just don’t have to worry about me eating all the tofu!

Hey look, maybe you can live to reach 110 by eating wheat grass and staying under 150 pounds but I haven’t seen 150 pounds since the eighth grade and I don’t personally believe God would’ve provided us with meat if it wasn’t ok to eat.

Just my casual observation but it seems like it’s the food that man makes that ends up causing all the problems anyways. Grass fed beef or Coca-Cola….which do you think has lead to more health problems?

If you answered grass fed beef, we need to talk…seriously!

How To Build An Iron-Clad Immune System

Here’s what I believe to be the keys to a strong immune system and the principals I’ve lived by to help keep me from getting sick…

Consume plenty of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients

Let me try to make it real simple for you. If you’re healthy or sick depends on whether or not you’re winning the millions of battles that are occurring right NOW at a cellular level.

The bad guys (viruses, bacteria, any foreign invaders) which are called “free radicals” attack the cell walls and attempt to break through while the good guys on the inside called “anti-oxidants” serve as your defense barrier.

So where do you get the anti-oxidants you need as your line of defense? If you guessed vitamins you’d be wrong. They come from fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables (like 75% of the US population) you need to start. There’s just no getting around this. Although I’m pretty good I don’t always eat as much as I should.

That’s why every day I take a product called Juice Plus which is a whole food nutraceutical made from dehydrated fruits and veggies and put in capsules. 

You really need to look at this whole “good guys, bad guys” thing with anti-oxidants and free radicals as a battle because that’s exactly what it is. When the bad guys outnumber the good guys you get sick, everything from a common cold to cancer.

When the good guys outnumber the bad guys, they protect the cells keeping you healthy while slowing down the aging process.

Take a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement

When it comes to vitamins too much can be just as bad as not enough. Here’s where I stand on the whole vitamin issue.

The majority of synthetic vitamins have some degree of assimilation problems (and yes all vitamins are synthetic or man-made unless it comes from God given food). This means you won’t be able to absorb all the vitamins and minerals listed on the label.

Even still I believe you should take a multi-vitamin because it’s just hard getting enough of what we need from foods alone due to nutrient depletion problems with the soil.

However, taking a bunch of individual vitamins for some specific health benefit I’m not so sold on. I guess under certain conditions it could be beneficial but I’ve just seen too much abuse and problems caused by taking  excessive dosages of things we don’t need that much of.

I personally take a product called Advocare MNS if you’re looking for a good quality, complete multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.

Regardless of what you take just don’t waste your money with Centrum or some other cheap drug store variety. This is your health here people, not an area you want to be skimping on!

If you’re questioning why I’m down on Centrum, spend five minutes “googling” the differences between “fat soluble” vitamins and “water soluble” vitamins. Then you’ll be asking yourself how did they really get everything into one pill? We’ll leave it at that…

Consume plenty of protein

Regardless of where you stand on your philosophy of eating animals, here’s one thing that’s a fact. You need sufficient protein in your diet, someway, somehow, to help support a strong immune system. Protein acts as an antioxidant and is an essential component in the formation of white blood cells.

There’s even an amino acid in protein that binds cells together to form a wall of defense in the airways and lungs when subjected to viruses like influenza.

I could go on and on about the benefits of protein with your immune system. Bottom line is I recommend you try to consume at least approximately 1 gram per pound of lean body mass on a daily basis, someway, somehow, for optimal health.

Give your central nervous system frequent jolts

This is one of the biggest secrets nobody talks about. I believe it’s why many of my friends who are runners seem to get sick more frequently than guys like me who spend half the time exercising that they do.

Aerobic exercise, while certainly beneficial does very little to stimulate the central nervous system. This is important because the central nervous system is where hormonal responses for adrenaline, growth hormone, etc get triggered which boost the immune system.

While walking is great for aerobic exercise, frequent bouts of long distance running or high intensity training will break the body down and put you in a “catabolic state.” The body just sees the exercise as physiological stress which compromises your immune system.

Is stress good or bad? It depends….

Not that stress by itself is a problem…its chronic stress (repeated stress) that’s the real problem. A short encounter with something that stresses the body can be a very beneficial thing. Doing a sprint, lifting something heavy, running up a flight of stairs…these are all examples of “anaerobic” activities that help stimulate the central nervous system.

I believe in a well rounded and balanced physical fitness program that includes “getting out of breath” and “lifting something heavy” every now and then to accompany walking, stretching, and functional exercise.

What I’m getting at is it just seems that the people who are the strongest, healthiest, and most resilient do a little bit of everything. This includes doing short bouts of strenuous physical activity that puts them out of their comfort zone.

The forgotten immune booster of early fitness and wellness pioneers

One more tidbit related to stimulating the central nervous system. While this has largely been forgotten in today’s physical culture, the old time fitness and health guru’s like Farmer Burns, and Dr. William Howard Hay to name a few were advocates of using temperature changes.

An example would be going from a hot sauna to a cold shower to shock the system. The rationale was this stimulated the central nervous system and thereby bolstered the immune system.

I am a big believer in this and do a sauna with a cold shower following my workouts several times each week. Of course I finish with a hot shower as I’m not out of my mind.

There’s no doubt though that the combination of hot to cold certainly leaves me feeling energized and I have to believe the regular jolt to my central nervous system is part of reason I rarely get sick.

Get plenty of sleep

This is probably not much of a surprise but getting enough sleep is critical and bears re-enforcing. When you sleep your body recovers, rebuilds, and repairs itself. When you don’t get enough sleep your body views it as stress which triggers a series of hormonal imbalances with cortisol and insulin to name a few. 

Adequate sleep results in good immunity while a recurring lack of sleep results in compromised immunity…it’s as simple as that.

Follow the 80/20 rule with a Primal Diet

Do you have to eat perfect all the time to keep from getting sick? If I’m any evidence the answer is no. While I’m far from being perfect, I do look to follow the 80/20 rule with the majority of my diet consisting of natural, whole foods.

The key is removing all the processed and refined garbage from your diet. It’s really not that difficult but you have to make a commitment to developing new habits.

I don’t have potato chips, diet sodas, candy bars, and junk at my house and it’s for a reason. Please don’t talk to me about having stuff like this around for guests or family members either.

Would you give a family member or a guest some poison? Of course not but that’s exactly what refined sugar is in the human body. I think that’s enough on that, I don’t even want to get started on junk food.

Drink plenty of water

Dehydration is one of the key reasons people get a common cold or flu virus but they often don’t even realize it. That’s because if you’re waiting to drink water until you’re thirsty, it’s already too late. I fully understand the importance of drinking plenty of water and once again I don’t leave my intake to chance.


Here’s a good tip. I use a Nalgene water bottle (with the safe BPA plastic) that holds 32 ounces and shows the ounces on the side. I fill this up first thing in the morning and use it for everything. I make my coffee with it, take it with me to work, use it when I work out, basically drink from it all day long.

I simply count the number of times I fill it up during the entire day as my gauge. I know if I’m on track or not with my water consumption because I’m going to the same well all the time. Make sense? I recommend you do likewise because this creates habits which as you know is the name of the game.

“Align the spine”- get adjusted regularly

People often ask me about my opinion of chiropractic and I don’t hesitate to say that I get regular adjustments, typically 1-2 times a month.

Now with any profession you’re going to have qualified professionals and you’re going to have hacks. Chiropractors are no different. The problem is if you’ve had a bad experience it leaves you with a bad impression of the practice as a whole and you’ll probably be turned off by it.

Here’s the thing, I don’t go to a chiropractor because I’ve got back pain. In fact, I don’t have any real problems with my back at all. This confuses some people who think chiropractors are only for individuals with back pain.

I get regular chiropractic adjustments because I understand the role of the central nervous system. Your spine is essentially the “mother board” for thousands of nerve bundles that control every organ, every function of the human body. When your spine is aligned properly the electrical impulses are free to flow without restriction.

However, when you have what’s called “subluxation” or when vertebrae are out of alignment this can cause the electrical impulses to get restricted. Think about it in terms of a water hose, flowing full bore without restriction compared to being crimped down. Restrict the flow of power and your immune system will be compromised, bottom line.

Here’s a tip. When you start feeling like you’re getting sick, go get adjusted. I make it a point to do this every time I feel like I may be coming down with something and it seems to work like a champ.

Now granted it’s not the only thing I’m doing but it’s certainly part of the equation. There’s no denying the role of the central nervous system on immunity so it only makes sense to open up the pathways.

What to do when something doesn’t seem right…

Alright, here are my top tips for what to do when you start to feel like you could get sick. Remember this is a battle so you’ve got to treat it as such. Don’t dilly-dally around as you’ve got to move quick and hit hard to bolster your defenses.

Cut out all sugar – go Primal with your diet…

This means fruit juices as well. I tell people all the time to quit drinking loads of orange juice and other fruit juices because they think its helping, it’s not! Eat real fruit but put the juice down, there’s way too much sugar. 

Obviously remove all processed and refined foods and sugars. Follow the “no-white” rule while you’re fighting off sickness.   

Double up on Juice Plus…

I swear by this stuff. You can’t argue with the benefits of phytonutrients and antioxidants. These guys are the soldiers that will fight the viruses and win the battles for you at the cellular level. You need more help on the front when you’re under attack so I load up on fruits and veggies and take (2) of the Juice Plus veggie capsules every 2-3 hours. 

I actually consumed an entire bottle over a 48 hour period last month when I felt a cold coming on. All I can tell you is I didn’t get that cold!

I told this story to a friend who thought I was nuts for taking so many “vitamins.” He didn’t understand they’re NOT vitamins but capsules of dehydrated vegetables. Can you really overdose on vegetables? I don’t think so.

You may want to reduce the dosage to something more realistic but a little extra on the fruits and veggies, any way you can get them in will help.

Take Airborne/ Emergen-C / Extra Vitamin C…

Won’t help you much once you get sick but if you start early enough any of these strategies can certainly boost your immune system. Won’t hurt I can tell you that. 

Drink lots of water…

At the first sign of getting sick double up on your water intake. Trust me it’s a good idea.

Go to bed early…

It’s at night when you can beat a cold or the flu. Sleep is probably the biggest weapon in your arsenal. Take a hit of Nyquil and go to bed early for a couple of nights as soon as you start feeling under the weather. 

Increase protein…

Yeah, Mom’s chicken noodle soup is good when you get sick but protein is the real powerhouse. Look to bump up your protein intake by using whey protein powder and putting it in fruit smoothies, shakes, etc. 

Take a cold shower…

I’m sure most people won’t try this but you really should consider giving it a shot. Giving your central nervous system a jolt can do some amazing things.

I learned this from one of my mentor’s Matt Furey who swears by it. And after using the strategy several times already myself I’m a believer now as well.  

Get adjusted…

Go see a good chiropractor and get adjusted for all the reasons I’ve already talked about… 

What to do if you go down with a full blown cold or the flu…

Avoid strenuous exercise…

It’s ok to do some light work and break a sweat, but avoid doing strenuous workouts when you get sick. You’re body is fighting the cold or flu virus and needs all the help it can get with rest and recovery. You only break yourself down further when you try to workout vigorously when you’re sick. 

Get plenty of sleep…

For all the reasons we’ve already talked about… 

Drink plenty of water…

Try to double what you’d normally drink. Use tea to get in some of your water. Avoid soft drinks, fruit juices, milk, and sugary drinks.

Take Juice Plus…

Two words, phytonutrients and antioxidants. Build up your line of defense by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Think of Juice Plus as more of the good stuff we get from fruits and vegetables that work as nature’s antibiotic. 

Cut out all sugars- eat Primal…

Sugar, salt, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, additives, artificial ingredients…these are all working against your recovery. Eat natural, whole food as much as possible. Focus on lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. 

Avoid taking over-the-counter cold medications…

Especially the day-time medications that work to reduce your runny nose and cold symptoms as this can slow down the recovery process. 

Remember, this is just your body’s way of getting rid of the bad stuff and healing itself. We don’t want to slow that process down. Sure you might have to go through a lot of Kleenex but you’re better off to let your body do its thing.

On a side note: aspirin, acetaminophen, and headache powders like Goodies are all fine and can be very beneficial.


Experiment with the Neti-Pot…

This is a bit odd but I know people that swear by this thing. It might seem gross at first to pour water up your nose but once you do it, it’s not all that bad.

Experiment with old school home remedies…

Here are two of my favorite home remedies you can try. First one is a concoction that my mother used to give me as a kid when I had a cold. It was basically a cup of black tea with a shot of bourbon, tbsp of honey, and lemon juice. Maybe she was just trying to put me to sleep? Either way it seemed to ease the symptoms and I still use it today. 

The second home remedy is taking a glass of red wine and heating it up to be warm, but not hot-hot. Drink before going to bed if you have a fever. I remember the first time I heard about this I was in college and was sick with a bug of some sort.

I drank a cup of heated red wine and went to bed only to wake up at midnight with my sheets soaking wet and my fever broke. Coincidence? Who knows but there could be something to it.

Ok, so there you have it. Those are my tips for how I keep from getting sick and how I work to beat a cold or flu fast once I start coming down with symptoms. Of course I’m no doctor so make sure to go see a physician if your symptoms persist or extend beyond normal cold or flu symptoms.

Final word on antibiotics…

I will say this one last thing. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken antibiotics and I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay pretty resilient. A lot of people run to the doctor for a Z-pak every time they get a sniffle and I think long-term its making their immune system weaker. 

Fight the cold and flu viruses on your own and save the antibiotics for serious infections. That’s my two cents for what it’s worth.

Love to hear your comments so feel free to leave any thoughts, ideas, or responses below.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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