When most of the triathletes have arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii for competing in the IRONMAN world championships 2 or 3 days after their arrival many of them, especially the European guys, start to complain about symptoms that are related to an impaired immunity. Undefined illness symptoms are very common among the athletes and endanger their participation in the race. Our team accompanies the Hannes’ Hawaii group to Captain Cook every year for almost 15 years, and it is almost normal that we hear people complaining about common colds, sore throats, stomach problems etc.
Our BIESTMILCH activities made me speak to many athletes about their health problems. It is amazing and alarming to find out how common it is among athletes to suffer from various symptoms that point towards the incompetence of and the strain on the immune system. Many of the symptoms get worse during the strain of the intensive training and burden of the competitions on the body. Even young athletes between the ages of 15 and 20 suffer from unclarified symptoms of pain or after having hardly moved out of the basic endurance training levels to develop some infection or another.
In many cases, they have consulted doctors of the various specialities without success. Here is a short list of the health issues that indicate that you are just about to fall off the narrow ridge of balance, alarm signals are cropping up which should prompt yourself to be careful not to fall into the valley out of which it is difficult to get out:
- Severe respiratory infections
- Infections of the sinuses
- Herpes infections
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea
- Irritable bowel sysndrome
- Injuries out of the blue
- Aching groins, knees, the lower back or Achilles tendon
that bear no relation to what the x-ray shows
- Stress-induced asthma
- Spreading of an existing allergy to other organs (hay fever suddenly accompanies asthma)
- Popping up of an atopic eczma
… the list can be continued easily!Most illnesses or the performance impairing problems athletes suffer from are either related to their acute stress exposure or are the result of the long lasting chronic strain. The acute sequelae of stress are reversible and disappear fast when given enough recovery time. This is not the case, if complications result from chronic stress conditions, which have lasted over years. You are then more prone to injuries, whereby the healing process is slowed down, overtraining, chronic viral infections, burn-out syndrome, chronic fatigue or more susceptible to the worsening or reactivation of beforehand silent illnesses.
Many an athlete has told me that in times of training breaks necessary due to professional or family reasons all of a sudden the symptoms of allergies, asthma or atopic eczma disappeared. After having started training again, the problems returned; sometimes they were even worse than at the beginning of their athletic career.
The foundation for all of these illnesses is an imbalance within the immune system or the disturbed interaction of the systems that mount the competent stress response.
Stress issues can arise from an inappropriate activation and collaboration of all three components of the stress system – the immune system, nervous system and the hormones. There are abnormalities of partly genetic origin, others have to do with our lifestyle, and yet others that we ignore as being warning signals of our organism.
For this reason, the following helpful rules apply:
Stick to for you appropriate recovery times, recovery is not only needed for the muscles but also for the brain and the other bodily organs.
Take warning signals the body sends out seriously and put together a good and balanced diet if possible. To live an ascetic life and decline from everything that tastes good and is enjoyable, is not really the right kind of advice to be successful.
The immune system should be taken into consideration when planning training. Maybe the one or other of you will consider including mental training in your training plan, for the sake of your immune system. And last but not least, BIESTMILCH should be part of our daily diet, it may spare you a lot of problems that occur due to immune incompetence.
If you want to read more, check my BIESTMILCWORLD website about stress, immunity and performance.