Runners Immune Health: A New Perspective - She Runs Eats Performs

Episode 133

Published on:

23rd Mar 2023

Runners Immune Health: A New Perspective

Many runners experience illness and infection, especially upper respiratory tract infections and digestive illness and concerns. These issues can lead to time away from running, or at least a reduced training load until fully recovered, which can be frustrating.

There appears to be significant developments in the approach to supporting an athlete's immune health nutritionally, so here we outline the current scientific thinking on this subject. 

We give you:

1. An overview of the potential paradigm shift in optimising an athlete’s immune health

2. An introduction to the nutritional influence in supporting this paradigm shift

3. Some ideas of how to introduce the nutritional recommendations into your meal plan

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Outlining the key paradigm shift with regards to immune health and athletes and discussing the new and current scientific thinking. 

The paradigm shift involves the concept of immune reset resistance versus immune tolerance



Two recent studies carried out on female athletes showed that approximately HALF of them were classified as having low energy availability (LEA). This LEA appeared to be associated with a 4-8 times higher risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). It must be stressed that it was an association with, rather than a causation of an URTI. BUT it does suggest that LEA may be a risk factor for reduced immunity and infection. 


Delving into the nutritional influence in supporting this paradigm shift in immune health of athletes. 

The key nutrients of interest include:

  • Protein
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin D


TIPS on introducing Probiotics and Vitamin C into a regular meal plan


Giving advice regarding testing Vitamin D levels



  1. The current scientific thinking about immune health in athletes is shifting from the concept of immune resistance to the idea of immune tolerance
  2. Focusing on immune tolerance it thought to mean more targeted nutritional supplementation could be used in reducing the infection burden in athletes 
  3. Regarding immune tolerance in athletes, the current nutritional focus is on Protein, Probiotics, Vitamin C and Vitamin D
  4. Introducing adequate amounts of foods containing these nutrients/microbes into your meal plan on a regular basis may be sufficient to maintain already adequate levels
  5. BUT…if insufficiency or deficiency in any of these nutrients/microbes are present then nutritional supplementation may be required
  6. Finally, we recommend you work with a qualified practitioner when considering nutritional supplementation as requirements and suitability of supplements needs to be personalised

Related Topics:

Endurance Running and Immune Health

Spotlight on Probiotics for Performance

Spotlight on Vitamin C for Runners


The suggestions we make during this episode are for guidance and advice only, and are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health, please contact your healthcare professional for advice as soon as possible.

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Best Wishes and Happy Running!

Karen and Aileen 

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About the Podcast

She Runs Eats Performs
for mid-life female runners of all abilities
Are you confused about the science around nutrition for runners? Listen in to learn about the WHY, HOW, WHAT, and WHEN of eating to fuel your running performance.

We are here to help you translate sports nutritional science, into easy to apply tips and plans, helping you enjoy peak running performance. We focus on the FEMALE FACTORS every mid-life woman needs to know to be a healthy runner.

About your host

Profile picture for Aileen Smith

Aileen Smith

Nutritionists, Educators, Podcasters, Runners and Friends

We have a love of running and a passion for nutrition, delicious food and healthy living. She Runs Eats Performs for female runners of all abilities who are looking for simple ways to improve their running performance and their health with nutrition and lifestyle.
We enjoy sharing our nutritional expertise, reviewing the latest sports science and most of all helping you to take easy action so you can enjoy your running life to the full.
We are here to help you achieve great health and good shape whilst staying injury-free with easy-to-understand sports nutritional concepts and easy-to-implement tips and plans.

Aileen and Karen are BANT and CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapists.