Monday, December 10, 2007

De-Toxing the House:

A good place to start fighting toxins is by improving your and your family's immune system. A healthy immune system is better equipped to fight off germs and other toxins than an unhealthy one.

Here are four things that you can do to improve your and your family members' immune systems:

1) Laugh Often -- Yep, you read that one right. We've all heard that laughter helps lower blood pressure. According to the book I've been reading by Drs. Roizen and Oz, laughter also increases cells that kill tumors and viruses, and it produces disease fighting antibodies, to boot. It also increases oxygen in the blood, and helps counter the effect of mental stress on the arteries. Tis' the season to be merry!

2) Help each member of your family get the required amount of quality sleep. Among other benefits, snoozing soundly through the night supports the immune system's work.

Here's a chart your can look up to see how much sleep a child needs for each year between the ages of 2 and 8:

Don't forget about your teens, who need more sleep than many parents' realize. There is a theory that this is because hormones that deal with teens' growth and sexual maturation are produced mostly at night. (See ) This means that teens need more hours of sleep than adults, who have -- we hope -- reached full maturity. I've read different figures for teenagers, but your teens will probably do ok on anywhere from 9 to 11 hours of sleep.

When my children were teens, they used to love to tell me about all of the studies that said that teens need to sleep later than adults. There is some evidence that their sleep cycles are slightly different than adults. For that reason, some educators advocate later starting times for high schools. That's probably a good thing. If you home school, you can keep that in mind, as well. But, rural teens have been getting up early to do farm chores for centuries upon centuries. So, it's my lay person's opinion that you can find a way for your teen to get the sleep he or she needs, even if you just can't avoid an early wake-time.

If all else fails, your teens may need a short afternoon nap to compensate for sleep deprivation. A nap can be helpful. But, napping isn't as beneficial as getting a good night's sleep. It can also backfire if your child naps so long that he or she is wide awake when bedtime comes.

Please note that parents often mistake signs of sleep deprivation in children and teens for behavioral and attitude problems. A lack of good quality sleep can lead to moodiness, sluggishness, poor concentration, falling asleep at inappropriate times, sleeping really late on the weekends, and having difficulty remembering things. Also, oddly enough, if you are sleep deprived, it can interfere with your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep, which leads to more sleep deprivation. If you detect these signs of sleep deprivation in your child, please note that his or her immune system may be being compromised, as well.

If you experience some of these symptoms, yourself, check your own sleep habits. We adults have our own issues with snoozing through the night -- from nursing babies to dealing with the changes that come with aging. So, for your own immune system's sake, do some research about how to improve your quality of sleep and take whatever steps you need to make sure you stay as rested as possible.

3) Breathe correctly and relax: These two elements help your vagus nerve, which is highly affected by both stress and by shallow, tense breathing. The vagus nerve is one of the most important and largest nerves in the body, and it controls many things in our bodies. In this article, we're talking about one of the vagus nerve's many duties: helping to regulate the immune system. It not only helps with the body's defenses, it keeps those defenses from getting out of control. It's not good for your immune system to be on red alert all the time, so the vagus nerve tells it when it's ok to relax for a bit.

See my archives for articles about how to breathe correctly.

4) Eat foods such as yogurt, keifer, buttermilk, and sauerkraut that have helpful bacteria in them. I know it's yucky to think of bacteria and fungi taking up residence in our digestive systems. The fact is, however, that they do. Some of these little critters are friendly and some are not. We want enough of the friendly infection fighters in our system to keep the unfriendly critters from taking over.

It's important to replenish the helpful little bacteria often, as they are short-lived. This is doubly true if you have been on an antibiotic for a bacterial infection. Antibiotics can save our lives by fighting off the bad guys. The only trouble is, they can't distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. They fight any foreign substance living in our bodies. So, it's vital to re-populate the good guys asap after finishing your prescription. If you can't get the helpful bacteria from foods, supplements can help.


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