Is your Immunity at risk?

You are, indeed, an equal partner with your immune system. It is up to you, for example, to take care of your body — and it’s up to your immune system to convert those good deeds into preventing illness.

“Medical research indicates that a number of lifestyle factors impact health and healing,” says Sherry Torkos, pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. “As part of a holistic strategy, I recommend taking a multivitamin, antioxidants and an immunity supplement daily. New to the market for example is Immunity-FX to strengthen your natural defenses.”

In addition, Torkos says researchers have pinpointed several factors that may weaken our immunity. These are:

Toxins: In a world filled with junk food, excess sugars, and saturated fats, many people have clogged elimination channels. This leads to an accumulation of toxins and waste material, weakening our overall defenses.

Nutrition deficiency: Since the body can’t produce its own nutrients, pay attention to eating quality food. Add a daily vitamin, mineral supplement, and natural immune booster if in doubt.

Dehydration: Give your cells fluid. Dehydration can cause countless problems to weaken your defenses, including the common cold and flu.

Lack of exercise: Regular aerobic activity feeds oxygen to the cells, improves blood circulation, cleanses the body of toxins and is credited with improving health.

Lack of sleep: Adequate rest strengthens all parts of the body to help you fight off even the most aggressive little bugs.

Better sleep = better immunity

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who had less than 7 hours of sleep were nearly 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep.

If you’re one of the 9 out of 10 Canadians who report having sleep problems*, here are 8 tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

Set a schedule and stick to it. Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this routine may interrupt your inner ‘circadian clock’ and lead to insomnia.

Watch what you eat. Try not to eat for at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime. Eating too much may make you less comfortable when settling down for bed. It is best to avoid a heavy meal and spicy foods too close to bedtime.

Watch what you drink. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant. This includes coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Alcohol tends to keep people in lighter stages of sleep, robbing them of deep and REM sleep.

Get regular exercise. Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Keep in mind, however, that while daily exercise often helps people sleep, a workout too soon before bedtime may actually interfere with sleep. It is better to finish your exercise at least 5 to 6 hours before going to bed.

Establish relaxing rituals. Leave the day’s stresses behind with a warm bath, reading or another relaxing activity. Avoid arousing activities before bedtime like working, paying bills, engaging in competitive games or family problem solving.

Make your room sleep-friendly. Select your mattress, pillow and bed linens carefully for maximum comfort. Maintain a sleep-friendly temperature in the bedroom, usually between 18-21 ° C (65-70 degrees F). You may also wish to consider using blackout curtains, eyeshades, earplugs, “white noise,” humidifiers, fans and other devices.

Don’t just lie there. Generally it takes about 20-30 minutes to fall asleep. If you still can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Instead try reading, watching television, or listening to calming music until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to your sleeplessness.

Rise with the sun. If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day.

*According to a Harris/Decima poll, which was commissioned by Sunbeam, via an online panel (eVox) among a sample of 745 adult Canadians. The margin of error is +/- 3.56 per cent.

Photo © Catherine Yeulet