It’s time to beef up your cold and flu arsenal- the temperatures are dropping and we’re spending more time together in poorly ventilated spaces, sharing germs. Nutrition is key, and a diet rich in nutrients, micronutrients, and antioxidants maintains the body’s ability to fight disease and repair itself. Aloe Vera makes a great addition to a healthy diet/defense regimen and has the added bonus of easing cold and flu symptoms and speeding recovery.
Aloe Vera is nutritionally rich, containing a variety of essential vitamins and minerals (calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, magnesium, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E, folic acid and niacin) and defends the body against oxidative stress, which can weaken the immune system. In addition to consuming a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in certain fatty acids, some foods have been credited with especially effective strengthening immune response. Shiitake and other varieties of mushrooms, for instance, are thought to enhance immune functioning through certain polysaccharides, which interact with receptors expressed on several types of immune cells. Similar forms of polysaccharides are also found in oat, barley, and yeast cell walls. Polysaccharides in Aloe have also been proven to enhance immune system response, stimulating white blood cell activity and increasing the number of T-helper cells. A compound called acemannan, has been shown to be particularly effective in inhibiting the functioning and spread of certain viruses, including influenza.
Boosting immunity is not the only factor to consider is formulating your cold and flu season defense. While a healthy immune system is critical, it is also responsible for many of the tell-tale symptoms we experience as signs of infection. Chemical agents manufactured as part of our immune system defense cause our tissues to swell and result in discomfort- the characteristic sore throat, runny nose, fever, aches and pains that result in general misery. Aloe Vera is unique in that it not only prevents infection, but it also helps to manage the severity and duration of symptoms. Aloe contains a variety of substances that work together to inhibit inflammation and reduce pain (think sunburn), without inhibiting the body’s ability to heal. In addition, Aloe’s high water content keeps tissues hydrated and less hospitable to cold viruses, which thrive in dry conditions.
How to incorporate Aloe into your diet:
Aloe Vera juice can be found in most grocery stores and is available in a wide variety of juice blends/flavor combinations. Food grade Aloe Gel is more concentrated, but a little harder to find. Health food stores often carry it. You can always harvest the gel yourself from the fresh leaves of the plant- see our post, it’s easy. A tablespoon or two a day should do the trick. And if you’re battling a sore throat, Aloe Vera gel makes a great addition to the traditional salt water gargle. Check out our recipes!