(NaturalNews) Along with all the holiday festivities and togetherness come equal exposure to stress and sickness. Demands on our time, our pocketbook and yes, even our waistline. In the name of celebration, many people succumb this time of year to eating fewer nutritious foods and more junk foods. And when the body must dedicate its precious resources to breaking down those ingested toxins, is it really any wonder that it becomes more vulnerable to attack?
Though Natural News readers are likely already better armed than most with the nutritional education necessary to protect against cold and flu so prevalent this time of year - and without the need for dangerous flu shots - should you find yourself wanting a little extra immune support, look no further than those provided by nature in its infinite wisdom.
Say what you will about "garlic breath," but the property responsible for that infamously strong odor (allicin) is the very same one that makes garlic so effective at fighting off harmful bacteria (like strep and staph) and fungi; plus, fresh garlic has demonstrated anti-viral properties as well. Garlic is rich in antioxidants and selenium and helpful in clearing mucous from the lungs, making it particularly useful in treating upper respiratory infections. If you enjoy garlic and onion together, don't be shy about a pairing, as both contain sulfur-bearing compounds which make them excellent at strengthening the immune system and supporting white cell function.
Carrots are natural infection-fighters. Packed with beta carotene and other carotenoids, this root vegetable supports the immune system by helping to increase the body's production of natural killer (NK) cells and T-cells, which the body requires to defend against infectious disease and foreign invaders. Drinking your carrots, in the form of fresh juice, may actually increase your uptake of beta carotene. If you're suffering from a cough, carrot juice can help to prevent the vitamin A deficiency that might be compromising your airways.
In addition to its already well-known effects on symptoms of cold and flu, like soothing achy muscles and calming digestion, ginger assists the body to kill the influenza virus and also supports the immune system in fighting infection, according to Chinese and Indian studies. It's also relatively easy to incorporate into the diet. You can include it in your cooking, as part of the meal or as a sauce, or you can add it to hot water for a relaxing, ginger tea experience.
Produced from the pollen of New Zealand's Manuka tree or bush, this very special honey is renowned for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties which help to fight the bacteria that causes colds. It contains more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants than other honeys and is particularly good at soothing and healing sore throats. Some hospital wards now are even using Manuka honey to guard against certain antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains that can lead to life-threatening conditions like MRSA and VRE. Look for it in health foods stores.
Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed oil supports immune system function by boosting the activity of bacteria-eating white blood cells known as phagocytes. It also enhances the body's ability to absorb minerals, helping to ensure we're better protected when the next unfriendly bacteria or virus rears its ugly head. Just one to three teaspoons of flaxseed oil can power up your next smoothie.
Also very beneficial to immune function is eating plenty of foods rich in vitamin C (broccoli, citrus fruits) and being sure to get plenty of vitamin D (sardines, sunlight, live-culture yogurt, D3 supplemental support). Vitamin C increases antibody and infection-fighting cell production, while vitamin D decreases the risk of catching the "bug" altogether.
It's important to keep in mind that no one thing alone can create the delicate balance necessary for the body to achieve maximum health. Health, or the lack thereof, is in part a result of the accumulation of a person's daily habits. Best practices include a diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals, regular activity, adequate rest and plenty of clean water. In this sense, a healthy lifestyle remains the best defense against cold and flu season.