The most important principle of naturopathic medicine is to respect the healing power of nature. More broadly this refers to a health-focused approach, in contrast to a disease-focused approach. It is known that those who are in poor health (particularly with metabolic issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease) are at higher risk of serious outcomes from viral illness, and so from a naturopathic perspective the mainstay of infectious disease prevention and treatment is still to become healthier. This has the added benefit of protecting you from most other diseases as well.
Health, being multidimensional, requires an individualized approach for best results. The guidelines below are meant for educational purposes only. Please consult a qualified healthcare professional before utilizing these protocols.
The best prevention is to get healthier. Health is fundamentally a direction, not a destination, so no matter what chronic conditions you have, becoming healthier is always possible. You are likely familiar with these basic health recommendations but they are the foundation and thus must come first.
Fundamentals of Health
- Take in what is nourishing:
- Full-spectrum natural sunlight (1)
- Clean air and water
- A primarily plant-based, diverse, whole foods (organic) diet
- Time in nature
- Rest in its many forms
- Healthy activity:
- Daily movement and exercise
- Meaningful work that satisfies your heart
- An outlet for creative expression
- Fulfilling human relationships
- Release what is not needed:
- Management and release of stress
- Smooth elimination of physical wastes
Supplements are typically helpful only when the body is deficient. When living in harmony with nature we ideally receive almost all nutrition through food, and thus supplements are generally helpful only when we are lacking something in our environment or in our diets. Sadly this is often the case in modern times. The supplements listed below are well known for their role in strong immunity. The dosages are guidelines only and for adults, not children; speak with your doctor about what is right for you.
- Vitamin A – 2,000-5,000 IU daily. Retinol is preferable to beta carotene. Always take with vitamin D to prevent toxicity
- Vitamin D – 2,000-5,000 IU daily. Best taken with vitamin K2 to prevent issues with calcium deposition
- Vitamin C – 500-1,000 mg 2x daily (2)
- Vitamin E – 500-1000 IU daily (3)
- Zinc – 10-20 mg daily
- Quercetin – 250-500 mg daily
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – 500-600 twice daily (4)
Herbs work best when individualized, and although many herbs have antiviral or antimicrobial properties the purpose of herbs for prevention is to enhance health, not to treat disease. Since each person may have a unique constitution and be dealing with different types of chronic issues, when using herbs for prevention it is best to speak with a qualified professional who can help you choose the appropriate approach.
Similar to using herbal medicine, the most productive way to use homeopathics preventatively is not as prophylaxis for specific diseases but as a way to increase health. This is generally difficult to do at home without training, and thus finding a qualified homeopath (some NDs, some MDs, and various other healthcare professionals use homeopathic medicine) will likely be the most helpful.
Treatment for acute illness
Naturopathic medicine adheres to a principle known as the therapeutic order. This principle states that treatment should proceed from low force towards high force interventions, and always use the least invasive treatment necessary. Therefore, within the context of outpatient treatment (not in a hospital), the following are given in this order.
As with prevention, lifestyle changes are usually the most important, as well as being the least forceful. When you get sick you should attempt to implement the following:
- Do not go to work, do not work at home, and rest as much as possible.
- Abstain from processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational substances.
- If you are not hungry, do not force yourself to eat. If you eat, stick to simple, easy to digest whole foods. In general eat well-cooked food, except juicy fruits, which can be eaten raw.
- Stay well-hydrated, primarily with water. Other more nourishing drinks such as soup are also appropriate.
- If at all possible do not take antiinflammatory medication or drugs to reduce fever. You can read more about the positive and necessary role of fever in this article.
- Constitutional Hydrotherapy performed at home has almost no contraindications and is an excellent way to stimulate natural immunity and vitality. This treatment should be done daily until your illness has passed. If you are generally a robust and high energy person, perform this treatment twice per day.
- Perform the Warming Socks Treatment every night.
- Make sure to keep yourself warm, especially your feet, at all times.
Homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s innate response systems, and thus is generally not very effective if prescribed for a specific disease. This type of medicine works well only when individualized to your response to the disease you’re experiencing. There are numerous remedies which could prove helpful for an acute viral illness, and in many cases it is the same remedy as you might need to help you overcome chronic health problems. It is best to consult with an experienced homeopath in order to get good results.
As with prevention, herbal medicine works best when individualized to your specific condition, regardless of the named disease you are experiencing. In order to obtain results with herbs that are not well-individualized, larger doses are often necessary, which can increase the possibility of side effects, or interact in unknown ways with any medications you may already be taking. It is still recommended you speak with a qualified professional; however, if you choose to treat yourself, the following herbs have all shown a positive impact on immunity.
- Lemon balm
Most of the supplements in the prevention section are also effective for treatment, though the appropriate dose is higher. There are also a few additional supplements that are beneficial. Again, these are dosages for adults, not for children.
- Vitamin A – 25,000 IU daily for 3-5 days or until symptoms resolve. Retinol is preferable to beta carotene. Always take with vitamin D to prevent toxicity
- Vitamin D – 25,000 IU daily for 3-5 days or until symptoms resolve. Best taken with vitamin K2 to prevent issues with calcium deposition, look for a formulation that contains both
- Vitamin C – 500-1,000 mg every 1-2 hours or until bowel tolerance
- Vitamin E – 5,000 IU daily for 3-5 days
- Zinc – 50 mg daily
- Quercetin – 250-500 mg daily
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – 500-600 mg every 1-2 hours or until bowel tolerance
- Melatonin – 10 mg 1 hour before bedtime
Pharmaceuticals are considered higher force interventions and thus do not appear in the list for prevention, as they are designed to treat disease, and not to support health. Please take time to consult with your doctor about any medications that may be right for you.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please seek medical attention from a healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing signs of illness. Note that the above information is not intended as a substitute for medical care nor does it infer that any of these approaches treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
(1) This exposure should be without sunglasses or sunscreen. It is best to use hats and clothing to protect yourself once you’ve reached skin tolerance. Do not overdo your exposure and get burned.
(2) When the absorption limit for the body is reached additional vitamin C will lead to diarrhea. If this occurs, reduce the dose and/or the frequency of dosing.
(3) High doses of vitamin E can increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor if you are at risk of hemorrhages or if you are taking blood thinning medication.
(4) For NAC reaching bowel tolerance can result in foul-smelling gas due to the sulfur content. If this occurs, reduce the dose and/or the frequency of dosing.