Naturopaths have an excellent opportunity to support patients to prevent and minimise the overloading of the health system. We can play our part because we are accessible (via distance consultation or telephone) and affordable. We have many evidence-based options for prevention and treatment of respiratory disease as well as immune support. We also know who our high-risk patients may be, so we can offer them bespoke support with a range of strategies.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) at the centre of managing this pandemic recognises Naturopathy as a Traditional Medicine. It would be good to know that the WHO is meeting with the naturopathic profession to find out what we have to offer. Naturopathic approaches could avert significant public suffering. Naturopaths had good outcomes at the time of the Spanish Flu, with far fewer deaths than mainstream approaches. Naturopathic approaches to illness and recovery are timeless. We may have more science nowadays to backup some of the strategies, but the philosophy and principles of practice are the same. This offers hope in a time when the mainstream keeps repeating they do not have answers and are in uncharted territory.
We live between two paradigms of health care: The Germ Theory and the Biological Terrain Theory.
Central to Naturopathy is the Biological Terrain Theory, where optimising the terrain is paramount. This means improving the quality and functioning of the cells, organs, and body systems to be resilient to the exposure of pathogens (viruses, bacteria etc). When the terrain is not optimal it is far more susceptible to disease. As naturopaths, we know this deep strengthening is the most effective way to prevent disease. We have always lived in a sea of pathogens but robust wellness means we are not affected. A healthy person may be a carrier of ‘germs’ but not unwell themselves. That is why Pasteur (pioneer of the germ theory) stated on his deathbed to Beauchamp, his rival and pioneer of The Biological Terrain Theory, “You were right, and I was wrong; the terrain is everything!”
The Germ Theory is central to the identification, diagnosis and symptomatic treatment of a disease. This is the pillar of modern medicine especially since the advent of antibiotics. Vigilance to external threats of viruses, bacteria or other organisms.
Naturopathy goes much further than treating only symptoms. We want to know why the person is susceptible, and what the cause is – Tolle Causam? Why is this person’s immune system, respiratory system, digestive system susceptible? We don’t ignore the symptom, but we go deeper. Unless we unravel the cause, the symptom often recurs. Wherever possible, we do not use suppressive treatments.
Fever is not to be feared or suppressed but managed. It has been here for thousands of years for good reason. It is a major and critical way that the body harnesses innate biochemistry to fight the pathogen. Most fevers can be managed to good effect. Suppressing the fever can result in the fever returning, mounting a stronger defense, exacerbating the illness, and the temperature returns often much higher. This naturopathic understanding is not commonly understood in mainstream medicine, where fever suppression is rife. Of course, if the fever is in a critical range that could cause harm, then it must be dealt with swiftly.
Docere (teacher) is a naturopathic principle reminding us of our duty of care to educate, inform and empower our patients. Explaining the Biological Terrain theory in regards to prevention and treatment helps to offer a rational, logical and well-established principle that has worked for naturopaths for more than one hundred years in both chronic and acute health conditions. When patients understand health and disease in a very different way, fear is decreased and compliance improves. Practical information on how to strengthen body systems empowers patients to be participants in their own disease prevention. This goes far beyond public health strategies. Acting early is critical – as soon as a symptom appears. This is important to get across to patients who may not realise the seriousness of this COVID-19 virus. Treated early, symptoms may resolve, and not escalate to more serious hospital admissions. Naturopaths can be aiming to keep the public OUT of the hospitals.
Naturopathy has many options to fill the gaps in conventional medicine. As prevention medicine specialists, naturopaths have been treating the whole patient, not only the disease or the symptoms. Each patient is treated in a unique way depending on their unique presentation. Naturopathy is based on a wellness model: what a well person needs to maintain and create wellness and resilience. Naturopathy has unique strategies for prevention, treatment of illness, and just as importantly, an approach for convalescence and full recovery after an illness. Naturopaths treat body, mind and spirit. Confused messaging with a ‘no clear treatment strategy’ from medical authorities has created panic and fear of this virus amongst the public. Naturopaths can allay some of this fear with naturopathic approaches that balance and normalise even stress and fear.
Please note: Patients must check with their personal health practitioner who knows their detailed health information before acting on any general advice.
Naturopathic approaches include: lifestyle measures, dietary advice, herbal medicine, targeted nutrients, homoeopathy and hydrotherapy. Naturopaths may have additional therapeutics they can offer. The message is we have many tools for a comprehensive approach.
Prevention includes educating patients what the respiratory and immune tissues need to function optimally. Full function of the digestive system cannot be ignored because such a large percentage of immune function is in the digestive tract. When digestion is compromised, critical nutrients do not arrive at their target tissues. If there are endemic nutrient deficiencies because soils lack nutrients (we have selenium deficient soils in Australia) then those nutrients not supplied in food must be supplemented. Naturopaths are aware of assessing each patient for their unique requirements and deficiencies of targeted nutrients. This is a good example of a naturopathic approach that is different from mainstream medicine where nutrition is hardly included as part of the medical curriculum. Specific nutrients may be crucial to the body for mounting a strong defense to a pathogen, minimising viral replication and damage, and repairing excessive oxidation in the tissue. The respiratory tract is the main area of concern with this new virus. We cannot downplay that this is not the common cold, but a new version of the coronavirus with a high affinity for respiratory tissue. Unlike the common cold, the symptoms may be severe in those susceptible that may lead to interstitial pneumonia and sepsis. Treating early is paramount.
A bespoke herbal tonic can be formulated to support the respiratory system and immunity. The concept of a tonic for a tissue or body system is not a concept found in mainstream pharmacy. If a patient presents with early symptoms of a fever and cough, we can act and may prevent debilitating escalation of the illness that needs hospitalisation. Herbal medicines may offer immunomodulating actions that decrease the potential of cytokine storm, act on the respiratory tract, aid convalescence, reduce a fever, decrease cough and sore throat. Consider remedies that strengthen mucous membranes thereby minimising the entry of a virus to the tissue. The herbal tonic can easily be modified as the symptom picture changes.
A bespoke Homeopathic remedy is an option. Historically homeopathy has played a significant role in pandemics in history. This modality also is unique to each patient and changes as symptoms change. The Indian government where Homeopathy is included in the public health system has advocated for their citizens to use homeopathy as a preventative and treatment measure.
We are all learning. Going back to basics will serve us all well. With rapidly changing information it is good to be quiet and be in the space of love, not fear! This needs to translate to our self-care as practitioners as well as how we support our patients.
Following public health measures like washing hands with soap, social distancing and self-quarantining is extremely important!
General naturopathic advice for strengthening immunity
- Get adequate sleep and rest
- Minimise stress
- Keep hydrated with filtered water
- Exercise to your capacity, if unwell REST
- Breathing exercises (yoga) can strengthen the respiratory system, reduce stress
- Associate with loving people – supportive networks
- Foods with immune and anti-inflammatory properties: turmeric, ginger, green tea – contains EGCG, onions – contain quercetin, elderberries, garlic and oregano.
- Eat appropriate chemical-free foods with lots of colours (antioxidants and flavonoids) and good quality protein to mount the antibody response to the virus and for damaged tissue repair.
- Include chemical-free healthy fats from nuts, seeds and fish oils.
- Avoid sugar – decreases the function of white blood cells for up to 5 hours, decreases first line defense against pathogens.
- Convalescence is paramount to fully recover if you have been ill.
Naturopathic options for unique requirements of each patient!
Targeted nutrients: Vitamins A, C, D, Selenium, Zinc, Iodine, NAC or glutathione.
Herbal medicines to consider depending on presentation:
- Respiratory tonics – Elecampane, Rhodiola (increases oxygen uptake in lung tissue)
- Antivirals: Licorice, Lomatium, Baikal scullcap, Kudzu, Houttuynia, Japanese Knotweed
- Immune-modulators: Andrographis, Astragalus, Echinacea, Cordyceps, Withania
- Synergists: Licorice, Ginger
- Decrease cytokine inflammatory storm: Cordyceps, Dan Shen, Don Quai, Turmeric
- Antipyretic (decreases fever): Boneset, Yarrow
Homeopathy offers unique remedies depending on the patients’ unique symptoms. These remedies are changed as the symptom picture changes. Many naturopaths are well trained in the use of homeopathy.
Who is at increased risk?
- Those 70 years + although this may be changing
- Those using ACE-2 inhibitor pharmaceuticals (suggested that these medications increase the cellular entry point for the COVID-19 virus)
- Those with hypertension, diabetes, respiratory disease
- Prior flu vaccination – shown to increase the risk of infection from other viruses
As COVID-19 information is changing make sure to stay up to date with government and state agencies for public health advice. www.health.gov.au
National Coronavirus Health Information LIne – 1 800 020 080
Who needs to isolate? www.health.gov.au/covid19-travellers
Other relevant resources:
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