Saturday, March 28, 2020

Food and Immune Health

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

What you eat truly is the foundation of overall health.  But, choosing the ideal diet can be challenging as the "right diet" can vary based on age, health status, food intolerances and other factors.

This current health crisis is reinforcing the need for a healthy diet as the health of your immune system is strongly linked to what you eat and what you don't eat.  When looking at diet from the lens of immune health it can be helpful to increase foods that support immune function and ensure adequate hydration, and to limit foods that cause inflammation or that impede immune function.

The following is a general guide. For recommendations specific to you or your family members it is always best to work with your naturopathic doctor.

General "Rules"

Although there is not one diet that is best for everyone, here are some general "rules" to keep in mind:
  1. Eat primarily to be healthy
  2. Eat from all the food groups
  3. Ensure proper portions. 
  4. Eat regular meals.
  5. 75% whole foods 
To learn more about these general rules, check out our blog Nutrition - Top 5 Things to Remember.

Foods That Support Immune Function

A balanced diet is essential to proper immune function. The following is an overview of the nutrients that are required for the immune system to work properly and the foods that contain them:
  • Vitamin C: blackcurrant, broccoli, citrus fruits, kale, parsley, spinach
  • Vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, chicory, dill, dried apricots, egg yolk, kale, liver, parsley, red pepper.
  • Vitamin B6: avocados, walnuts, spinach, nuts and seeds, whole grains
  • Vitamin B12: beef, poultry, fish, dairy, sauerkraut, seaweed
  • Vitamin D: butter, dairy, eggs, liver, sardines, mackerel, oatmeal, oysters, salmon, shitake, sprouts, sweet potatoes, tuna
  • Omega 3 oils: fish such as sardine, mackeral, salmon and tuna, almonds, avocado, beans, chia seeds, linseeds, olive oil, spinach, walnuts
  • Folic Acid: dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruit, dried beans, peas, whole grains.
  • Copper: liver, oysters, cashews, soy beans, dark leafy greens, avocados, kale, linseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, pine nuts, legumes, dried fruits
  • Zinc: oysters, seafood, pumpkin seeds, beef, chicken, cashews, brazil nuts, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, hazel nuts and whole grains.
Nutrient deficiencies are a global problem.  Research indicates that deficiency in nutrients impairs immune function, contributes to chronic disease and increases the risk of mortality.  Health and longevity is strongly correlated with overall nutritional status.

Foods That Contribute to Inflammation

When the immune system is overwhelmed it creates inflammation. This inflammation can often do more damage than the pathogen or toxin that it is trying to protect the body from.  Avoiding foods that add to the inflammatory process, especially if you have respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath or fatigue, will assist you recovery.  The following strategies will help limit the amount of inflammation due to food:
  • If you have known food intolerances, it is recommended to limit these as much as possible.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, cookies, white rice and other "white" highly processed foods.
  • Avoid trans fats, vegetable oils and foods high in sugar.
  • If you have mucous-related symptoms limit dairy, wheat, yeast and bananas. Fruit is healthy, but it is important to limit your fruit intake to a couple servings a day.

Stay Hydrated

Ensuring regular hydration is an important aspect of immune health.  The following foods can help ensure adequate hydration:
  • Water. Drink about 1/2 your body weight in ounces a day.
  • Herbal teas are a great alternative. There are a number of herbal teas that also support immune and respiratory health.
  • Green drinks and diluted vegetables juices can be beneficial as long as the sugar content is minimized.
For more information, check out our blog on Water - Top 5 Things to Remember.

Foods That Might Weaken Immune Function

There are some foods and drinks that impede immune health. To ensure that your immune system stays strong limit the following foods:
  • Sugar. The consumption of refined glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, pop and high-sugar juices, has been shown to compromise the immune system for three to five hours. The most important thing you can do when you are sick or when you are concerned about your immune system is to stay away from all processed sugar.
Salt.  Avoid high-salt foods such as processed meats, and packaged soups and foods. Salt adds to the inflammatory response and weakens overall immunity.
  • Junk Food. Most people enjoy a bit of junk food every now and then, but it is important to limit it or avoid it completely when working on strengthening overall immune health. Junk food is generally nutrient deficient, high in salt and/or sugar and high in food additives.
Eating healthy is pretty straight forward it you have a lot of variety and ensure that the majority of food that you eat is whole food.

If you would like any guidance on what is best to eat for you or your family, please work with one of our naturopathic doctors.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

A crisis generally evokes confusion, anxiety and for some fear; and this pandemic is no different. To a large degree, the anxiety is due to the fact that there are so many unknowns - which is understandable as this virus is new.

As a naturopathic doctor, what I find encouraging is that there have been hundreds of research papers  published in the last few months. Doctors and researchers are madly working to understand how to manage COVID-19.  Rest assured that the information we are gathering is helping the medical profession figure out what needs to be done.  I trust the following answers some of your questions:

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 
A: The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath or tiredness. A person might have additional symptoms such as aches and pains, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea, but at least two of the three main symptoms are generally present. 

Q: Who can get COVID-19? 
A: Anyone can get COVID-19, but currently older adults that have hypertension, heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are at a higher risk of developing serious complications. It is important that everyone be diligent and take the proper precautions. 

Q: How is COVID-19 spread? 
A: The virus is believed to be spread primarily by person-to-person through respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected individual. It can also be transmitted by touching surfaces where infected droplets have recently landed. 

Q: Is the COVID-19 virus airborne?
A: NO! COVID-19 virus is NOT airborne. It is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The respiratory droplets quickly fall to the ground or on a surface. They only stay in the air for a very short period of time. 

Q: How long do the respiratory droplets last on surfaces?
A: Respiratory droplets can last between two to three days on plastic and/or stainless steel.  Keep in mind, the viral-load (concentration) of the droplets decreases quite quickly. Respiratory droplets can appear on other surfaces (e.g. clothing) but they do not last for very long and are not easily transmitted to someone from these surfaces.

Q: Why the 6 Foot Rule?
A: You never know when you may cough or sneeze and the six-foot rule is based on the fact that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough may travel up to six feet. Social distancing is primarily about protecting you from a cough or sneeze.  Coughing and sneezing into a tissue or into your sleeve is important to contain the spread of respiratory droplets. 

Q: What is Social Distancing? Why is it important? 
A: Social distancing, quarantines and self-isolation are terms in wide use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing involves avoiding crowds and keeping a safe distance between you and others when shopping or going for a walk.  It is a preventative measure through limiting inter-personal contact. Until we understand more about COVID-19, it is important to follow the social distancing guidelines set by your government.

Q: How can I protect myself from COVID-19?
A: The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being directly exposed. Four things to keep in mind:
  1. The most important is to avoid close contact with anyone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  2. Wash your hands frequently especially after coughing or sneezing and being in public places. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands after touching surfaces that others would have commonly touched. 
  3. Practice social distancing. 
  4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Q: If you have symptoms or if you have tested positive for COVID-19, is it important to self-quarantine? 
A: YES.  First and foremost, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 it is important to call your local public health for testing. Anyone who has symptoms or has been tested positive MUST self-quarantine as directed by public health, usually for 14 days.  When self-quarantining it is imperative that you stay home, avoid visitors, and stay at least six-feet away from other people in the household. It is also important to avoid sharing things like towels and utensils and that you use standard hygiene measures. Ask friends and family to do your shopping and drop groceries or other supplies outside your door, in order to limit personal contact. If your symptoms worsen, call public health and they will direct you further.

Q: How long is the COVID-19 incubation period?
A: FIVE days! The time between exposure and showing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus can be 1-14 days. Most commonly it is about 5 days. 

Q: What is flattening the curve? Why is it important?
A: Flattening or slowing the rate of infection helps prevent overloading of local healthcare providers. Social distancing helps to spread out the rate of people with severe symptoms so that the hospitals are able to effectively manage the situation and it gives researchers and other medical professions more time to understand how to manage COVID-19.

Q: Can I get the COVID-19 virus from my pet?
A: NO! There is no evidence that pets can carry the COVID-19 virus. However like any surface that an infected person sneezes or coughs on, infected droplets can be carried on pet fur for a short period of time. Anytime you happen to cough or sneeze on your pet, please wipe their fur down with a damp towel before another family member or another person interacts with them.

Q: Who should wear a facemask?
A: If you are sick wear a facemask when you are around other people and before entering a public place or a healthcare provider's office. A facemask minimizes the chance that a cough or sneeze will affect others. If you are unable to wear a mask, or do not have one, it is important to follow the proper hygiene protocol for a cough or sneeze and to avoid close contact with others.  If you are NOT sick it is only necessary that you wear a facemask if you are caring for someone who is sick. 

Q: Is it helpful to wear gloves?
A: Gloves are necessary for those in the service industry, especially with those involved with food preparation or handling. For the general population, gloves are not necessary.  Gloves, whether they are latex, cloth or winter gloves, can all carry the virus. When you touch a surface that has respiratory droplets from the virus then the virus may be transferred to your gloves. My experience is that people are more likely to touch their face while wearing gloves than they are to touch their face if they are hanging onto a disinfectant wipe or tissue.  Keep in mind, healthcare workers have an increased risk of exposure and wearing gloves is important for them.

Q: What is the overall mortality rate of COVID-19?
A: It is going to take awhile to figure out the actual mortality rate (the number of people who may die if they catch COVID-19).  The World Health Organization (WHO) currently suspects that the mortality rate is around 3.4%. It currently appears higher in some countries (such as Italy), but is also much lower in other countries.  As the testing for COVID-19 has primarily focused on those that have symptoms, there is a chance that the mortality rate will decrease as we learn more about this virus.

Q: How many people who get infected will have significant symptoms?

A: Research currently indicates that about 80% to 90% of those that have the virus will be asymptomatic or will have mild or moderate symptoms. Which means that about 10% to 20% will have concerning symptoms that will require medical intervention or hospitalization. That being said, it is important for everyone to practice proper hygiene and social distancing.

Q: How many people will someone who is sick infect?
A: Reproductive rate is a measurement of how many people an infected person will infect. For example, the reproductive rate for the common flu (Influenza) is one - which means that for each person that is sick they will infect one other person. Recent research is indicating that the reproductive rate for COVID-19 is between 2 and 2.5.  There is speculation that as we learn more about COVID-19 the reproductive rate may actually decrease closer to that of the flu. 

Q: How long is someone who is infected able to infect someone else?
A: It is generally believed that someone who is showing symptoms can affect someone else for about 10 days. The term viral shedding relates to the ability of the virus to move from one part of the body to another (i.e., from your hands to your mouth) and from an infected person to the environment (i.e., from an infected person's hands to a hard surface) where it can affect others.  The current research indicates that it less likely that someone who is symptom-free will affect others with the virus.

Q: What is the difference between COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2?
A: COVID-19 stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019. It is the name of the disease. SARS-CoV-2 stands for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Coronavirus 2 and it is the name of the virus.

Q: What is the source of SARS-CoV-2?
A: Based on the analysis of the virus, the source is from a dead animal. The transfer from animal to human would have occurred at a meat or fish market when humans were interacting with meat - NOT a live animal and NOT from a pet. At this time, the actual animal source has not been found but many are working tirelessly to figure it out. Part of the "unknown" factor for SARS-CoV-2 is that it originated from an animal and hence humans do not have the same natural immunity to this virus.

Q: How can your naturopathic practitioner help?
A: The naturopathic community is here to help you through this pandemic. Check out our blog "A Crash Course on Respiratory Health" The focus of naturopathic practice is to provide:
  • Health Promotion: guidance on a healthy lifestyle
  • Prevention: reinforcing the importance of hygiene and social distancing
  • Supportive Care: providing guidance on how to support your overall health. Currently there are no proven treatments - conventional or naturopathic - for COVID-19.
  • Recovery: helping patients recover and reestablish their health if they have had any symptoms.
Q: What is best to do when home in self-isolation or quarantine for a couple of weeks?
A: Situations like this are a good reminder of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips while in self-isolation:
  • First and foremost, create a routine. Plan out your day. Avoid the tendency to sit around and watch movies or television all day.  
  • Exercise is important. This might be a great time to focus on stretching, walking (even if it is around your house) or other activities you can do at home.
  • Work on a project. Take the time to clean out the garage, paint a room in the house, clean out those closets that you never get to, or other tasks at home.
  • Eat healthy.  This is a time to focus on healthy eating. Avoid filling up on junk food and high starch foods. To help the body stay healthy, eat your fruit and vegetables, adequate protein and healthy starches. 
  • Keep in touch with friends and family. Self-isolation and quarantine can be quite uncomfortable for may people. It is important to reach out to others. 
  • Mindfulness and meditation are very helpful in times of stress.  If you are not familiar with these coping strategies there are a number of apps that you can download and enjoy.
  • Limit the amount of time that you are listening to the news. Think of news, especially "bad news" as a challenging workout for your mind. Like any muscle, it can handle a bit, but it can't handle too much!
By ensuring a holistic approach to this problem, we will get through this pandemic together. As new information and research is available the global health care community will master this infection as it has all others.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Crash Course on Respiratory Health

by Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

We recognize the distress that the COVID-19 crisis is causing many people.  We do hope that you and your loved ones are safe, healthy and following the advise from public health officials.  Is there reason for concern - Yes.  Is there reason for panic - No.  Often the difference between the two is information and reason.  I hope the information below provides you with both.

There are five main aspects of healthcare to address which includes:
  1. Health Promotion / Healthy Lifestyle
  2. Prevention
  3. Self Isolation / Quarantine Recommendations
  4. Supportive Care
  5. Recovery
To understand what is required for each of these steps we have to look at what we currently know.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has over 325 clinical trials going on with respect to COVID-19.  The results of these studies will help guide every aspect of how this virus is managed. It is also important to keep in mind that our understanding of this virus is growing and changing daily.

What Is The Risk

  • The reason for concern is that the COVID-19 virus has a higher mortality rate than the seasonal flu.  It is also spreading  significantly faster than the seasonal flu. 
  • It is important to keep in mind that ONLY about 6% of people that get COVID-19 experience significant symptoms - which means that 94% of individuals that get the virus will have mild symptoms.
  • Of the 6% that have significant symptoms, 50% are recovering when they receive proper medical treatment.
  • We also know that when someone has severe symptoms it is important that they get oxygen and medical care quickly.

  • According to the current research, the people at greatest risk are those over 70 years of age AND that have compromised immune function, diabetes and/or hypertension or cardiovascular disease.  
  • Children and young people may be carriers, but they do not appear to be overly affected by this virus.
  • Studies have also showing that in pregnant women that are affected with COVID-19, their newborns are not being affected.
  • Research is suggesting that the warmer weather may actually decrease the spread of the virus.

  • How COVID-19 is approached depends on addressing both factors - the virus and its impact to lung function, especially as it relates to oxygen carrying capacity.

    Health Promotion / Healthy Lifestyle

    From a naturopathic perspective the impact to health of any infection depends on two things - the first is susceptibility and the second is exposure.  Health promotion is about adopting a healthy lifestyle which contributes to decreased susceptibility.  The one thing that this current crisis has reminded us is the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle.  The following guidelines may be beneficial in supporting overall health. For specific recommendations it is important to work with your naturopathic practitioner or medically trained health care practitioner.
    • Stay hydrated: Ensure adequate hydration. It is important to drink healthy fluids throughout the day.
    • Clean balanced diet: Limit known food intolerances; ensure balanced nutrition including lean protein, vegetables and whole grains; and limit foods that contribute to mucous (such as excess bread, dairy, yeast and bananas).  Limit processed food and foods high in salt and sugar.
    • Spices: Many warming spices have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Spices such as garlic, ginger, thyme, oregano and sage are easily added to teas and food dishes. 
    • Sleep: Ensure adequate sleep. When you have symptoms of a cold or flu it is common to require more sleep.
    • Stress Management. Reduce and manage stress.  Immune function and breathing are closely linked to stress. Focusing on stress reduction techniques are always beneficial.
    • Indoor pollutants. Address indoor pollutants such as mold as they can worsen lung related illnesses.
    • Avoid smoking. Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can increase your susceptibility of lung-related illnesses.
    • Exercise: Moderate exercise enhances immune function and lowers the risk of respiratory infections. Intensive exercise can suppress normal immune reactions and is best avoided if unwell.


    Prevention is about decreasing exposure. In the last few weeks we have all had a crash course on hygiene and preventive measures.  According to the CDC, we are still learning about how this specific virus is transmitted.  The main preventative steps (taken partly from the World Naturopathic Federations's Update) include:
    • Greeting Someone: When greeting someone (yes, even children!) is it important to keep distance.  Instead of hugging, kissing or shaking hands, use an elbow bump or acknowledge with a nod or a slight bow. 
    • Hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water. Always wash your hands before preparing food and before eating. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Use your knuckle to touch light switches, elevator buttons, etc.  Open doors with your closed fist or hip - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door - or use a paper towel or wipe when touching public surfaces.
    • Cough hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, it is better to cough into your shirt sleeve; not your hands and always wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
    • Food hygiene: Avoid sharing water, food, or products (glasses, cutlery, hygiene products) with someone who has a respiratory infection.
    • Clean surfaces: Whether grocery shopping, flying or exposed to something new, clean and disinfect all objects and surfaces that you touch. 
    • Avoidance: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you have a cold or flu stay home to limit your risk of spreading the infection to other and to support the healing process. Avoid large crowds when the risk is high. If you choose to wear a mask, choose a mask that covers both your nose and mouth.

    Self-Isolation / Home Quarantine

    With the aim of containing the virus, governments are increasingly encouraging self-isolation or home quarantine for individuals that have symptoms, have traveled to high risk areas or where the rate of infection is high.  It is important to follow the guidelines of your region.   For information on self-isolation guidelines here is the link from Canadian Ministry of Health.  The focus of this blog is on how to maximize health while at home. 

    First and foremost, if you have symptoms it is important to call your local Public Health authority.  Here is the link with the numbers. 

    If you are at home I encourage you to take it as an opportunity for some self-care for you and your loved ones.  I encourage you to review the health promotion guidelines listed above and the supportive treatment guidelines listed below.

    Supportive Care

    There is no current treatment specifically for COVID-19.  As stated above there are over 325 clinical trials that are in progress.  They include the use of Intravenous Vitamin C, different herbal formulation and other natural therapies. We will let you know the outcome of those trials as they become available.

    Although the large majority of people will have mild symptoms, it is important that anyone with significant symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, strong cough) notify Public Health and follow their guidelines.

    If your symptoms are mild, to accompany the recommendations from Public Health, naturopathic supportive care may include addressing immune and respiratory function, especially as it relates to oxygen carrying capacity. As with any condition it is always best to talk with your naturopathic doctor or health practitioner to determine what is best for you specifically, but some general recommendations include:

    • The importance of food when supporting health can not be overstated.  It is always an important aspect to staying and achieving healthy.  Increase foods high in oxygen and nutrients, which includes fruits and vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables are a great source of oxygen.  Fruits and vegetables also have the vitamins and minerals needed to support healthy blood formation.  Specific foods that may be helpful include spinach, kale, broccoli, sprouts, berries and citrus fruits, watermelon, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, avocado, fresh fish, onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric.
    • Reducing alcohol, sugar and refined foods would be advised.
    • As this virus affects lung capacity, avoiding foods such as dairy, wheat, yeast, bananas would be beneficial.  If you are aware of any specific foods that cause you mucous or other symptoms, it would be beneficial to avoid them at this time.
    • Stay hydrated.  Water carries oxygen to the cells. Increasing the intake of healthy fluids (water, green drinks, vegetable juices) may be beneficial.
    • Regular exercise.  Take the time to exercise everyday.  Walking is ideal. Focus on exercises that support cardiovascular system.  
    • Spend time outside (if not in isolation). On a nice day, go for a gentle walk outside.  Spending time in nature is beneficial to the immune system, the respiratory system and can help decrease stress.
    • Stay calm.  This too will pass!!  Practice deep breathing, relaxation, meditation and other exercises focused on stress reduction.
    • There is some indication that reducing your exposure to Wifi may also be beneficial in supporting overall health. For further information on wireless technology, check out my blog on Wireless Technology - 5 Safety Tips.

    Other supportive therapies for immune or respiratory health or to assist in managing the stress associated with this crises such as:
    • Nutraceuticals that help support oxygen carrying capacity of the lungs such as Chlorophyll or NAC.
    • Herbs specific for the immune and/or respiratory function such as Cordyceps, Ginkgo biloba, Ashwaganda
    • Vitamins such as Vitamin A, B, C or D
    • Mineral supplementation such as zinc lozengers
    • Tissue salts, essential oils and /or homeopathics may also be beneficial for some individuals


    Ensuring that you recover from any acute infection is always important, and often overlooked.  The steps to recovery include those of a healthy lifestyle and include individualized recommendations outlined in the supportive treatments section above.

    It is always best to work with your Naturopathic Doctor or other trained health care provider to ensure that you fully recover from any acute illness.

    When everything is said and done the best advise is to be diligent, informed and reasonable.  Understand your personal risk.  Take steps to stay healthy.  If you have symptoms act quickly and follow the guidelines in your local area.

    Remember that Canada has a very strong health care system.  It also have a lot of open spaces and access to healthy foods.  As new information becomes available we will share it with you.

    If you have any questions please call to book with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.

    Please remember, if you have symptoms or suspect you have COVID-19, please contact your local Public Health authority.