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.