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What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a very serious lung infection, which can be caused by a bacteria, virus, parasite or fungi. It more commonly affects babies under 2 and those over 65 years of age. People with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to contract pneumonia, but given the right conditions, anyone can contract pneumonia.

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What are the symptoms of Pneumonia? 

Pneumonia usually starts with a cold or the flu, depending on whether it was caused by a bacteria or a virus.  The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia usually come on faster than of viral pneumonia and some people may not have very many symptoms at all, to start with.  The symptoms will vary greatly, depending on the cause of the pneumonia, but the main symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough with mucus. This may be coloured green or a reddy colour.
  • Fast shallow breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Bluish coloured lips, nail beds and skin
  • Extreme lethargy, especially in babies

If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms and you suspect pneumonia, it is vital that you seek medical attention immediately. 

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

If pneumonia is suspected, a blood test will reveal which white blood cells are raised, showing the origin of the pneumonia - either viral, bacterial, fungal or from a parasite. This gives your health care professional the information they need to better treat your condition.

If the pneumonia is from a bacterial origin, antibiotics will be given, as well as the advice of total bed rest, a healthy diet and plenty of water to help stay well hydrated.  The chest can be listened to through a stethoscope and if crackles or wheezing is heard, this would further confirm this diagnosis. A chest x-ray would further confirm this diagnosis.  This would also show the area of the lung that is affected by the pneumonia.

If the pneumonia is from a viral origin, you may still be offered antibiotics. Other recommendations are an anti inflammatory to help reduce the lung inflammation and paracetamol to help reduce the fever.

In all cases, bed rest, a healthy diet and plenty of liquids is vital for recovery of pneumonia. 

Natural treatments can help in pneumonia

A strong and healthy immune system is vital for anyone who has or has had pneumonia. 

Some causes of lowered immune function range from toxin exposure (through pesticides, heavy metals, medications), vaccinations, physical trauma, nutritional deficiencies, stress, excessive antibiotic use and an internal bacterial or parasitic overgrowth.

An infestation of parasites can act as an immunomodulator, by continuously releasing (in small amounts) macro-molecules which activate the immune system.  This process ‘over-taxes’ the immune system’s ability to cope with these invading micro-organisms, and thus becomes overworked.  Taking a probiotic helps to replenish beneficial bowel bacteria, however a specific formula that targets parasites is an important step in helping to eliminate these pests. Malcolm Harker has produced Verm-Ez, a combination of wormwood, clove and green walnut hulls, the very formula Dr Hulda Clark devised to eliminate internal parasites with.  We do not suggest completing a cleanse such as this one if you have pneumonia at the moment, but once your immune system is stronger and you have got over your symptoms, this could be considered, ideally under the supervision of your health care professional.

Physical trauma can also account for contributing to immune dysfunction, by inducing numerous changes within the immune system. Such changes are ultimately deleterious and contribute to the high incidence of organ dysfunction and infectious complications seen following many forms of exercise.  Physical exercise also causes a huge amount of free radicals, known to damage the immune system, thus slowing down the response to infectious organisms.  This is called the ‘oxidative burst’.  Exercise in moderation, supplement with antioxidants, and get plenty of rest.

Nutritional Deficiencies Affect Immunity

Insufficiency of any nutrient has been demonstrated to adversely affect immune integrity.  The most important nutrients for immune activation are

Zinc   Selenium   Magnesium   Vitamin C   Vitamin B6    Vitamin A   Vitamin E   Glutathione

Herbs for Respiratory Complaints

Astragalus is referred to as a bone marrow reserve herb & a deep defence builder in conditions of profound immune deficiencies.   A weakened immune system results in persistent colds & flu, exhaustion, food allergies or depression which leaves the body vulnerable to infection.  Astragalus increases production of white blood cells & strengthens the bodies immune response & vital force.  It has an energy boosting action, and is especially indicated for respiratory infections. 

We stock these products which contain Astragalus - Echinacea Astragalus, Una de Gato, Astragalus and Viralex.

Echinacea is one of the best researched, immune stimulant and tonic herbs.  Well over 100 scientific research studies illustrate Echinacea’s broad spectrum use for prevention and treatment.  It is very effective at accelerating your bodies healing capabilities during a cold and flu.  Echinacea is especially useful as an influenza preventative and for infections of the upper respiratory tract, such as laryngitis, tonsillitis and for catarrhal conditions of the nose and sinuses.  It is also important at the onset of colds or flu.  Echinacea is the king of blood purifiers.  It is the most effective blood and lymphatic cleanser in the botanical kingdom.  It may be a valuable alternative to antibiotics, when used properly.

Mullein is an excellent herb that is used specifically for any problems relating to the lungs, chest and respiratory system.  It helps to loosen phlegm and mucous in the chest and assists it to be eliminated from the body.  Mullein calms spasms in the chest and is very high in minerals.  This is an excellent herb to use for all respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, smokers cough and pulmonary disease.

Elecampane is commonly found in combination with other supportive herbs, in respiratory combinations such as Emphysemol, Organic Winterguard and HAS. Traditionally the 2nd year roots were candied and eaten to ease coughing and asthma and a tea was used to quiet coughing, for bronchitis and respiratory tract inflammation.

Constipation and Pneumonia

Naturopathically, we would always emphasise the importance of an efficiently moving bowel, in all cases of illness.  Pneumonia is one of those conditions where if you are constipated, your ability to get over it faster could be hindered by this. 

There are many causes of constipation or an inefficiently moving bowel.  Many people have constipation, but do not realise this as they may have become use to how little they eliminate or may have been told that their bowel habits are normal or regular. 

So how regular is regular?

We are all different and different food/diets will cause the transit time that waste matter moves through the bowel, happen at different speeds.  But if you think about it........

Our gastro intestinal tract is 1 long "pipe" as such, that starts at our mouth and ends at our anus.  When we put food into our mouth, it travels through our gastro intestinal tract by peristalsis, a wave like contraction.   When this contraction is happening up the top, moving the food through it, this contraction continues and the outcome of this should be a bowel movement.  Its not the food you just ate that you would eliminate, but the waste matter from food you ate 12-24 hours ago (depending on the efficiency of this process in your body). 

I have been shocked over the years to hear stories of people whos bowel moves each Wednesday and because of this, they believe this is regular (Its each Wednesday, so this is regular isn't it?).  These people are usually troubled with headaches, bad breath, fatigue, skin problems and may wake between 1-3am in the morning, hot and sweaty.  These symptoms all relate to an overloaded liver and bowel, which are literally "poisioning" the body, as a result of its inability to eliminate general toxicity. 

People who are unwell with a respiratory problem such as Pneumonia need to have efficiently working eliminative systems, to eliminate waste matter, keep free radical levels down and nutrient levels up.  As well as this, because over 70% of your immune system is situated in your intestinal wall, if you are constipated or if your bowel is not moving regularly (each day), your immune system will be directly affected, hindering your ability to get over pneumonia faster.

If you need help in this area, taking a probiotic is the first and most important step to helping have a healthier bowel.  We like the Ethical Nutrients range of probiotics, which include Inner Health capsules, Powder and their Dairy Free probiotic.  

These products all contain the herb cascara sagrada, which increases bile production, helping to increase peristalsis and make the bowel motion softer.

Cascara Sagrada  Bowel Clear   Thisilyn Digestive Cleanse  LBS11  Red Clover with Prickly Ash

Pneumonia dietary recommendations

A "back to basics" diet, as grandmother would have cooked is the key, with everything that can be being cooked from scratch.  Soups, broths and herbal tea will help to keep the body well hydrated, but dairy products, sugar and all junk food and preservatives should be avoided.  Protein is vital for the repair of tissues, but heavy meat based meals should be avoided.  Lightly steamed fish is a good source of protein and should be the main protein choice, apart from organic or at least free range chicken, made into a soup with plenty of fresh vegetables and legumes like lentils, as well as peas and beans.

Sugar and dairy will over load the already struggling body and immune system and should be avoided at all costs when unwell especially.

Other considerations in Pneumonia

  • Rotate your foods. Consume hot liquids such as vege broths and spicy soups
  • Remain as active as possible.  Moving around helps to loosen built up mucous and fluid.
  • Avoid foods which are poor in nutrients.  You need all the nutrition that you can get, so avoid refined, empty carbohydrate foods.  Especially fast foods and those ladened with sugar
  • Keep rooms free from dust
  • Do not smoke and avoid passive smoking.
  • A dehumidifier in the bedroom can help to keep the evening and early morning temperature more even, helping with easier breathing. 


In all cases of pneumonia or suspected pneumonia, seek medical advice immediately. 

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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