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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-05-08 (EDT)

The human body separates itself form the surrounding environment using several different physical barriers, including skin, mucous membranes, stomach acid, enzymes, and antibacterial components in secretions. Beyond the physical barriers, the body protects itself using both an innate and adaptive immune systems. When a microorganism penetrates physical barriers, gains access to the body, and cannot be immediately controlled by the immune system, it is termed an infection. Infectious agents include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi.[1]


Bacterial Infection'
Causes Food, Air, Water, Soil, Hygiene, Stress
See Also Infections / Allergies / Sensitivities, Bacterial Infection, Viral Infections, Parasitic Infections, Influenza
Books Books on Infections, Allergies, Intolerances
Articles Articles on Infections / Allergies / Sensitivities

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. Assessment of infection depends on two factors: personal susceptibility and exposure to a pathogen. The naturopathic assessment looks at both aspects. The stronger a person's vitality the less susceptible they are and typically the likely they will be affected by exposure to a pathogen.


  • Bacteria such as Salmonella spp, Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli, Shigella spp, Listeria monocytogenes, and Vibrio spp are all commonly transferred in food. Foods commonly implicated in transmission include animal derived foods and other foods washed with contaminated water, or which come in contact with infected individuals. Salmonella is most often associated with eggs, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and meats. Shigella is commonly associated with fruites and vegetables, and E.coli is commonly associated with hamburger, salami, unpasteurized milk, dairy products, and juice.[2]
  • Viruses such as Hepatitis A and Norwalk virus can be transferred via foods including animal products and other foods which come into contact with infected individuals. Hepatitis A is commonly associated with shellfish.[2]
  • Parasites such as Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium spp, Giardia lamblia, and Cyclospora spp can be transmitted via foods washed with contaminated water. Some parasites have part of their lifecycle in specific animal species, and are transmitted to humans when these species are ingested.[2]
  • Moderate, regular exercise is beneficial in decreasing one's risk, whereas extreme or intense exercise can increase one's risk of infection.[4]
  • Proper hygiene practices including hand-washing, sanitary food preparation, and household environmental cleanliness are a key step in preventing infection and decreasing the spread of infection.[5]


  • Sexual Practices
  • Unsafe sexual practices can increase the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections.[6]
  • Increases in stress have been shown to increase one's susceptibility to infection as it decreases immune function, increases rates of infection, and exacerbates existing infection.[7]


  • Environmental toxins and chemicals are known to weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infection.


  • Contaminated Materials
  • The inanimate environment, food, fomites, health care staff, catheters, respiratory equipment, and an individuals own flora may all be resevoirs of potentially infective organisms.[8]

Medical Interventions

  • Prescription Mediciations
  • The use of antibiotics can put individuals at increased risk of developing certain medications.[9][10]
  • Many prescription medications weaken the immune system and increase the risk and severity of infections.
  • Medical Treatments
  • Hospital and nursing home acquired infections are a major cause of mortality and morbidity.[11]
  • Nosocomial Infections
  • Infections acquired after admission to health care facilities are common, as these environments often contain higher number of infective agents, as well as pharmaceutically resistant infectious agents.[8]
  • Therapies used to depress the immune system increase the risk of infection.[12]
  • Catheterization is correlated with an increased risk of urinary tract infection during hospitalization.[9]


Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic testing to evaluate infections is dependent on the type of infection and body system involved. In general, a thorough patient history and case taking are the best tools with which to evaluate for infection. In cases of chronic infections, testing to evaluate immune function may be required. For specific diagnostic testing please see relevant sections including: Viral Infections, Bacterial Infection, Fungal Infection, and Parasitic Infections. [1]

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Conditions commonly associated with infection include:


Common Symptoms

Symptoms of infection can be as variable as the causative agents themselves. For a more detailed listing of infection associated symptoms see Bacterial Infection, Fungal Infection, Parasitic Infections, Viral Infections, or search for specific conditions such as Urinary Tract Infection, Influenza, Ear Infections (Otitis media), Sinusitis.

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Below are general treatment strategies for infections. For specific causes and types of infection a individualized treatment plan is required.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • Proper hygiene including hand-washing and basic sanitation practices are the primary means of infection prevention.[5]
  • In individuals with mobility issues, frequent repositioning and attention to mattress and pillow quality can help to decrease the risk of infections, specifically bed sores.[13]


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Although exhaustive exercise may predispose individuals to infection, moderate exercise has been shown to be preventative.[4] Specific exercise advise should be provided on a case by case basis, based on the severity and causative agent of infection, as well as the vitality of the individual.
  • Proper breathing is helpful in the prevention and treatment of infection.
  • There is evidence that adequate sleep is required for optimal immune function.[3]
  • Increases in stress can exacerbate infections. Stress reduction techniques including hypnosis, deep breathing, yoga, and meditation can help to reduce stress.[7]

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for infections include:

  • Classical homeopathics are chosen based on the presenting picture. They can be very effective in the treatment of acute infections.
  • Complex homeopathics are often used in the treatment of chronic infections or in the prevention of infections.
  • Acupuncture is helpful in decreasing one's susceptibility to infection and in the treatment of acute and chronic infections.
  • Hydrotherapy is extremely helpful in the prevention and treatment of infection.

Specialized Naturopathic Therapies

Specialized therapies that are used to treat infections include:


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Prousky Jonathan (2008) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition CCNM Press
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Taege A (2004) Foodborne Disease Cleveland Clinic Accessed online: http://
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mansberg G (2007) Immune Modulation J Comp Med 6(2):16-24
  4. 4.0 4.1 Calabrese LH, Nieman DC (1996) Exercise, immunity, and infection J Am Osteo Assoc 96(3):166-76
  5. 5.0 5.1 Barrett B (2007) Rakel: Integrative Medicine 2nd ed Chap 20 Viral Upper Respiratory Infection Saunders
  6. Blythe MJ, Fortenberry JD (2009) Long: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Revised Reprint 3rd ed Chap 53 Sexually Transmitted Infection Churchill Livingstone
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hartman D, Zimberoff D (2011) Hypnosis and hynptherapy in the milieu of integrative medicine: Healing the mind/body/spirit J Heart Centered Ther 14(1):41-75
  8. 8.0 8.1 Feri (2010) Feri: Practical Guide to the Care of the Medical Patient 8th ed Chap 3 sect 281 Nosocomial Infections Mosby
  9. 9.0 9.1 Hadley S (2007) Rakel: Integrative Medicine 2nd ed Chap 24 Urinary Tract Infections Saunders
  10. Fashner J (2011) Clinical inquiry: what risk factors contribue to C difficile diarrhea? J Fam Pract 60(9):545-7
  11. Mody L (2007) Infection Control Issues in Older Adults Clin Geriatr Med 23)3):499-514
  12. Koo S, Francisco MM, Baden LR (2010) Infectious Complications Associated with Immunomodulating Biologic Agents Infect Dis Clin North Am 24(2):285-306
  13. Cullum N et al (1999) Beds, mattresses and cushions for pressure sore prevention and treatment J of Tissue Viability 9(4):138
  14. Gaby AR (2002) Intravenous nutrient therapy: the "Myers cocktail" Alt Med Rev 7(5) 389-403