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Pneumonia is a significant cause of mortality and morbidity in North America. Although pneumonia can affect healthy individuals, it is most problematic and serious in the elderly, immunocompromised, and drug and alcohol abusers. Pneumonia is not caused by one pathogen, but rather has a diverse group of involved pathogens including viruses, mycoplasma, bacteria, and chlamydia.[1]


Causes Infections, Smoking, Environmental Toxins, Alcohol
See Also Respiratory Conditions, Upper Respiratory Infection (Common Cold), Influenza, Bronchitis, COPD, Congestive Heart Failure
Books Books on Respiratory Conditions
Articles Articles on Respiratory Conditions

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. The risk of getting pneumonia 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 likely they will end up with pneumonia. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to the susceptibility to, and development of pneumonia.[1]


  • Alcohol consumption not only decreases immunity, but it also alters consciousness, increasing the risk of aspiration pneumonia.[2]


  • Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Etiological agents include S. pneumonia (most common cause), H. influenzae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydophila pneumonia, Legionella spp, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, Histoplasma capsulatum, and Coccidioides immitis.[3]


  • Smoking is a lead contributor to increased risk of community acquired pneumonia.[2]
  • Recreational Drug Use
  • Substance abuse which alters mental status increases risk of aspiration pneumonia.[4]


  • Individuals are more susceptible to pneumonia when under stress or when chronically stressed.

Medical Interventions

  • Prescription Medications
  • Protein pump inhibitor (PPI) use has been shown to increase the chances of hospital-acquired pneumonia.[5]
  • Antibiotic exposure has been shown to increase the risk of developing hospital-acquired pneumonia.[2]
  • Chronic use of steroids or immune suppressive drugs increases the risk of pneumonia.[3]
  • Hospitalization
  • Thoroacoabdominal surgery, tracheal intubation, use of nasogastric tube, and immobilization all increase the risk of hospital acquired pneumonia.[2]

Diagnostic Testing

Diagnostic testing for pneumonia can involve both diagnostic imaging and laboratory studies to assess severity, and identify the pathogenic agent involved.

  • Diagnostic Imaging includes:[6]
  • Chest x-rays or Computed tomography (CT)
  • Blood cultures will not evaluate the cause of pneumonia, but can assist in assessing immune status. Blood tests can confirm the presence of C. pneumoniae, Legionella sp., and fungi. Rapid tests for viral antigens are available.

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Conditions associated with pneumonia include:[3], [1]


Pneumonia presentation and treatment can vary based on the underlying pathogenic cause. The following are the characteristics of the most common causes of pneumonia:[1]

  • Mycoplasmal Pneumonia
Mycoplasmal pneumonia typically occurs in children and young adults. The onset is insidious with the first symptoms often consisting of a headache and malaise. A nonproductive cough, temperature under 102F, and a normal or slightly high WBC are common. Recovery can be slow. Naturopathic therapy can be supportive and should focus on immune function.
  • Pneumococcal Pneumonia (bacterial)
Pneumococall pneumonia is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia, and is the most common type of pneumonia leading to hospitilization. Pneumococcal pneumonia is most common following an upper respiratory infections (URI) that did not resolve. Shaking, chills, fever, and chest pain that come on suddenly are common. Sputum can be blood specked or rusty, and becomes yellow as symptoms improve.
  • Viral Pneumonia
Viral pneumonia is more common in young children and the elderly. It resembles influenza and presents with a fever, myalgia, and headache. Most cases of viral pneumonia are mild and will resolve in 1-3 weeks, although serious complications are possible.

Common Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of pneumonia include:[2]

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. Pneumonia can be a serious respiratory infection that requires close monitoring and proper medical care. The following recommendations may speed recovery and minimize any risk of complications.

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

Home Care

Home Care strategies include: Individuals caring for family members, or friends with pneumonia should be educated by a health care professional in the following areas:[7]

  • Strategies to monitor affected individual
  • Smoking cessation
  • Appropriate hydration
  • Appropriate nutrition
  • Ability to assist with activities of daily living
  • Assist with coughing and deep breathing exercises
  • Ensure adequate rest and relaxation
  • Basic public hygiene practices such as covering one's nose or mouth while sneezing or coughing, washing hands frequently, and minimizing contact between infected and non-infected individuals can help to contain the pneumonia.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Drink plenty of warm liquids such as water, diluted vegetable juices, soups and herb teas. Try to drink 8 ounces of water every hour in order to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid sugar, including natural sugars such as honey, orange juice, and fructose because simple sugars depress the immune system and can "feed" the infection.
  • Ensure adequate protein consumption. Protein requirement may be over 1g/kg/day for adequate immune function.
  • Exercise is preventative against infection, but when you have pneumonia avoid a lot of exercise. Focus on resting and allowing the body to recover.
  • Ensure that you get adequate sleep. If you are more tired than normal, then listen to the body and sleep.
  • Rehabilitative breathing exercises may help to decrease the chance of developing pneumonia in postoperative individuals.[8]

Naturopathic Therapies

Article Rethinking Zinc Supplementation as a Treatment for Pediatric Pneumonia, 2010 August Natural Medicine [1]

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 pneumonia include:

  • Several small studies suggest acupuncture and moxibustion may be effective in the treatment of respiratory infections.[11]
  • Hydrotherapy treatments including chest diathermy and mustard poultice application have traditionally been used to treat pneumonia.[1]
  • Increased early mobilization has been shown to decrease the length of hospital stay associated with pneumonia. Exercises such as blowing bubbles in water in a bottle has been shown to be an effective adjunct to pneumonia treatment.[1]
  • Studies suggest that chiropractic care may be beneficial in elderly individuals with pneumonia.[12]


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [2]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Murray MT, Bongiorno PB (2006) Pizzorno Textbook of Natural Medicine 3rd ed Chap 202 Pneumonia: Bacterial, Mycoplasmal, and Viral Elsevier.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Torres A, Mendez R, Wunderink R (2010) Mason: Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine 5th ed Chap 32 Pyogenic Bacterial Pneumonia and Lung Abscess Saunders
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Donowitz GR (2009) Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases 7th ed Chap 64 Acute Pneumonia Churchill Livingstone
  4. Colucciello SA, Tomaszewski C (2009) Marx: Rosen's Emergency Medicine 7th ed Chap 184 Substance Abuse Mosby
  5. Herzig SJ et al (2009) Acid-Suppressive Medication Use and the Risk for Hospital-Acquired Pneumonia JAMA 301(20):2120-2128
  6. 6.0 6.1 Moran GJ, Talan DA (2009) Marx: Rosen's Emergency Medicine, 7th ed Chap 74 Pneumonia Mosby
  7. Ramsdell J, Narsavage GL, Fink JB (2005) Management of Community-Acquired Pneumonia in the Home An American College of Chest Physicians Clinical Position Statement Chest 127(5)
  8. Chumillas S, Ponce J.L, Delgado F, et al (1998) Prevention of postoperative pulmonary complications through respiratory rehabilitation: a controlled clinical study Arch Phys Med Rehabil79:5-9
  9. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul Richard, Barlow Kerry, Gilbert Cyndi, Gowan Matthew, Smith Fraser (2010) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Vol 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs, CCNM Press, Toronto
  10. Saine A, Levatin J (2005) The Homeopathic Treatment of Pneumonia AJHM 98(4):219-222
  11. Masao S, Yoko Y, Hiroshi Y (2009) Research into acupuncture for respiratory disease in Japan: a systematic review Acupuncture in Medicine 27(2)54-60
  12. Hawk C et al (2007) Chiropractic Care for Non-musculoskeletal Conditions: A Systematic Review with Implications for Whole Systems Research J of Alt and Comp Med 13(5) 491-512