Ughh, when I wrote my first article back in October 2020 about ‘Vitamin D’ and how it could possibly protect against Covid-19, I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing about Covid again over a year later! This time I’m going to look at how you can use good nutrition to aid in your recovery from Covid-19.
First off, I want to point out that this is general Nutrition advice more so aimed at people who weren’t hospitalised with Covid-19. If you were hospitalised, you would have probably seen by a Dietitian and given advice based on your nutritional status.
Like with most illnesses, recovery is not the time to be thinking about weight loss. Even if you are overweight. Your body uses up a lot of calories during recovery time. So even if you aren’t very mobile a nourishing high energy diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals and protein is usually on the cards.
What To Eat During Recovery From Covid-19
What do you do if food just isn’t hitting the spot? One of the most well-known symptoms of Covid-19 is loss or change of taste and smell. This can seriously affect a person’s appetite. Loss of appetite, nausea and other gastric issues, difficulty swallowing, feeling full even if you haven’t eaten a lot are all symptoms that can occur during illness and during recovery from Covid-19.
As someone who considers themselves a bit of an expert on ‘bouncing back after illness’ (not for Cov-19 thankfully), I do have a few tips to share that help me get back on track with eating.
First off choose foods that are nutritious yet palatable. Choose foods that are energy dense, so high calorie, with plenty of protein. Some good foods for recovery include.
- Eggs (also versatile. You can have them poached, boiled, scrambled, baked, in an omelette, fried). They are also an inexpensive source of good quality protein.
- Fish is a great source of protein, and with oily fish like salmon, tuna, maceral, and sardines you’ll also get healthy fats from the oil.
- Beans, baked, beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, the list goes on! Any kind of bean is a great source of protein AND fibre for a healthy gut. A healthy gut also plays an important role in a healthy immune system.
- Dairy, so milk, cheese, butter are all easily digested sources of protein and fat. I know it’s saturated fats, but if you are scoffing a block of butter a day, you’ll be fine!
- Nut butters like peanut butter and almond butter are also great sources of protein and healthy fats if you are worried about your cardio health, or maybe you already suffer from hart issues and don’t want to worsen them. One of the symptoms of long Covid can also be heart issues.
- Fruit and vegetables all the way! Now is defiantly the time to get as much fruit and veg into your diet as possible. They are packed full of antioxidants, vitamin A, C, E, Zinc, folate, potassium, magnesium, fibre and of course they are a source of Carbohydrate to give you energy. They are also easily digested, especially if you are finding it difficult to eat snacking on fruit is a great start.
Stay hydrated! I cannot stress how important it is to stay hydrated when you’re ill and during recovery from any illness. In general, even if you aren’t recovering you need to stay hydrated. Normally water is fine, but if you aren’t eating a lot of nutritional shakes or even homemade smoothies with a bit of protein powder (from a safe reliable source, purely to add calories and protein) can be good. It probably will taste better than the nutritional shakes cause personally I was not a fan! Electrolyte sports drinks with small frequent snacks is also good. Just stay away from energy drinks!
How To Tickle Those Taste Buds
If you do suffer from the dreaded lost sense of taste and/or smell, try experimenting with hot and cold foods, and different textures to see if you can hotwire your tastebuds back again. Use strong herbs and spices to make food more flavoursome. Remember fat is a flavour carrier, so adding butter, cream and oils can also increase a foods flavour and make a food extra palatable. If you’re making food for someone who’s recovering, I’m sorry to say, presentation does matter. Throwing the food on a plate in a slap dash kind of way isn’t going to be very appealing. Especially to someone who is recovering from an illness like Covid-19.
Hippocrates, who is known as the father of medicine once said, “Let food be my medicine, and medicine be my food” – 431 BC. This is by far one of my favourite quotes because it is so true! Sure, modern pharmaceutical medicine has and will continue to save a lot of lives. However, I think maybe we’ve become too dependant on it. Sometimes just giving your body the tools, it needs from a nourishing diet can be enough to put you on the road to recovery.
Sleep Is Super Important
Diet isn’t everything when it comes to recovery. A person’s sleep requirement increases with illness (Asif, Iqbal and Nazir, 2017). Studies have shown that getting enough sleep after receiving a vaccine improved that vaccines response (Besedovsky, Lange and Haack, 2019). Sleep deprivation significantly weakens a person’s immune system too, making them more susceptible to illness and increasing recovery time (Dinges et al., 1995). If you find it difficult to get to sleep try natural remedies like infusing lavender or other essential oils, taking a warm bath before bed. Switching off all screens at least an hour before sleeping. Trying to read a book or listening to an audio book or guided meditation instead. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol several hours before bedtime can help you get a restful sleep too. Taking little cat naps during the day too if needed.
When you are starting to feel a little better get moving. You need to keep your muscles moving to prevent them from wasting away anymore, and eventually to regain the muscle you’ve lost. Take it easy though! it could be months or even longer before you’re back to where you were before Covid-19 knocked you on your ass, but you’ll get there. It just takes perseverance and determination. Doing a little bit everyday. Getting yourself a TheraBand is a good idea because you can do resistance exercises from the comfort of your bed or chair! Try to get up and walk about a bit, even if it’s just around your room or your house. With muscles it’s very much. “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. So, get moving ASAP!
Hopefully these tips give you something to work off on your road to recovery. Remember our bodies are amazing and if we treat them well, they can work wonders!
Asif, N., Iqbal, R. and Nazir, C.F. (2017) ‘Human immune system during sleep’, American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 6(6), pp. 92–96. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768894/ (Accessed: 21 January 2022).
Besedovsky, L., Lange, T. and Haack, M. (2019) ‘The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease’, Physiological Reviews, 99(3), pp. 1325–1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018.
Dinges, D.F. et al. (1995) ‘Sleep deprivation and human immune function’, Advances in Neuroimmunology, 5(2), pp. 97–110. doi:10.1016/0960-5428(95)00002-J.