This article is written by Fitday Expert panel member, Dr. Umashri Rao Francis (M.B.B.S.)
When the coronavirus enters our body, it triggers an immune response and when there is a massive immune response, our blood is flooded with an inflammatory protein called cytokines. These cytokines kill and damage the lungs and other organs of the body. A cytokines storm can give rise to complications like blood clots in the blood vessels, DIC, septic shock, acute kidney injury, and secondary infection.
Since it is a new disease everyday new symptoms, signs, and complications are being observed and recorded.
Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are suffering with something called as Post-Covid syndrome. In this a patient who has recovered and discharged may come back with paralysis, slurring of speech, heart attack or breathlessness. Even though the test may show negative after recovery the patient may complain of persistent and significant impairment of their capacity to exercise.
From all this we can draw a conclusion that COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness and persistent symptoms in young adults and individuals who have no underlying medical conditions before the COVID-19. More time and studies are required to understand long term ill effects of this disease.
Role of Nutrition in recovery while suffering with COVID-19:
After briefly knowing what the challenges you may face on your path to total recovery it is important to know the role of nutrition in recovery because nutritional care can impact the recovery time and the patient’s ability to return to doing the things that matter most to them. Nutritional care is important for maintaining the muscle health and avoiding metabolic disturbances which is mainly caused due to the COVID-19 patient spending two weeks in isolation either at home or in the ICU.
There are many COVID patients who develop respiratory difficulties and may require oxygen supplementation, and some may also require assisted ventilation, which makes it very difficult for such patients to take food or oral supplements.
People might not be able to eat enough food to meet their nutritional needs during recovery, contributing to further loss of lean muscle leading to muscle wasting. For these patients, nutrition is extremely complex and very difficult to keep them stable. Here what makes the difference is appropriate and timely nutrition. Studies have shown that most patients admitted with COVID-19 were Vitamin-D deficient.
Common Post-COVID symptoms:
- Muscle wasting
- Loss of taste and smell
For COVID patient good nutrition and hydration are key factors to assist in the path to recovery. Protein and calories are important to protect against muscle loss.
Nutrition required by COVID-19 patient during recovery:
- Fluids, about 3 liters per day
- 2000-2500 calories per day
- 75-100 gm protein per day
- Eat small meals, 6 times a day
- Have oral rehydration solution or sports drinks
Food is medicine when you are ill and the general diet plan and tips to follow during the infection is as follows:
- it’s important to eat food with protein in each meal. The foods high in protein include meat, fish, eggs, poultry, beans, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, soya, and nuts
- Try to have whole grain bread, rice or cereals with each meal
- Try to eat vegetables and fruits with each meal
- Problems COVID-19 patients face during that time are poor appetite, fatigue, and feeling of fullness. So, during these times to overcome these problems eat small frequent meals, adding gravies and sauces. Drink milk shakes, meal replacements, or protein drinks adding on some nutritional supplements
- To overcome loss of taste, eat bland food, go for colder foods since hot foods can have a stronger taste, and add sugar, salt as seasonings to flavor the food. You could also use candies, mints or gums
Nutrition supplements for COVID-19 recovery
Now that you are on the road to recovery from COVID-19, you have won the battle halfway, but your fight is not yet over.
In order to restore and replenish your muscle strength you must provide your body with various nutrients, along with following a schedule for your meals and snacks and hydration. The meals and snacks will provide the energy to recover faster but to build the muscles you need adequate protein intake.
Along with food rich in protein as earlier mentioned above, protein supplements will help you to achieve your protein goals. You can take protein powder supplement in your diet and boost muscle gain.
The nutrients recommended to be consumed during recovery from COVID-19 are:
- Vitamin C: Recommended dose of vitamin C is 20-500 mg a day to ensure your body gets its health benefits. You can get it from food like red pepper, orange juice, citrus fruits, Amla juice, kiwi, broccoli. You may also take it in form of oral supplements.
- Zinc: Zinc is another essential mineral. Recommended daily intake for men is 11 mg and for women is 8 mg per day. Food rich in zinc are oysters, beef, crabs, lobsters, pork chop, baked beans, breakfast cereals, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, cheese, cashews, oats, milk, and almonds. You may also take it in form oral supplements of multivitamins with minerals.
Vitamin D: The main function of Vitamin D is to maintain the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. The primary source of Vitamin D is the sun’s Ultraviolet rays. When we get enough Vitamin D, it protects us from respiratory infections. While recovering from COVID-19, your body becomes susceptible to other types of bacterial and fungal infections and these vitamins help to fight these infections. Other sources of vitamin D are the foods we eat- oily fishes such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, and other sources include red meat, egg yolks, cheese, and soy milk.
If the Vitamin D levels are too low, then it can be supplemented by orals supply and injections.
Gut health and pre/probiotics: Our gut is the first line of defense against infections. As we get older our bodies become less capable to maintain a healthy gut. Probiotics are a good strain of microorganisms that help us. The most gut-friendly bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Probiotics are found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Prebiotics are food that probiotics live on, and are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
- Calcium : Calcium is a very important mineral during COVID-19 recovery, because muscle strength can be regained by calcium intake. Important natural resources of calcium are milk, cheese, soya drinks, chia seeds, yogurt, sardines, beans, lentils, whey protein, almonds, leafy greens. It can also be taken as oral supplements.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help in reducing inflammation and results in fighting off the infection. The omega-3 fatty acids are found largely in flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna.
Recovery and Prevention of COVID-19:
After suffering with the acute brunt of such a dreaded disease, recovery will take time. By following all the nutritional guidelines, you will be on the path to recovering your health. Consuming adequate amounts of proteins in every meal is essential.
Continue to wash your hands regularly, get adequate sleep and wear mask and maintain social distancing. If you are suffering with comorbid conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart ailments, you need to take utmost care.
There are no studies to show that after once you are infected with COVID-19 you get lifetime immunity. In fact, cases are reported of re-infection. Hence it is very important that you have a good balanced diet, regularly exercise and follow a COVID19 appropriate behavior. Even after you receive the vaccine you need to follow the COVID-19 protection norms to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
About Dr. Umashri Rao Francis: Dr. Francis has been practicing Medicine for over 27 years. She is an experienced General Physician successfully treating a vast majority of the local population, in particular the poorly diagnosed and difficult cases. Dr. Francis is a regular contributor to the #FitBlog and is available to answer your article related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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