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11 July, 2021 07:49:31 PM

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Healthy diet for Covid-19 after recovery

Fahmida Hashem
Healthy diet for Covid-19 after recovery

Recovering from Covid-19 is not the only battle to win but maintaining your health post-infection is also a significant challenge. Covid is an inflammatory condition that can have lasting effects for up to six to eight months after discharge affecting different organs, especially the liver and lungs.

The Covid-19 infection disrupts your immune system, so it is necessary to build your immunity and regain your strength. 

A good diet promotes faster recovery. Nutritional recommendations will depend on physical activity and disease-related symptoms, and upon other comorbidities. Muscle wasting is the most common complication of critical illness, occurring in up to 50 percent of patients, which can seriously lengthen recovery times, impaired immunity, increase infection risk and cause the development of wounds and pressure ulcers. Even those who did not need any hospital support mostly got affected by severe weakness even after being Covid-19 negative due to high catabolic condition at the tenure of virus attack. This infection is likely to reduce our appetite, and affect our ability to taste and swallow. So, following some dietary rules are very important.  

Adequate calories must be provided depending on the patient’s nutritional status. Sure, a low-cal diet is great for trying to lose weight, but you want the exact opposite after suffering from Covid-19 infection. More calories mean more energy to fight off the infection and the ability to recover faster. So include calorie-dense foods in your diet but make sure they’re healthy carbs and not empty ones. Opt for whole grains, potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, milk, avocados, jaggery, and roasted chickpeas.   

Protein is indicated as a top priority. Protein requirements are 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg of actual body weight. A protein-rich diet can help repair damaged body tissues, make up for muscle loss, stimulate the production of T-cells, the agents that promote healthy immune functioning, and overcome post Covid weakness. Protein-rich foods, like pulses, legumes, peanuts, milk, yogurt, cheese, custard, rice pudding, soy, eggs, fish, chicken, beef, and organ meat could be part of the meal. 

The total carbohydrate must not exceed 100-150g per day. The usage of carbohydrates leads to the production of equal carbon dioxide (called respiratory quotient) which must be avoided to decrease respiratory distress. A diabetic person needs to be monitored closely for episodes of blood glucose levels. Persistent high glucose is an effect of infection and can also delay recovery. 

To maintain calories, the proportion of fat can be increased. Give priority to the use of medium-chain fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. They play a major role in immune responses. They reduce inflammation. Butter, ghee, nuts, MCT oil can be used through a dietitian’s advice. Olive oil, rice bran oil, canola oil can also be used for cooking. Keep a jar of mixed nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, jackfruit) by your side for easy snacking, they are potent sources of essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and healthy fats. 

Buy fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables for sufficient vitamins & minerals. Replenishing the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants the body needs is, therefore, an integral part of a recovery diet. Include 5-7 servings of plenty of fresh and seasonal fruits and veggies every day. While this can provide the requirement of most vitamins, minerals, polyphenolic compounds, and phytochemicals. The essential vitamins required during the period of healing are C and D. They help to prevent the body from oxidative damage and reduce inflammation. So, fulfill the fridge with guava, orange, malta, capsicums for vitamin C and get 15-20 minutes of sunlight every day along with vitamin D-rich food. Make one or two vegetable chutneys and store, so that you can use them every day with rice or rutis.  

Immuno-nutrients are specific nutrients shown to have a considerable influence on immune function. There are several types of immunonutrients, such as arginine and glutamine which support both the immune and the digestive system. Our Bangladeshi kitchens are full of potent anti-inflammatory and anti-viral ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, cumin, coriander, mint, cinnamon, honey, all of which are usually and can be used in different combinations and different items for overall quick recovery. Curcumin (found in turmeric) also an important aid for recovery.

Probiotics play an important role to post Covid for faster recovery. The alteration of healthy gut bacteria is due to the increase in gut permeability. This drives the inflammation further. Probiotics improve the gut bacteria after the heavy antibiotics and steroids used in the treatment and also help to restore immunity.  

Your body would have lost a lot of fluids due to the infection and fever, so you should get plenty of them to speed up your recovery. Drink eight to ten glasses of water every day including thin milk, soups, coconut water (unless there is a potassium restriction), salted lemon water and ORS, herbal teas, non-caffeinated drinks, etc. For cardiac and kidney patients, the volume of fluid and sodium, along with other electrolytes may have to be restricted. 

Meal frequency and consistency is a most important part for a speedy recovery. Small frequent feeds would be better if the appetite is less, timing of fluid consumption should be in between meals and not with the meal. Taste and smell may take a while to return to normal making every bite of food utterly tasteless but it is important to keep up the appetite with small and frequent meals. 

Finally, post Covid patients may need support with their mental health as well. Once the patient is stable and the physician gives a clearance, exercise must be slowly encouraged as per tolerance and done preferably under guidance. And a recovery diet would not only help you get your strength back but also boost your immune system and keep other infections at bay until you’re fully back on your feet. So, eating is the best tool to overcome post- Covid malnutrition and weakness. 

Let's simplify the journey to health post-Covid!

The writer is Sr. Nutritionist, Labaid Cardiac Hospital. Email: [email protected]

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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