Diet & Nutrition
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Diet & Nutrition

Dietary guidelines & home-care amid COVID-19

COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, became a major global human threat that has turned into a pandemic. Coronavirus is one of the major pathogens that mainly targets the human respiratory system. Sadly, the vulnerable and immunocompromised in our societies seem to be more susceptible to severe COVID-19 complications. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is upending life for families around the world. Optimal nutrition can improve well-being and might mitigate the risk and morbidity associated with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (NCBI)

How does nutrition play a role during Covid-19?

Optimal nutrition is one of the main determinants of health that can improve well-being and mitigate the harmful health consequences by helping to prevent or control most chronic diseases. Nutrition plays a significant role in increasing immunity & strength for both, the COVID-19 patients and those who are on the path of recovery. During COVID-19, the body gets weakened and it continues for days even after recovering from the symptoms (NCBI). Thus, it becomes essential to consume the right kind of diet for a speedy and complete recovery of the body. Having a healthy diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, is a key component of a healthy lifestyle and plays a vital role in supporting a well-functioning and effective immune system to help protect against infection and other diseases (World Cancer Research Fund International).

Can Nutrition boost your immune system?

There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system, which is why maintaining a healthy balanced diet is the best way to support immune function. Important nutrients for effective immune function are (Harvard- School of Public Health):

  • Copper
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D

No one food is recommended over another and eating a variety of foods will help to maintain a healthy balanced diet. The of many of these nutrients is based on their antioxidant capacity (oxidation is a chemical reaction that can damage cells) which is lost if consumed in excess (WCRF).

It is important to consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist before making any significant changes to your diet and take suggestion as to how much amount of the nutrients have to be consumed.

So what exactly are the components of a COVID-19 recovery diet?

What you eat and drink now will play a huge role in boosting your immune system and that, in turn, will determine how quickly you’re able to get back on your feet once you’ve been infected by the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) have provided many dietary recommendations through the months of the pandemic. Based on all of these guidelines, a proper recovery diet for COVID-19 patients should include the following categories of nutrition:

  1. Calories: Your body has been drained of energy, so calorie-dense foods are what you need to get your energy levels back up. Include rice, potatoes, bread, pasta, whole grains and cereals in your diet, but avoid foods with empty calories — like all types of junk food.
  2. Protein: You can’t start feeling better without these building blocks of life, so eat more protein-rich foods every day. Add as many whole grains, lentils, legumes, dairy products, soy products, nuts and seeds as you can in your diet. If you’re non-vegetarian, then have plenty of chicken and eggs as well as fish.
  3. Fruits and veggies: Fresh fruits and vegetables are great sources of dietary fibre, folate, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Include all colour fruits and veggies from apples and bananas to gourds and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
  4. Immune-boosters: Fruits, vegetables, herbs and some spices have immense immune-boosting qualities because they’re packed with phytochemicals and bioactive compounds. Add these to your diet and drink immune-boosting herbal drinks like kadha, turmeric milk, green tea, herbal tea, etc.
  5. Fluids: Infections can dehydrate the body, so it’s important to rehydrate when you’re recovering. Drink 8–10 glasses of water every day, and make broths, soups, and other drinks a part of your daily diet.

Some more nutrition tips to keep in mind for COVID patients (WHO):

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Regular physical activity and breathing exercise to be advised, as per tolerance.
  • Consume a balanced diet with moderate carbs and fats, and High Biological Value proteins.
  • Provide Oral Nutrition Supplements and Antioxidants to meet the demands of the patients such as Vitamin C and zinc tablets. Make sure to consult a doctor/ dietitian before consuming the same.
  • Don’t completely rely on supplements and consume nutrient-rich foods.
  • Wash raw foods thoroughly and keep it separate from cooked food.

Nutrition tips for care-takers of covid patients/ front-line workers (National Health Portal India, Abott Nutrition & WHO):

  • Drink 3–4 litres of water daily
  • Take a hot shower immediately when you come home
  • Keep washing hands every 2 hours while helping patient
  • Maintain distance among family members during any kind of activities
  • Let your N-95 mask rest under sunlight for a few hours. Avoid reusing disposable or cotton masks
  • As soon as you reach home, take steam with 1 tsp ajwain to it (follow this 2–3 times a day)
  • A warm salt water gargle is must before bed time
  • To optimize hydration throughout the day, consume water- and nutrient-rich fruits and veggies, such as cucumber, celery, peppers and watermelon.
  • Regular use of disinfectant or sanitizer is essential since one is dealing with covid patients continuously

Good nutrition supports the body throughout the life course, from birth to old age. A balanced diet, including all food groups, supports an effective immune system and may provide protection against not just covid-19 but other diseases too. Make sure to self- isolate yourself if you have any of the symptoms of the coronavirus disease. Keep wearing a mask and maintain social-distancing to help fight the pandemic.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7454801/
  2. https://www.nhp.gov.in/healthlyliving/maintain-a-healthy-diet-during-covid-19-pandemic
  3. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1466
  4. https://www.wcrf.org/int/blog/articles/2020/04/links-between-coronavirus-nutrition-and-immune-system
  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-020-0634-3
  6. http://www.emro.who.int/nutrition/news/nutrition-advice-for-adults-during-the-covid-19-outbreak.html
  7. https://www.nutritionnews.abbott/nutrition-care/illness/how-healthcare-workers-optimize-nutrition-and-hydration/
  8. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/

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