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Nutritional Care in Covid Patients During Recovery Phase

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In 2019, a new coronavirus strain was identified as the cause of a disease outbreak in China. 

Covid-19 directly and indirectly affects the immune system and avoids being eliminated in the early  stages. while on the other hand it also causes a multi-organ failure. 

The symptoms of covid 19 may appear 2-14 days after the exposure, this period is called the incubation period. The common symptoms include fever, cough, tiredness, shortness of breath , sore throat and chills. People who are older or infants have a higher risk of serious illness from covid 19.

Complications Of Coronavirus Attack:

Complications might occur in people who have pre existing chronic conditions and whose immune system has weakened due to the Covid attack. Individuals who are infected with coronavirus have an increased chance of developing other complications if adequate nutritional care is not provided during the recovery phase. 

The complications include

  • Cancer
  • Heart Related Ailments 
  • Renal Infections and diseases
  • Respiratory Problems – Pneumonia, Asthma etc.
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Blood Clots
  • Repeated Infections.

Role Of Nutrition In Covid Care:

Covid -19 pandemic had created a fear in everyone’s mind in the beginning stages, but with time, everyone has learned how to live with it. At the moment there is no cure for covid-19, but healthy eating patterns can optimize the function of the immune system and improve the immunometabolism. The ability to function right or wrong would depend mainly on the eating habits of an individual. An unhealthy diet is one of the major risk factors for a wide variety of chronic diseases such as CVD, diabetes and obesity. 

Therefore nutrition is a social determinant of health, It is not only important to take precautions to keep ourselves away from contamination, it is essential to know nutritional care to be given for an individual during the recovery phase after a covid attack.

The most important point to be noted is that, when the body is fighting against the infection, it does so in three phases

  • Acute phase
  • Stable phase
  • Recovery phase

Notably nutritional care during the recovery phase of covid-19 has a great impact on the recovery time. Moreover nutrition is vital for maintaining skeletal muscle mass and in avoiding metabolic disturbances, when the patients spend around 2 weeks in ICU. Owing to respiratory difficulties, it causes a strain in providing food and oral supplements. Therefore nutrition has to be integrated as  a part of covid-19 patients’ recovery

Key Nutrients for Covid Recovery:

Calories-  Adequate calories are necessary to reduce the stress on the body which helps to rebuild the strength. 35-47 calories per kg/body weight is recommended for a recovering covid patient. Small and frequent meals at regular intervals could satisfy the increased calorie demands

Protein – The building blocks of the body plays a vital role in tissue repair and muscle building. Around 1.5-2g of protein/kg body weight is recommended. Write examples of protein – both veg & non-veg.

Carbohydrates –  Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, cereals, pulses and legumes can be incorporated in the diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source, they provide energy, protects against certain diseases and helps to maintain normal body function 

Vitamin C-  Also known as ascorbic acid, It functions as an antihistamine agent, thereby providing relief from the flu like symptoms such as  sneezing, running nose. It also acts as an antioxidant and supports immune function. Sources include citrus fruits, grapes, kiwi and tomato 

Zinc – A dietary trace mineral, important for maintenance and development of immune cells. Zinc deficiency causes increased susceptibility towards infectious diseases. Sources include various shell fishes, beef, fortified cereals, almonds, oats,nuts, seeds.

Vitamin D – it is found to be more than just a vitamin, it is actually a hormone which is involved in various systems from bone health to immunity. Including sunlight, other rich sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil, soya, almond, and salmon, milk and milk products. The recommended daily allowance is 6000iu.

Vitamin A – It is called an anti infectious vitamin responsible for the body’s defence against infections. Sources include liver, fish, fortified cereals, dairy products, carrots and other orange and green vegetables.

Calcium – Calcium foods are essential to maintain and build the bone mass getting around 1000 – 1200mg of calcium each day is imperative for bone health, also strengthening the muscles.

Omega 3 fatty acids – They help in reducing the inflammation caused as a result of fighting the infection. Consumption of flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts suffices the requirements for omega 3 fatty acids.

In addition to all these nutrients required for a stronger immune system, a well balanced diet and hydration are also vital. Well and proper balanced diet tends to strengthen the immune system thereby lowering the risk of chronic illness and infectious diseases.

Food To Include And Avoid During Recovery Phase:

There are certain foods to include and avoid in the diet during the recovery phase, because of their nutritional value. Each and every food has its own significance from a nutritional perspective, and it is important to know what food to be consumed and avoided based on the health status.

Foods To Eat:

  • Sweet potato, Spinach, Carrot, Red pepper, Cabbage
  • Moong dal, chickpeas, lentils
  • Mint, Ginger, turmeric, honey
  • Citrus fruits, papaya, banana, kiwi, 
  • Egg, Fish
  • Mushrooms
  • Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese
  • Sunflower seeds, Almonds, walnuts

Foods To Avoid: 

  • Cakes,Cookies,Chocolate
  • Pickles
  • Red meat
  • Pizza,Burgers,Noodles,Fried foods
  • Canned fruit juices 
  • Cheese (Limit the consumption)
  • Sauces, Spreads 
  • Flavoured milks
  • Tea, coffee

Do’s And Don’ts:

Things you should be aware of while fighting the infection.

Do’s

  • Drink sufficient amount of liquids in the form of  Herbal tea, hot water, Fresh Homemade Juices, Soups, 
  • Exercise daily including low impact strength training and Pranayama.
  • Consume Small and frequent meals
  • Maintain Self Hygiene
  • Sanitise your surroundings
  • Consume easily digestible food

Don’ts

  • Avoid going out in crowded places , visiting sick people
  • Avoid eating outside 
  • Avoid the consumption of caffeine, carbonated beverages and sweeteners
  • Avoid overcooking of vegetables
  • Stay away from social habits- smoking, alcohol
  • Do not panic, it only escalates the situation further

Tips to improve overall health and promote faster recovery:

Below are the tips which will help the individual to recover faster and boost the immune system.

  1. Follow a balanced diet which is rich in protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and micronutrients.
  2. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day
  3. Exercise regularly, increase the intensity gradually
  4. Practice breathing exercise twice daily
  5. Opt for homemade fresh foods
  6. Follow up with your physician on regular basis
  7. Soak yourself in moderate sunlight for at least 15 -20 minutes per day 

Conclusion:

While proper nutrition and hydration improves health and immunity, they are not magic bullets, the patient also requires support with their mental health to ensure they keep in good health.

Indeed “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” can never be more applicable than now.

“A good Immunity can be built with a stable mental ability and a proper nutritional care”

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