This week’s guest blog is from Nutritional Therapist Donna Lowe. I asked Donna if she could tell us about which foods will help to prevent and help us recover from Covid19. Here’s what she had to say:
As a nutritional therapist I have been asked a number of times whether there is a diet I would recommend to help reduce the impact of Covid-19 on our health and vitality. As well as considering the short-term health issues associated with contracting the SARS COV-2 virus, for some people there are ongoing, long-term effects on their health.
So, what can we do?
Firstly we can try to prevent exposure to the virus by observing good hygiene and keeping our distance from crowds of people.
The next thing to do is to keep ourselves in the best shape possible, depending on our exercise capabilities. Too much exercise can be as bad as doing none as it can put extra stress on the body, causing inflammation and increasing our risk of a more severe case of Covid infection.
What we are aiming to do is to keep inflammation low, by:
- Managing stress levels (physical, emotional, digestive)
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet and trying to lose excess weight
- Getting enough good quality sleep
- Keeping any health conditions managed and under control
- Supporting our immune system so it has everything it needs to do its job
- Exercising appropriately, preferably out in nature.
What exactly is an anti-inflammatory diet?
It’s a way of eating that helps calm the body down as well as keeping blood sugar levels steady. It supplies the nutrients our bodies require to complete all the reactions and processes needed to keep our immune system working well and all of our organs functioning.
We need to put in more of the foods our bodies need (like dark green leafy veg; oily fish like wild caught salmon, herrings, sardines; lots of different coloured veg like carrots, peppers, red onions, butternut or other squash, courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli; and fruits like berries, apples, pears and plums.) That leaves less room on our plates for processed, starchy or sugary foods, large servings of fried foods and meats.
I am not against eating meat. It can be an important part of your diet, but quality is more important than quantity. Small amounts of grass-fed, free-range meats can be a great source of nutrients; but factory-farmed animals that have been routinely treated with antibiotics and fed diets full of grains can cause extra stress and inflammation in the body.
To get vital nutrients into the body where we can make use of them requires our digestive systems to be working well. Are you getting heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, pain or wind after your meals? Constipation or diarrhoea? Food sensitivities? Any of these are a sign that your digestion needs help. Around 70% of our immune system is based in and around our guts, so gut-health is key.
What nutrients do we really need to feed to our immune system and what foods can we find them in?
- Vitamin C – fresh fruit and veg; particularly peppers, watercress, citrus, blackcurrants
- Zinc –Seafood, shellfish, ginger, lean red meat (esp. lamb), nuts, peas, egg yolk, oats, seeds (esp. pumpkin), lentils
- Selenium – Brazil nuts, mushrooms, herrings, liver
- Vitamin D – a little from oily fish, mushrooms, egg-yolk; and Summer sunlight; but supplementation needed to achieve the levels needed, especially in Autumn/Winter/Spring in the UK.
- Vitamin A – liver, pumpkin, squash, apricots, spinach, melon, carrots, peppers
- B Vitamins – wide variety of veg, nuts, eggs, seeds, but B12 in particular may need supplementing if you’re eating a vegan diet.
What helps to keep our gut healthy?
- Eating slowly, relaxing at mealtimes & enjoying our food and chewing it well.
- Fermented foods like fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and/or probiotics
- Plenty of fibre from vegetables, fruit and some wholegrains
- Adequate hydration – ie. 8 glasses of water/mugs of herbal tea a day (BETWEEN meals, not with)
- Really cutting down on alcohol and sugary/processed foods
- Giving our digestive system a good rest by limiting our eating to a 8-12 hour period each day; eg. Not eating after 7pm until first meal of the day at 7am or later; and not snacking.
And what about “Long-Covid”?
“Long-Covid” is how people are referring to the symptoms that persist well after we would expect usual viral symptoms to have disappeared. For many they appear to be similar to the symptoms of chronic fatigue (CF) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). It is important not to ignore these symptoms. “Pushing through” and trying to carry on as normal is likely to delay recovery. It is vital to rest, to listen to your body and give it what it needs to recover fully before going back to work or usual activity patterns and exercise.
As with CF/ME it appears the mitochondria (the parts of our cells responsible for producing energy as well as other roles in detoxification and repair) become dysfunctional.
Avoiding smoking and other toxic chemicals like harsh cleaning products can make a big difference.
Other nutrients, in addition to those already mentioned, that can be helpful at this stage include:
- Quercetin, found in red onions, red apples, green tea, capers, citrus fruit, organic tomatoes, cranberries and buckwheat has an anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effect which can be particularly helpful for calming the respiratory pathways.
- Sulphur-rich Foods to help with detoxification, including brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, leeks, onions, garlic and eggs.
- Red meats and liver (preferably organic, grass-fed/free-range) contain nutrients such as carnitine, Co-enzymeQ10, alpha lipoic acid, other micronutrients and protein which all help support our mitochondria and the production of energy. Making a Bolognese, chilli or Shepherd’s Pie with organic lamb or beef mince, onions, garlic, tomatoes, lentils, lots of herbs and spices and some finely chopped/liquidised organic chicken livers will provide a whole host of useful nutrients. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for good fats; and courgetti, sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice as a more nutritious alternative to pasta/rice/potatoes.
If you have particular health issues, are on medication or would like more support with supplementation it is important to work with a qualified, BANT/CNHC registered practitioner to achieve the best outcomes.
For help with your nutrition, please contact me using the details below:
Donna Lowe 07921 556840
Image courtesy of Cayla1 on Unsplash.