For those who've battled COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, whether the infection was mild or severe, there is still a long road to recovery. For COVID long haulers, debilitating after-effects like headaches, chronic fatigue, difficulty breathing, joint pains, changes in taste and smell, medication-induced dry mouth, brain fog, sleep issues, and multiple more such symptoms linger for a long long time, sometimes as long as 5-6 months.
And all this certainly impacts their quality of life, rather severely. Follow this 8-point plan to heal faster.
The body loses a lot of fluids during infection so your first priority should be to replace that loss. Drink plenty of water to speed up your recovery. Target drinking eight to ten glasses of water every day and also include other hydrating drinks like flavoured water, soups, broths, green teas, and non-caffeinated drinks in your daily diet.
Focus on Protein
A high-protein diet is important in recovery as protein can help repair the damaged body tissues, make up for the muscle loss that happened during the infection. Plus, enough protein in the diet is absolutely important to keep the body immunity in good shape and save you from further infections.
Focus on lentils, legumes, nuts, dairy, eggs, white meat, soy, and fish. Try to take at least 1 gram protein per kg of body weight every day.
For example, if you weigh 60 kg, then ensure at least 60 gms of protein every day. Make sure you include one to two portions of protein in every meal and have two protein-rich snacks every day too.
Besides quantity, it is important to focus on the quality of protein too. Try to eat complete proteins that deliver all the essential amino acids. Most non-vegetarian sources are complete proteins, but if you are a vegetarian then a judicious combination like dal and rice or roti and dal can give you complete protein.
Focus on the Gut
Corona tends to leave the gut in a really bad shape leading to multiple gastric issues. The medicines play have with the gut microbiome too, killing the good bacteria. So it’ll help to painstakingly rebuild and rebalance the good vs bad bacteria balance in the gut. For that focus on eating probiotic food daily. Include at least one fermented food in your daily diet - homemade curd, sprouts, dhokla, sourdough bread, kanji, kimchi, etc. If the gut is in a bad shape, do a course of probiotic tablets for a few days too.
Eat Easily Digestible Food
It is best to stick to home-cooked food to recover fast. This will give your digestive system a break and let the body speed up the recovery process. Eat dishes like khichri, poha, simple vegetables, raita, etc, and avoid fried, too rich fare completely for some time.
This is not the time to try and lose weight or go low in calories. Let the body recover first. At this time more calories will deliver more energy to the body to fight off the infections and also help it recover faster and regain strength. So eat healthy but calorie-dense foods.
Focus on Wholesome Nutrition
Coronavirus stresses the body extensively and the multiple medicines debilitate your body. Consciously include foods that are rich in vitamin A, E, and minerals like zinc and magnesium to help the body heal better and to build immunity.
Work on Your Memory
In order to regain the lost attention, cognitive thinking abilities, and memory focus on iron (extra-lean red meat, beans, peas, dark green leafy vegetables, pomegranate, and dried apricots) omega 3 (fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds), monounsaturated fatty acids (mostly present in vegetable oils and particularly extra virgin olive oil), B vitamins (dairy, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables) and astaxanthin, a form of microalgae. To score it eat plenty of salmon, algae, shrimps, and shellfish. Sorry, no veg source is known yet.
Boost your Mood
Coronavirus is a major happiness sucker too. It leaves everyone dealing with anxiety and moody blues. So it helps to tailor the diet accordingly. There are clearly some happy nutrients and happy foods, that can have a very positive effect on our mood. Include these consciously in your diet. My top picks are turmeric, chickpeas, walnuts, apples, pumpkin seeds, dried figs, and bananas. Eat at least two of these every day.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)