Nutrition is key in fighting illness. Picture: Pexels/Maarten van den Heuvel
Nutrition is key in fighting illness. Picture: Pexels/Maarten van den Heuvel

Third wave: the nutrition you need for Covid recovery

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Jun 23, 2021

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Covid-19 has impacted infected people in different ways.

Some have been asymptomatic; many have had mild cases; some have had to be hospitalised but didn’t need ventilation and others have endured long stays in ICU.

There are those who have recovered quickly, but a number of people are suffering from “long-Covid” and experience symptoms that go on for months.

With South Africa experiencing a third wave, the officials and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) are cautioning the country about the rapid spread of the virus in the third wave.

The NICD also notes that in the third wave “concerning” figures represent the highest number of daily cases and positivity rate recorded since January 2021.

Gauteng is thehot spot of South Africa's Covid-19 third wave. Senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Dr Ridhwaan Suliman has warned and pleaded with people in Gauteng to take extra-precautions.

“The third wave of hospitalisations is here! Covid numbers are about to exceed previous peaks.

“We're entering uncharted territory. How high we go is still up to us,and our collective behaviour,” tweeted Suliman.

Prevention and adhering to Covid-19 regulation is the best way to curb the spread of the virus but if you happen to get infected by the virus, nutrition will play an important role in recovery.

“Importantly, good nutrition can help to avoid risks of complications and shorten your recovery time.

According to the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa), people recovering from Covid-19 who also suffer from diabetes and cardiovascular Adsa spokesperson and registered dietitian Omy Naidoo points out that people recovering from Covid may still be experiencing health issues.

He says: “Covid symptoms such as the loss of taste and smell can persist for quite some time, and these senses have a major impact on appetite.

“Chronic fatigue, weight loss, loss of muscle mass and general weakness are common too.

“The main goal of recovery nutrition is to provide enough of the nutrients that support healing, and therefore a loss of appetite is a challenge that needs to be addressed.”

The general nutrition tips for post-Covid recovery include:

When fighting an infection, the body needs more energy and more fluids. Eat a variety of foods every day to ensure balanced nutrition.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, and include plant-based meals to ensure optimal intake of immune-supporting vitamins and minerals.

Make whole grains and high-fibre foods (which include vegetables, fruit and salads) as part of most meals.

Drink plenty of clean, safe water as adequate hydration is essential to recovery, and focus on hydration particularly if you are still experiencing symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.

In the case of muscle mass loss, focus on a high-protein diet to support muscle recovery. Good sources of protein include lean chicken, eggs, dairy and fish, as well as legumes and pulses such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Limit sugary foods and drinks, highly processed and fast foods.

Naidoo points out that different strategies may be necessary if you or your recovering family member experience a chronic loss of appetite.

“Oral nutrition supplement drinks may be necessary if the person is unable to consume enough protein and calories each day.

“Good quality oral nutrition supplement drinks are easy to consume, and they contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat and necessary micronutrients,” he says.

Additional nutritional advice for people recovering from Covid-19 after being in ICU:

Address loss of appetite by encouraging small, frequent meals and encourage a variety of foods to provide different nutrients.

Focus on foods that are rich are vitamins and minerals, such as vegetables and fruit, high-fibre and wholegrain foods.

Aim to have a high protein food at each meal, to help replace muscle loss and regain your strength.

A dietitian can recommend oral nutritional supplement drinks that may be necessary.

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