Jo Sansom, specialist dietitian in our MacMillan Next Steps Service, has written some helpful information on nutrition for people who have, or are recovering from, Covid-19.
During or following infection with Covid-19, many people experience a loss of appetite, taste and smell changes, fatigue and an inability to prepare and cook their usual meals. A poor diet, combined with reduced physical activity, may cause weight loss, loss of muscle mass and a lack of strength, all of which makes getting back to normal more challenging.
There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system, a healthy balanced diet is encouraged in order to support your immune function. The Eat Well Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group. Try to choose a variety of different foods from each of the main five food groups to help you get the wide range of nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
If you are having to self-isolate or are unable to go outside, you should consider taking a daily supplement of Vitamin D containing 10 micrograms (400IU) to ensure a healthy vitamin D status. A viral infection like Covid-19 is likely to have left you at risk of Vitamin D deficiency so we would recommend a supplement to ensure you have sufficient levels to support your recovery.
It is important to consider your fluid intake to ensure good hydration. When you have been unwell (and particularly if you have a fever) your fluid requirements may be higher while you recover. 6-8 glasses of fluid (approximately 2 litres) a day is a good target to aim for.
Weight loss and loss of muscle mass commonly affect those that have had an infection and/or a prolonged stay in hospital. Good nutrition can help the body to repair and rebuild. If you have lost weight or are still suffering with a poor appetite you may want to increase the calorie and protein content of your diet by incorporating additional calorie-dense snacks, nourishing fluids and fortifying your food with high energy products such as milk powder, cream, cheese, butter or oils. It is important to seek advice from a Dietitian who can help with stabilising weight loss and provide further guidance on how to maximise your intake.
Many people have experienced taste changes when unwell with Covid-19. Taste changes can be difficult to manage and require individual trial and error to find out what works. Experimenting with different flavours, trying food not in your usual diet, and ensuring your palate is properly cleansed are ways to help.
Some people have reported discomfort or soreness in their throats after being ventilated. Many people find these symptoms resolve naturally with time but for others it may cause difficulties in swallowing your normal diet. Choosing food that have a softer texture, with more moisture, are often easier to manage if your throat is still sore.
Social distancing and isolation could impact a person’s access to the wide variety of foods needed to keep healthy. It is useful to have a store of basic items in your cupboard. If you have concerns cooking or shopping for yourself there are lots of food delivery companies that can deliver ready made meals and snacks. A useful point of contact is the Gloucestershire Community Help Hub who can help with food provision and Age UK.
Further information can be found on the British Dietetic Association website. If you have concerns about your nutrition or weight please contact your GP for a referral to a Dietitian.