Does nutrition & lifestyle have their place in helping us beat Covid19?
It’s fair to say, heading into winter, that Covid19 is here to stay and going forward we need to adapt, take the necessary precautions, and do what we can to prevent complications to the virus.
Let’s talk: inflammation; it’s the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm.
There are 2 types: acute and chronic. The acute occurs when you bang your knee or cut a finger. Your immune system dispatches white blood cells to surround and protect the area, creating heat, visible redness and swelling. This also similarly happens if you have an infection like flu or pneumonia or Covid19. In this process, inflammation is essential and without it infections could be deadly. Chronic inflammation can also occur in response to unwanted substances in the body, such as cigarette smoke, poor diet or an excess of fat cells.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS CoV2) is a 3 stage illness:
- Early viral replication, cytokine storm
- Late cytokine storm: risk of blood clotting, pulmonary embolism, heart attack or stroke
- Long Covid such as chest pains, breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog, muscular aches and pains
Research suggests that high blood sugar levels increase the number of inflammatory immune cells and suppress the anti-inflammatory cells, throwing the immune system out of balance. Too many inflammatory immune cells result in a cytokine storm (an overreaction).
The Covid19 symptom study app run by Kings Hospital London has confirmed that being obese (BMI above 30) can significantly increase the chances of hospital admission, even for people who are otherwise young and healthy. Other diseases linked to diet, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease also increase the likelihood of becoming severely ill with coronavirus.
Several studies have shown that people of BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) descent are at increased mortality in SARS CoV2. This could be due to increased risk of type 2 diabetes in African or Asian populations.
The aim with nutrition and lifestyle measures is to reduce inflammation in your body, optimise health & nutrients to support the immune system so that it can work optimally. This will not only stand your body on good ground to fight Covid19 but also protect yourself from chronic health conditions.
Here are my top nutrition & lifestyle tips to get you started
- Drink 1.5-2L of water per day. Keeping hydrated is vital to flush toxins out of the body to help reduce inflammation
- Sleep 7-8 hours a night
Our circadian rhythm helps regulate our immune system and when this is disrupted so is a normal immune function
- Eat balanced meals 2-3 times daily, avoid quick release refined sugar and snacking
- A minimum of 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight as it’s the building blocks of your immune system (20-25g of protein is the equivalent of a small chicken breast).
- Aim of ½ a plate of rainbow colours of vegetables with at least 2 of your meals per day as it has an anti-inflammatory impact and supports gut health/microbiome which has a direct link to your immune system
- Avoid meal skipping as this can increases stress on the body and therefore inflammation
This will balance your blood sugar levels, optimise your body with nutrients to support your immune system and reduce inflammation
- Time restrictive eating 8-10 hours during the day with an overnight fast 12-14 hours
This improves health related biomarkers, decreases body fat mass and inflammation in the body.
- Move regularly throughout the day with regular breaks from just sitting at a desk
Regular exercise flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which in turn may help reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness. Regular exercise leads to a higher number of white cells and also circulating them more rapidly so they can detect illness earlier.
- Reduce stress
There exists a communication between stress and the immune system. Chronic stress can activate inflammatory responses in the brain as well as the body.
There are plenty of ways to unwind; it may be taking time out as little as 5-15mins a day to meditate or go for a brisk walk in the park or spend time with family/friends.
Dr. Leah Austin
Private GP & Nutritional Therapist