Top 7 Tips For Coronavirus Post-Viral Recuperation

Quite rightly, there has been a lot of health advice on preventing Covid-19. However there has been very little written on what to do once you are past the infection and how to recuperate to help get back on track with your health and vitality afterwards. This important but often forgotten stage of recovery is often the time when people struggle, as they are trying to get back to normal life but are feeling held back by low energy levels and breathlessness.

Some people have described their experience with Covid as being “knocked for six”. Some people say they feel better for a few days, and then the symptoms come back to bite them, as if they were having a relapse. Others get mild symptoms, but do not feel quite right afterwards and are wiped out for quite a while.

Severity of the infection aside, almost everyone comes out the other end of a bout of Covid exhausted and depleted, as if they have been hit by a train. They can still feel the nagging effects of this very harsh virus a few weeks later. And if they are not careful then they are more susceptible to catching a secondary infection such as chest infection, tonsillitis or ear infection, which can lay them low again.

This is because the body has experienced significant inflammation and oxidative stress (cell damage) from the virus, and it is going to take time to dial down the inflammatory pathways and mend the cells. This process can take around 4-6 weeks depending on how much residual inflammation and oxidative stress was sitting in the body prior to the infection.

Poor dietary choices, lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, over exercise and environmental pollutants as well as previous infections can lead to a build up of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress within the body. The Covid virus can be the tipping point for and magnify this inflammation and oxidative stress, kickstarting more significant symptoms like pain, stiffness and neurological changes. If you have an autoimmune condition or have atopy (eczema, asthma, hay fever or allergies) then your symptoms associated with these may be exacerbated temporarily by the increase in inflammatory cytokines and cell damage from the virus.

This is where good old-fashioned recuperation time could not be more important. Being kind to yourself, taking it easy, supercharging your diet, taking a few helpful supplements and not rushing back into your old lifestyle habits can make all the difference to both your short and long-term health. It’s time for taking stock and building back your strength and resilience.

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Top 7 Tips For Coronavirus Post-Viral Recuperation

So, with this in mind; here are some of my guidelines to keep you recuperate and build back health, energy and vitality:

1) Prioritise Sleep

Aim for 8-10 hours per night until you are feeling back to full charge. Sleep disruptors include caffeine, alcohol as well as screen time before bed. Positive steps are to switch your glass of wine in the evening to drinking a herbal tea or alcohol-free spirit instead; aim to turn your phone or tablet off at least an hour before bed and keep it out of the bedroom – enjoy getting to bed nice and early. You may need to make this change gradually, as sudden changes of caffeine or alcohol intake can potentially make things worse for a few days

2) Breathing Exercises

Your lungs have had a bashing and they need a lot of TLC to help get your breathing and lung function back. Try to get time in the fresh air every day and keep your windows open to get lots of lovely fresh air through your home. Sitting upright also increases peak ventilation and reduces airway obstruction, as does sleeping on your front or side rather than on your back. Leaning forward with arms bracing a chair or knees and the upper body supported has been shown to improve ventilatory capacity. Breathing better could well help with fatigue as well as any lingering headaches.

Try nasal breathing where you inhale and exhale through your nose for several seconds with your mouth closed. If this feels uncomfortable then exhale slowly through pursed lips instead. Breathing retraining aims to help you regain a sense of control and improves respiratory muscle strength.

3) Movement

Aim to build up your daily walk from 5 minutes to one hour depending on your strength. Once you have achieved a full hour of walking consider starting to incorporate short sharp bursts of running to this walk.

Spend a few minutes every day doing some basic exercises like lunges, squats and press-ups to build up strength. Again, build this up super slowly and do not push yourself too much. Overexertion could potentially knock you back health-wise.

4) Connection

You have probably been out of touch with friends and family over the past few weeks because of your illness, so pick up the phone, Zoom or Facetime those who are close to you, as this will help to cheer you up and keep your endorphins lifted. This is a very important part of recuperation.

5) Hydration

  • Start each day by drinking at least 500ml water on waking – keep a large water bottle beside your bed. Aim to drink 2 litres over the day.
  • Within the first hour of waking, drink a large cup of warm or hot water with a few slices of fresh ginger and the juice from ½ lemon. Add a little honey and maple syrup if you prefer. This is very soothing on a dry and sore throat and helps to clear any mucus in the airways.
  • Other drinks to enjoy are: Liquorice tea (particularly good for supporting adrenals and to soothe the throat – avoid if you have high blood pressure), Turmeric Tea or Lemon, Ginger & Honey Tea.
  • Hydrating drinks include coconut water and rehydration tablets. Add a little Himalayan or mineral salt to foods to build in adrenal supportive electrolytes.
  • Enjoy drinking bone broths and soups regularly. These can be home-made or buy fresh soup from good quality brands. This contains immune supportive properties and contains the amino acid glycine which helps us to make our own internal antioxidants such as glutathione.
  • Minimise caffeine and avoid alcohol as much as possible as these are dehydrating and the alcohol is pro-inflammatory.

6) Diet

This is a chance to nourish yourself back to health with simple, yummy and nutritious food:

  • Aim to eat three wholesome meals a day and cook from scratch as much as possible.
  • Avoid ultra-processed convenience foods and highly sugary foods as much as possible to include bought cakes, sweets, crisps, sugary breakfast cereals, refined sugar and sweetened fizzy drinks including sweet alcohol mixers.
  • If you need to eat a snack always ensure it contains healthy fats and proteins as well as carbohydrate such as seeded oatcakes and hummus, apple slices with nut butter, banana boats with peanut butter and blueberries or crispbread with cream cheese, liver or fish pate.
  • Aim to base your meals around vegetables, good quality fats and proteins as well as complex carbohydrate:
    • Fill half your plate with veggies and/or salad or veggie-loaded soups and stews.
    • Eat quality protein sources – eggs, organic or grass-fed meat, organic or free-range poultry, white and oily fish, legumes/beans.
    • Use complex carbohydrates – jumbo oats, brown rice, black rice, red rice, wholemeal pasta, legume pasta, sweet potato, butternut squash, lentils, chickpeas, peas, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, teff. Try legume rice made from red lentils, chick peas or green pea.
    • Enjoy healthy fats – organic butter, nuts, seeds, olives, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil.
  • Restore your gut flora with yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar or miso.
  • Enjoy homemade juices made from different combinations of apple, pear, cucumber, celery, beetroot, carrot, lemon, ginger.
  • Also try smoothies using smooshed up berries or frozen fruit with live yoghurt or kefir and nutritious seeds like chia, hemp and flax. Supercharge with “superfood” powders packed with polyphenols such as Baobab, Haskap, Acai and Dragon Fruit.
  • Eating a variety of plants really counts here and aim to consume upwards from 20 different fruits and veg each week (ideally 30 plus). I suggest you buy the core fruit and veg you all like to eat on a weekly basis and then aim to buy 2-3 new rainbow foods each week to try. Different varieties and colours of the same fruit or vegetable count like purple, white and green cabbages, heritage purple, white and orange carrots; red, green, orange and yellow bell peppers; frozen berry mixes; different varieties of apples; and yellow/green courgettes. They can be raw, steamed, boiled, baked, roasted or mashed and mix them together in stews, soups, pies etc. It is ok to use fresh or frozen produce.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Also consume animal-based omega-3s to help reduce inflammation: salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, pilchards, and sardines are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Limit tuna to once a fortnight due to the high mercury content. Try prawns, crab and mussels. Smoked salmon, smoked mackerel and fish pates are quick & easy options. If you are not a fan of fish then choose a good omega-3 fish oil supplement or a marine algae supplement if you are plant-based.

Grass-fed meat and organ meats
Lean meat like free range or organic chicken and turkey are great ways to rebuild your system. Beef and lamb if outdoor reared and grass-fed can contain good levels of omega 3 and vitamin D. Organ meats such as liver and kidneys are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamins A and B12. It also helps us to make a natural antioxidant called glutathione which helps our cells to repair faster. Try chicken liver pate or using organic chicken livers in bolognaise or ragu to build back your strength.

7) Supplements

Sometimes a better diet and improved lifestyle is not quite enough to support a very depleted immune system, and you need to consider some extra support for a few weeks after the virus to help get you bounce back faster and feel better sooner. Remember when taking food supplements, that we are all very individual and ideally you would discuss what to take with a qualified nutritional therapist, naturopath or functional medicine practitioner. Here are some of the supplements where I have found some sound scientific evidence to helping with recuperation from a virus. These focus particularly on the nutrients and botanicals that help to reduce inflammation from the cytokine storm, reduce oxidative stress to help renew the cells, and also help to regain better lung function:

Vitamin C
Several controlled trials have found significant effects of vitamin C against pneumonia. Vitamin C has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and orally up to 2,000mg twice daily is possible.

Vitamin D
The NHS suggests we all top up with Vitamin D supplements through the autumn and winter and this is a key vitamin for immunity and for dialling down inflammation. Children aged 12 plus and adults can take 4000iu per day when recuperating from an infection.

Zinc
As well as having antioxidant and antiviral properties, zinc is also important for the creation of our digestive juices. Those with a zinc deficiency often have a poor sense of taste and smell, zinc is also helpful at clearing up diarrhoea. Children aged 12 plus and adults can take up to 40mg a day.

Omega 3
Another natural anti-inflammatory, this essential fatty acid has been found to decrease overall lung tissue inflammation as well as reducing cell death in pneumonia. Think at least 1000mg per day.

Turmeric
This is a well-established systemic anti-inflammatory spice. Research has found it has been particularly helpful at supporting those with acute lung injury from infection including pneumonia as it helps to repair lung injury and reduces the inflammatory cytokines. Again aim for at least 1000mg per day.

N Acetyl Cysteine
NAC is the precursor to glutathione which is our master antioxidant, and this regulates immunity, detoxification and inflammatory pathways. NAC is a mucus thinner and may also help improve oxidative stress and inflammatory response in patients with pneumonia. It has also been found to be helpful for those with chronic lung disease and again this is around 1000mg per day.

Quercetin
Quercetin from the Saphora plant, is very strengthening to the lungs in chronic lung disease and the polyphenols are helpful at reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. It has been found to particularly be helpful in restoring lung health from both chronic and acute respiratory infections. It helps to repair any lung damage and is very helpful for symptoms of breathlessness, especially when combined with Vitamin C. Aim for 500mg twice daily.

Round up

Recuperating properly from Covid is an important stage of the process and it can help you to build back your energy and resilience. If you feel you are not getting back on track easily, your immune system has taken a bashing or your symptoms are looking more like Long Covid; then do consider booking in with one of our NatureDoc Long Covid specialists who can work with you to help you get your health and vitality back on track and feel like your best self again!

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  1. Thank you for all this positive useful information. I Have followed this advice For the past 18 months having consulted one of your fellow practitioners after I had been ill with an unknown virus leaving me totally exhausted. Obviously none of us is immune to Covid but my health is in a much better place now and hopefully will be able to cope.