If you’ve been unwell it can take time to bounce back to your old self. You may be left with lack of energy, loss of appetite and low mood. Now is the time to prioritise your health by giving your body the optimum conditions to do so. Here are my tips to support you in your recovery.

Nourish yourself

You may have lost your appetite or not felt up to preparing food whilst you were poorly. Now, as your body is working extra hard to recover, is the time to nourish yourself and replenish those nutrients your body uses while healing. All cells, tissues and organs are made from amino acids from protein so extra protein is necessary during recovery. Good quality protein should be included with every meal, protein rich foods include fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds. 

Your body uses vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from vegetables and fruits to perform hundreds of roles in the body. Any deficiency will leave you vulnerable and it’s often difficult to tell if you are low on a particular vitamin or mineral. Try to include as much variety of colourful fruits and vegetables – aim to eat a rainbow! Including foods such as red tomatoes, yellow peppers, green salads and vegetables, berries and grapes in your daily diet. The coloured pigments in plants provide different plant nutrients which each have their own special benefits. 

The problem is most of us fail to eat enough essential nutrients through our diets. Nutrient levels in food are often diminished through over intense farming methods, storage, and cooking and be honest, do you always get your 5 a day? Many nutritionists actually recommend 7 portions for optimum health. If you are unable to achieve this a high quality multi such as Advanced Multi should be considered. 

Energy

It is common to suffer from fatigue and lack of energy after suffering from a virus. When this continues for weeks or even months a diagnoses of post viral fatigue may be given.  This seems to be very common with those who have had Covid 19. 

Little is understood about why people may suffer from post viral fatigue. It may be that viruses affect energy production in cells, or it may be from an overreaction of the immune response, affecting organs such as the adrenals. 

To help improve energy, alongside a good multi, the powerful antioxidant co enzyme Q10 has been shown in studies to be low in sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome.  Co enzyme Q10 promotes energy production in every cell of the body, one recent study has shown that people who have been suffering from seasonal flu had significantly lower CoQ10 levels than healthy controls. * 

Ashwagandha You may not be familiar with this ancient herb however it has been used in India for thousands of years as a tonic to restore the body. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, such herbs help our body build resilience and may improve energy levels after an illness. 

Vitamin D

You may have heard about the latest exciting research on vitamin D. We are beginning to understand the link between having low vitamin D and how badly you are affected by viruses such as Covid 19.  Vitamin D is important in regulation and suppression of the inflammatory cytokine (immune) response. This is important when dealing with the severe stage of a virus known as a cytokine storm. This happens when the body’s immune system over reacts in response to a virus and in severe cases can result in organ failure.

Public Health England recommend everyone takes a vitamin D supplement between October and March. Those who cannot get sufficient sun exposure during the warmer months, for example those in care homes or anyone with darker skin tones who are less able to make vitamin D, should take it all year round.

Look after your gut

Did you know 80% of our body’s immune cells are in the gut? Illness and medications can have a huge impact on our gut flora – the community of trillions of beneficial bacteria and fungi that inhabit your gastrointestinal tract. These microbes are essential for maintaining healthy digestion, immunity and absorption of nutrients from food. 

An imbalance in the gut flora (dysbiosis) can leave you with symptoms such as bloating, cramps, constipation and/or diarrhoea, skin problems, vulnerable to infections and even depression. Luckily a course of ‘friendly bacteria’ or probiotics can help fight off harmful microbes and repopulate the gut. It is especially important to replenish gut flora if you have had a course of antibiotics. Regularly consuming fermented foods will also help repopulate your gut microbes.

Food high in probiotics include:

  • Kefir – a fermented milk product (made from cow, goat or sheep's milk)
  • Kombucha – a type of fermented tea
  • Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage 
  • Pickled vegetable made from salt water and not vinegar 
  • Miso – a pasted made from fermented soy beans 
  • Tempeh – a type of fermented soya, similar in use to tofu similar to tofu available from health food shops
  • Natto – a unique, Japanese food made from fermented soy beans
  • Kimchi – a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables and spices

Take it easy… 

Don’t try to push yourself, gentle exercise should be taken such as yoga stretches or a walk. But now is not the time to be breaking a sweat at the gy, if you push yourself too hard now you may set back your recovery. Listen to your body and know your limits.  

Hydrate

Drinking enough fluids is vital during and after illnesses. When you have an infection, your body is working hard to produce an immune response. High temperature (fever) increases loss of fluid and lack of appetite can mean dehydration sets in fast, especially in older people. If you are finding appetite to be an issue, soups and smoothies are an excellent way to provide nutrients and hydration. Here is a great recipe to help get you back on your feet.   

Chicken bone soup recipe 

Chicken soup has been used as a treatment for convalescence since the 12th century, and there is plenty of evidence that this old remedy is well worth a try. First it’s hydrating and high in many vitamins and minerals such as zinc. The steam from the hot soup will help open up airways and bring warm relief and comfort. Bone broth or soup is also a good source of L-glutamine, an essential amino acid (building block of protein) necessary for gut health.

  • Roughly chop 1 onion and a few garlic cloves and put into a large cooking pot. Cover with water. Add some salt and pepper. You can also add in any herbs you fancy.
  • Remove leftover meat from a chicken carcass and set aside
  • Put the chicken carcass into the pot, as soon as it boils turn the heat down to a simmer. Leave to simmer for as long as possible (at least 4 hours) topping up with hot water when necessary   
  • You'll need to remove the impurities that float to the surface. A frothy/foamy layer will form and it can be easily scooped off with a big spoon. Throw this part away.
  • Strain out the bones and onion/garlic.

You now have a good chicken stock you can use as a base to make soup by adding fresh vegetables and the rest of the chicken you removed from the carcass. I like to add a dash of turmeric and chilli. 

After adding the soup ingredients, bring back to the boil and cook for about another 10 minutes.

*Coenzyme Q10 in acute influenza chase et al 2019 Influenza Other Respir Viruses.

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