Would you benefit from seeing a dietitian if you have long Covid?
There are a variety of common symptoms when experiencing long Covid which many are now facing — namely fatigue, headaches, taste changes, decreased appetite and muscle aches.
When combating fatigue, focus on consuming lower glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates as these are digested slowly and help prevent sugar dips. Low GI carbohydrates include beans, lentils, wholegrain cereals such as oats, wholegrain pasta, quinoa, barley and buckwheat to name a few. Our dietitians can calculate all your individual requirements and advise you how much is recommended and how often.
It is important to try not to skip meals to keep your energy levels constant. Try and eat ‘little and often’ as this will help maintain blood glucose levels steady. You want to preferably not opt for more refined carbohydrates such as white bread, sweets and crisps as these foods cause a blood sugar spike followed by a drop, which will not benefit you to sustain your energy levels.
There are a variety of micronutrients that are involved in yielding energy and these include B vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron. Our expert dietitians-nutritionists will ensure that you are receiving all the nutrients that your body needs and assess if supplementation is needed to fight off fatigue.
When it comes to long Covid-19 symptoms such as headaches, one way that may help is ensuring that you are adequately hydrated. Make sure you drink sufficient fluids, as even slight dehydration may increase symptoms. Aim for at least 6-8 glasses of water per day.
Taste changes during illness have been reported in long Covid. Some people experience a change in taste and smell when recovering from coronavirus. People have experienced taste changes in different ways. This can include complete loss of taste and smell for a number of weeks, a bland taste from foods, metallic or salty taste from foods.
Use food as medicine. Even if food does not taste the same, you should eat enough nourishing foods to help your recovery.
Tips to help manage taste changes:
- Eating a variety of hot or cold foods, or food of different textures may bring some sensory enjoyment even if taste is reduced.
- Adding additional salt, butter, cream may make food taste nicer if flavour is lacking.
- If you are cooking for someone who is ill, the presentation of food is important to make it as appetising as possible.
After Covid-19, you may have a reduced appetite. This is normal after certain illnesses. You may feel full soon after you have started eating, feel like skipping meals or have lost some weight without trying to. While your appetite is reduced, you should follow a diet that is high in protein and energy.
Tips to help with recovery:
- Eat little and often – 3 smaller meals and 3 snacks per day
- Make sure you are sitting in an upright, comfortable position when eating
- Allow time for eating – you may have to eat at a slower pace
- Eat nourishing foods that you enjoy
- Get some fresh air before eating a meal – this may help to increase your appetite
Our expert dietitians are able to prescribe oral nutritional supplements if we see fit. You may need oral nutritional supplements in the short term. These can usually be stopped when you have recovered, your weight is stable and your appetite has returned to normal.
There is some promising evidence towards low histamine diets for long Covid. A diet low in histamine could reduce the potential for inflammation and therefore protect against infection and its longevity. Seeking advice from a health care professional such as a nutritionist can provide the correct guidance to safely adjust your diet and improve your overall immune health and future health.
What is histamine?
Histamine regulates our immune response, and it is released when we encounter allergens, cytokines, stress hormones, alcohol and hormones.
Having too much histamine can be a problem for the following reasons:
- You have an impaired ability to degrade histamine
- You create too much histamine.
A low histamine diet
Not everyone needs to avoid foods that induce or contain histamine, but if you are sensitive you may find it useful to trial a low histamine diet to see how you feel. If you eat a lot of foods high in histamine and experience issues with ongoing inflammation you may benefit from a break from these foods.
By Jenaed Brodell, Registered Dietitian