Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Our bodies work hard to repair and recover after illness, whether that's from the common cold or after a more serious viral illness such as Covid-19. What we eat can help with this repair and recovery, so what foods in particular should you be looking at? And can supplementation help?
Fever can be very dehydrating. The higher your body temperature, the more dehydrated you may become. Dehydration is categorised as mild (3% to 5%), moderate (6% to 10%), and severe (more than 10%). Since re-hydration is the number one priority, drinking plenty of fluids is essential. Electrolyte Replenishment In addition to sipping water regularly, we need to replenish electrolyte losses – that is, salts and minerals like potassium. This can be helped by having foods with a high water and electrolyte content like berries, oranges, melons, and cucumber, in addition to beverages like broth, herbal teas, or coconut water.
I am an avid advocate of the Herbalife Nutrition product range which is underpinned by science with over 40 years of expertise in the field of cellular nutrition with the aim to give our bodies optimum nutrition. Whenever I or anyone in my family is ill, my fall back drink is the Informed Sport Approved, Herbalife CR7Drive, which not only replenishes our electrolyte levels, but has a mixture of slow and fast release carbohydrates. Although designed as a sports performance drink, this carbohydrate mix also does wonders for helping with low energy levels when ill or recuperating. (I probably shouldn't be saying this on a nutrition blog, but it's also great as a hangover cure for all these reasons too!)
We need more protein after we have been ill. Muscle loss during illness is a side effect we shouldn’t ignore and it often translates to generalised weakness. Calorie and protein requirements during recovery are usually higher than your regular intake. Depending on the illness severity, daily protein needs go up to over 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in mild cases and over 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in the severely ill. Therefore, besides re-hydration, foods with a high protein content need to be prioritised. These include chicken, eggs, and fish, as well as plant foods like beans, lentils, quinoa and brown rice, which also contain some carbohydrate aiding protein uptake by muscle and organ tissues. A number of scientific studies found that nutritional supplementation in older patients after being hospitalised, in particular complete amino-acid supplementation, may aid recovery and increase physical strength.
TheHerbalife Formula 1 nutrition shake is a great answer for boosting protein levels with 18g of protein per serving when made with cows milk or soy milk. Easily digestible too, this is a great supplementation to add to your recovery menu, especially if you live alone and haven't got the above foods in or the energy to cook them.
Vitamins and Minerals.
Which Vitamins and Minerals best aid recovery from illness? All essential vitamins and minerals in the right amounts are needed for a full recovery. But depending on the cause of the illness, some of them may be needed in higher quantities. For example, some essential micronutrients may be used and depleted faster when the immune system is fighting a viral infection, in particular vitamins C, D, and A, and minerals like zinc, iron, selenium, and chromium. Upping our intake of fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, herbs, legumes, grains like rice and oats, and seeds can be very helpful during recovery from a viral infection. The Herbalife Formula 1 nutrition shake is packed with 25 vitamins and minerals, so again, is an easy go to immune support solution.
Another fabulous Herbalife product, which has been hard to get your hand on over the last couple of months, is their Roseguard Supplement. This product provides 100% of your RDA of vitamins A and C to support a healthy immune system. It is also high in vitamin E to help protect the body’s cells from oxidative stress along with a range of botanical ingredients including Rosemary, Turmeric and Cruciferous Vegetables; all hero's in immune support.
Prebiotics and Probiotics Gastrointestinal disturbances are also common during illness. In addition, this can be exacerbated when antibiotics and antiviral medications are taken. Incorporating prebiotics can be helpful, in particular fermentable fibre, which feeds ‘good’ gut bacteria (from grains like oats, allium vegetables like onions, and fruits like bananas) or probiotic drinks and yogurt.
Eating Little and Often
Tackling appetite loss is a common problem during illness and recovery, appetite tends to go down and taste changes, with some reports suggesting that it may take 28 days for hunger hormones to return to their normal levels after critical illness. Going back to eating normally can be further worsened by gastrointestinal disturbances, swallow disfunction, and poorer chew strength. For these reasons, each eating episode is a golden opportunity to get the right nutrients into a body that is still recovering. However, when each bite we take feels like a tremendous effort, it’s important to go for softer textures by pureeing and blending foods into soups and nutrient-packed smoothies and shakes like the Herbalife Formula 1. This way, we can take in more food and more nutrition, but with less effort. And this is critical during recovery.