Your Nutrition Game Plan to Help Recover from COVIDNovember 9, 2022
Your Nutrition Game Plan to Help Recover from COVID: You have COVID and you’ve had weight loss surgery. What do you do now? How does COVID affect your bariatric diet? How do you manage sick days, especially if you are quite ill from COVID?
Nutrition definitely has a part to play in your recovery from helping with fatigue to supporting your immune system and having an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. You want to be strategic in how you care for yourself.
If you’ve recently had bariatric surgery and feel nauseated, are vomiting, have diarrhea, or are short of breath please check in with your health care team. See if they have someone on call to discuss your symptoms and how to best manage them. Regardless of how far out you are from surgery, never hesitate to contact your health care provider if you have symptoms and know you need care. They may prescribe certain medications that can positively affect your appetite. For example, if you are prescribed a medication for nausea and vomiting, you may better tolerate your protein drinks and full liquids after the medication takes effect.
Here’s your nutritional game plan to help you recover from COVID:
A little health trivia but did you know that 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut? You may have heard it called the microbiome or gut microbiome. Now is the time to support your immune system and keep it healthy. Your gut is fairly particular when it comes to food and is keen on high fiber whole grains, vegetables and fruit along with fermented products like kimchi, yogurt or kefir. When choosing yogurt or kefir, be sure it’s plain or sweetened with a substitute that you tolerate well as the sweetened version may cause dumping syndrome due to the sugar content. Additionally, for both immune support and anti-inflammatory benefits, try to also add vitamin C rich foods such as bell peppers or citrus if tolerated and berries. Don’t forget onions and garlic, ground flaxseeds (flax meal) and walnuts and fatty fish like salmon for the immune supportive benefits too. Again, make selections based on your tolerance and how far out you are from surgery.
Did you know? 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut.
Drink, drink, drink! Fluids and more fluids help thin your respiratory secretions. You already consume a lot of fluid because you’ve had surgery. This is a daily drill that is a part of your lifestyle. But now these fluids also become a critical part of your game plan for your care and recovery. If you’re severely nauseated, vomiting or having diarrhea, go back to fluids and be sure to include some fluids with the electrolytes sodium and potassium. Add full liquids as you can tolerate them. ‘Full liquids’ means the liquids aren’t clear and typically have some foods blended into them.
Even with COVID, keep the focus on your protein intake.
Don’t miss this. Even with COVID, keep the focus on your protein intake. Full liquids with protein rich foods blended in may be the only way you feel like consuming protein for a few days. You don’t want to lose your muscle mass from a lack of protein in your diet. Losing body fluids through vomiting and diarrhea and breaking down muscle due to a lack of protein can affect your body’s ability to combat COVID illness and recover. Bariatric dietitians Gayle Smith, Isabel Maples and I like protein waters such as Protein 2o or Protein 2o plus electrolytes if you are vomiting and have diarrhea. You can check out this product online to see the ingredient label and then compare to what you find where you live. Ready-to-drink protein shakes may be one of the easiest options too for a few days. Keep some drinks close by where you are resting so you don’t have to constantly get up and get them.
Focus on full liquids until you feel like eating a regular diet. Be sure and mix protein powder into warm broth or soups made with vegetables and chopped meats (which you can quickly puree). When you can tolerate soft foods, choose moist ones that you can easily chew and swallow, especially if you have a sore throat or are short of breath. Even though small portions are already a part of your daily diet, even smaller portions eaten more frequently may be better tolerated right now. Listen to your body each day and adapt your portions and whether you need liquids, soft food or regular foods to how you feel.
Have you noticed that your sense of taste or sense of smell has changed? Start by cleansing your taste buds. Do this by rinsing your mouth with a mixture of salt, baking soda and water. Clear bad tastes in your mouth by chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free lemon or cinnamon mints after eating or anytime you feel the need. If food seems to taste bland, squeeze citrus over it which can add a pop of flavor or season with onion, garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, or vinegar. You might notice that meat has an off flavor right now and you need to switch it up temporarily with more fish, eggs, peanut butter, beans or dairy. Again, adapt as your sense of smell and taste change.
What should you do if food has a bitter or metallic taste? If the taste is metallic, believe it or not, try using plastic cutlery or cooking in glass versus metal. This same trick is often used in coping with the side effects of chemotherapy when taste is affected and it can be very helpful. Some of the flavors we just mentioned, like adding a spritz of citrus or your favorite vinegar when foods are bland, can also take away those metallic and bitter tastes. Even a little salt can decrease a metallic taste.
You likely feel overwhelmed right now but remember your focus is to recover as quickly as you can and to get over COVID hopefully with no long-haul issues. Do the best you can with your bariatric eating plan but don’t put pressure on yourself. This will just make you feel anxious and stressed. Stay with your game plan. Focus on your recovery, your nutrition and your self-care. Hopefully, you will feel better very soon.
ABOUT THE AUTHORRegistered dietitian nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast Bariatric Surgery Success. Selected as one of the Best 35 Dietitian Podcasts in 2021, Bariatric Surgery Success was chosen from thousands of podcasts on the web ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness. Dr. Susan helps you conquer cravings, emotional eating and weight regain after bariatric surgery with a focus on your nutrition and health, journey and success.