The role of nutrition in recovery from COVID-19

July 20, 2020 COVID-19

The role of nutrition in recovery from COVID-19

Dr. Riccardo Caccialanza is currently researching the role of nutrition in the recovery from Covid-19 as well as how implementing nutritional support early on can make a significant difference to patient recovery time.

Dr Riccardo Caccialanza has commented that even though there has been minimal guidance into nutritional care of COVID 19 patients, it is known that achieving the right nutritional consumption can help aid the recovery and recovery time of COVID 19 patients. Nutrition is vital for maintaining skeletal muscle and avoiding metabolic disturbances and this becomes even more crucial when patients are spending around two weeks in ICU.  

As many patients require assisted ventilation when recovering from Covid-19 providing food and oral supplements becomes difficult. Respiratory issues add an extra layer of complexity, which has means that nutrition needs to become an important part of COVID-19 patients’ recovery. 

Complications that are being seen in Covid-19 patients 

Dr. Caccialanza studied other patient groups in ICUs who require intubation, and the studies showed that oral nutrition intake can be inadequate after extubation. Recovering patients might not be able to eat enough food to meet their nutritional needs during recovery, therefore, contributing to further loss of lean muscle – which could occur in ICU at the rate of up to 1kg per day.

Muscle wasting is the most common complication of critical illness, occurring in up to 50% of patients, which can seriously lengthen recovery times, impair immunity, increase infection risk and cause the development of wounds and pressure ulcers. For some, even mortality.

How could appropriate nutrition improve recovery?

Dr. Caccialanza has said that being discharged from the ICU is only the start of a recovery. Therefore, medical nutrition, when integrated into patient recovery programs can positively impact recovery outcomes, as well as the quality of life of patients. Healthcare professionals already know that medical nutrition can positively contribute to clinical outcomes with a variety of conditions and diseases.

What foods can aid nutritional recovery?

When our body is fighting an infection it needs more energy and more fluids; therefore we need to eat and drink more than we usually would if we were well. The NHS recommends the following if you are recovering from COVID-19:

  • Aim to have 3 hand full sizes of protein a day e.g. beans, pulses, fish or meat.
  • Aim to have 3 thumb sizes of the dairy group daily e.g. cheese, milk or yogurt.
  • Aim to have 5 handfuls of fruit and vegetable a day.
  • Nourishing drinks are also helpful if you are not up to eating e.g. milk, hemp powder and bananas.