Struggling with long Covid? Here’s What You Should and Shouldn’t Eat

Fatigue, brain fog, palpitations and difficulty breathing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, these are just some of the common “long-term Covid” symptoms that can affect people long-term after recovering from the infection.

However, according to Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Covid Rehabilitation Program, symptoms are only “half the picture.”

“The other half is how these symptoms affect a person’s ability to live their life. Unfortunately, the symptoms of long-term COVID can be quite limiting.”

He added that more than a third of Mayo Clinic patients long-term Covid patients report problems with some of life’s most basic activities, such as dressing, showering, and eating.

“It’s just a bad movie for which we still don’t have an ending,” said Dr. Joan Sulge Blake, clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University.

Heart disease, some types of cancer… all of these diseases can be fought with a knife and fork. This is empowering because you are in control of what you have on your plate and what you eat.

Dr. Joan Sulge Blake

Clinical Professor, Boston University

Long Covid in essence post-infectious conditions this can persist for weeks, months, or years — long after a person tests negative for Covid-19. It can also be called post-covid conditions or chronic covid.

Experts who spoke to CNBC Make It said there is still a lot to learn about long-term Covid, but nutrition plays a vital role in making you feel better.

“Heart disease, some cancers, stroke and type 2 diabetes… all of these diseases can be fought with a knife and fork,” Blake said.

“It’s empowering because you’re in control of what’s on your plate and what you eat.”

CNBC Make It finds out what you should and shouldn’t eat if you think you have long-term Covid.

1. Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, nuts and whole grains.

Cristina Pedrazzini/scientific photo library | Scientific Photo Library | Getty Images

Blake added: “Bad protein [intake] can contribute to fatigue, and that’s the one thing you don’t want because Covid will make you tired… it definitely won’t help if you don’t have enough protein in your diet.”

Fatty fish such as tuna and salmon are a good source of omega-3 acids, which improve cardiovascular health.

But ultimately, the focus should be on building a comprehensive “super diet” rather than “superfoods,” Blake said. Superfoods are foods rich in antioxidants, fiber, and fatty acids that are beneficial to health.

“This is a super diet that will help you fight chronic diseases. When all the vitamins and minerals work together, that will be your best defense.”

2. Beware of Vitamin Deficiencies

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“Iron deficiency can cause many symptoms, including anemia and fatigue. Deficiency can occur for many reasons, such as poor intake, but can also be associated with chronic diseases,” Vanichkachorn said.

However, he cautioned against using vitamin or mineral supplements without first consulting a doctor.

“If you’re worried about a vitamin or mineral deficiency, the first step is to talk to your healthcare provider,” he said.

3. Stay hydrated

If plain water is too boring, you can also add a piece of fruit like lemon or lime to enhance the taste.

Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn

Director of COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program at Mayo Clinic

Recognizing that patients often need reminders to stay hydrated, Vanichkachorn urged those with long-term Covid to carry a bottle with them.

He added: “If plain water is too boring, you can also add a piece of fruit like lemon or lime to improve the taste. These simple changes can make dehydration much easier.”

4. What to stay away from

Because acute Covid can cause “very intense inflammation” in the body, Vanichkachorn said, it would be good to stay away from anything that could aggravate it.

“We saw that some markers of inflammation … were elevated in this patient population. [suffering from long Covid]. Inflammation is likely secondary to immune system disorders, perhaps even the likelihood of an autoimmune type,” he added.

According to Vanichkachorn, acute Covid can cause significant inflammation in the body, and it would be a good idea to refrain from sugary drinks and desserts.

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