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[5 min read] Improving patients’ diet and immunity in times of COVID-19
The current global health crisis has highlighted the importance of effective nutrition and improved diet in supporting the immune system to fight viruses like COVID-19.
Nutrition is intricately linked to patients’ immunity and their risk of contracting infections as well as their ability to overcome illnesses. Poorly nourished patients are at greater risk of developing viruses and bacterial infections, and people with chronic or severe illnesses are also more likely to suffer from a worsened nutritional status than healthy people.
In times of COVID-19, it is critical to consider your patients’ nutritional needs. Now is the ideal time to coach your patients in sustaining a well-rounded diet that emphasises fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, with moderate consumption of fish, dairy and poultry, and limited intake of red and processed meat, refined carbohydrates and sugar.
Your aged patients and those with chronic health conditions (such as diabetes, hypertension or cancer) can especially benefit at the moment from medical advice surrounding their diet, particularly if their condition calls for a specific regimen that differs from the norm.
Often at the foundation of good overall health, a nutritious diet will provide patients with the essential macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy weight and good metabolic state. If a patient does develop COVID-19, a medically recommended diet can help stabilise their weight loss and boost immune cells and antibodies which are essential for fighting disease.
Macronutrients, micronutrients and gut microbiome have a significant role in mediating immunological effects. The intake of specific nutrients has been shown to help fight infections.
- Zinc: Inadequate zinc levels can limit patients’ immune response. Oral zinc supplementation can reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections by 35 per cent, shorten the duration of flu-like symptoms by approximately two days, and improve the rate of recovery.
- Vitamin C enhances the function of many enzymes in the body and also acts as an antioxidant, helping to limit inflammation and tissue damage associated with immune responses.
- Vitamin D supplementation can lower the risk of developing acute respiratory tract infections by 12 to 75 per cent.
Unfortunately, many Australians are not consuming a diet that meets national guidelines and therefore may not be getting the appropriate nutrients to build a strong immune system. Supplements can fill some gaps in patients’ diets in times when access to food (physically or financially) may be difficult, such as during the current global health crisis.
A clear and evidence-based diet plan can significantly improve your patients’ overall health and boost their immune system.
These articles may help you to learn more about supporting your patients with effective nutrition:
- Essential facts about nutrients: food sources, diet recommendations, deficiencies, toxicity, clinical uses, recent researches and references for further information
- How to maintain health and nutritious eating during the COVID-19 pandemic
Want to learn more about managing your patients’ nutrition concerns in general practice?