How long will it take for me to recover? How long is a piece of string? We are all so unique, it is difficult to say how long you are taking to recover from a virus and may also depend on your health prior to your illness.
When your body is exposed to and fighting off any virus, particularly something as trying as COVID-19, it can leave you feeling weak and run down. You might find it frustrating that you can't get your full energy and strength back as quickly as you’d like following a viral insult.
One thing that we do know about viral diseases is that they cause an inflammatory response within the body. This response varies from individual to individual. One such immune response is that the release of cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins secreted by cells in the immune system, along with other inflammatory molecules they support the body to fight off the infection. This process of increased inflammation can also leave you feeling tired, having difficulty concentrating and having erratic sleep patterns. In the case of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 there is likely ongoing lung inflammation and potential damage to the lungs that needs to be addressed also by a medical professional.
So, if you’re still feeling the effects, it's time to get proactive, what can you do to support your body?
1. Support your gut health
There is a multitude of reasons to support your gut health especially post virally. Beneficial bacteria that live in your gut can take a huge hit when we become unwell or stressed. Beneficial bacteria within our gut help to support our immune system and are also crucial in the production of vitamins and other molecules such as serotonin.
Feeling a bit flat? Up to 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut. Serotonin is classed as your happy hormone it regulates mood, so if your gut has been hit hard this can leave you feeling justifiably yucky. So, by looking after your gut you can help support your mood, support your sleep & support your immune system.
How do I support my immune system? Beneficial bacteria love their fruits and vegetables by eating array of differently coloured vegetables your body and your gut will receive lots of lovely fibre for the beneficial bacteria to thrive. Even after your immune system has fought off the virus, it may take some time for the inflammation to resolve. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can support your body to return to health and help to keep it there.
An anti-inflammatory diet incorporates lots of fruits, vegetables and specific minerals and nutrients found in whole foods, that can help combat an internal inflammatory response. It's also it's also important to reduce your intake of processed foods and processed carbohydrates.
If you suffered from IBS type symptoms prior to your illness such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation you may benefit from a consultation with a Registered Nutritional Therapist
2. Give your body a break – focus on your sleep cycle
During the lockdown, and if you’ve been under the weather, you might have taken the time to watch a few extra Netflix documentaries and films into the night later than you normally would, knocking your natural bodily rhythm (or circadian rhythm) out of whack.
We are creatures of habit by nature. Our body releases differing amounts of hormones at different times aligned with natural daylight and night-time cycles. These cycles have been developed over thousands of years. Any interference with our circadian rhythm causes upset within our bodily systems. Unfortunately, just one late night can cause such as disturbance that various studies have shown just one night of disturbed sleep or less than 7 hours at night can upset our blood sugar balance and increase inflammation.
So, give your body a break, help it to return to balance by returning to a healthier sleep cycle. Stop drinking your coffee or caffeinated drinks at midday, get yourself outside in the morning to get some blue light exposure - ideally 20 minutes before 11:00 o’clock - in the morning that is! It's equally important to reduce your blue light exposure in the evening so make sure you switch off that computer a couple of hours before bedtime, dim the lights or light candles, read a book or take a hot bath to calm your mind and your body. Better still get some amber light exposure around 7pm – watch a sunset. All these things help to align your body with its natural rhythm and get it ready for a good nights’ sleep.
3. Get outside and get moving!
Obviously there are times when you are in active illness that rest is best, but sometimes when we are over the worst, we can find we become attached to the sofa and need a little push to get moving.
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for immune function and gut health and its best received from sunshine! If you are unable to get outside in the sunshine for 30 minutes at least each day between 10am to 3pm you should consider a Vitamin D supplement. It is estimated about 20% of the Northern Europe population is vitamin D deficient, with this number rising the darker your skin colour.
If you have had a viral infection that affects your breathing, getting back to moving again can often be quite daunting. Just do a little more each day, rest when you need to and don't try to do too much, as this can set you back on your road to recovery. Among other things exercise can help lower blood pressure, release mood enhancing endorphins and get some oxygen circulating around your blood stream. It is also important to do exercise that supports the lymphatic system as the lymphatic fluid contained within it has your white blood cell army needed for fighting infection. Getting moving helps the lymphatic fluid to circulate around the body. If you are up to it just a few jumping jacks, burpees or a short yoga session can help kick your lymphatic system into gear. It's important you don't push yourself too far and jump straight back into your old exercise routine start up with 10 to 20 minutes of gentle movement per day such as walking stretching riding a bike if you can tolerate it and gently build up.
When you've been unable to go about your normal activities due to illness this can be quite stressful, particularly if the illness has affected your breathing, you can often take much longer to do jobs that you previously would have whizzed through. Not only is it annoying, breathlessness can also leave you feeling quite anxious. Just 10 minutes of guided meditation which involves deep breathing twice a day has been shown to calm a person and reduce inflammatory markers. Deep breathing allows the body to move from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, putting you in a more relaxed state. Deep breathing also greatly improves lymphatic flow and drainage, further supporting your immune system.
That being said, if you are still suffering with breathing symptoms following a virus that affected your lungs, such as COVID-19, You may need continued treatment and therapy as directed by a physician.
A brilliant resource has been created by the NHS to support patients who are recovering at home from coronavirus which includes deep breathing exercises to help clear mucus, boost circulation and open up the airway passages; https://covidpatientsupport.lthtr.nhs.uk
This is just a few pointers on how to support your recovery, if you would like further personalised help and support, why not book in for a complimentary call to see how the rootcauseclinic coud support you.