Look after your diet – Health and wellbeing during the pandemic

People stand in line for hours to do their shopping as health restrictions restricts overcrowding inside the supermakets. Picture: ATU RASEA

With the presence of COVID-19 more prevalent than ever, there are millions of families affected by this world-wide. With the new wave of COVID-19 in Fiji and that too being the Indian variant, it is a serious concern for our country Fiji.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that is most easily spread from person-to-person through droplets that are released whenever someone sneezes, coughs or talks.

Those who belong to vulnerable and high-risk groups such as the elderly, and those who have pre-existing health complications (e.g., diabetes, respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma), lupus, heart disease, etc.) bear a greater risk of hospitalisation and even death.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • 1. Cough, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing;
  • 2. Fever and chills;
  • 3. Muscle and body aches;
  • 4. Vomiting and diarrhea; and
  • 5. New loss of taste or smell.

Emergency warning signs of COVID-19:

  • 1. Trouble breathing;
  • 2. Persistent pain or pressure in the chest;
  • 3. New confusion;
  • 4. Inability to wake or stay awake; and
  • 5. Pale, grey or blue colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

The list is not all possible symptoms, hence; anyone experiencing any other symptoms which may be severe or concerning, should call 158 immediately.

It can be quite overwhelming trying to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during this pandemic and since the virus is accelerating and putting more and more Fijians at risk each day, the only way to beat it is to:

  • 1. Wash hands frequently with soap and water for about 20 seconds, or use an alcohol based hand sanitiser;
  • 2. Wear a mask;
  • 3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth;
  • 4. Clean and disinfect frequency touched items/ surfaces;
  • 5. Avoid contact with people who are sick;
  • 6. Avoid unnecessary travelling, stay at home;
  • 7. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing and coughing or use your sleeve or flexed elbow;
  • 8. Avoid contact with sick people;
  • 9. Maintain a two-metre social distance;
  • 10. Only rely on official sources and news reports regarding the Corona Virus;
  • 11. Get vaccinated – protect yourself and others;
  • 12. Call 158 if you feel unwell or show any symptoms of COVID-19; and
  • 13. Ensure CareFIJI application is installed on your mobile and blue-tooth is turned on.

While practicing all these, it is also important to look after your diet, be engaged in physical activity, health and wellbeing.

Even though there is no single diet that will prevent you from catching COVID-19, but by consuming the right foods in the right amounts and keeping physically active will help build a stronger immune system/ response.

The immune system requires the support of many nutrients.

It is recommended to consume a variety of foods for a healthy and balanced diet, including whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and animal source foods.

Because of the crisis, limited access to fresh foods may compromise opportunities to continue eating a healthy and varied diet and at the same time potentially lead to an increased consumption of highly processed foods, which tend to be high in fats, sugars and salt.

Nonetheless, even with few and limited ingredients, one can continue eating a diet that supports good health.

It’s never too late to start a home garden; individual families considering the restrictions could get together within their households and start planting for the rainy days instead of just depending on tinned/ processed products.

This gives us an opportunity to get back to the olden ways of cooking meals, appreciating what the nature has provided us without depending much on the processed food items.

There are certain super foods which boost immune system or in other terms helps prepare our body fight viruses and other infections.

  • 1. Vitamins A, C, and zinc are micronutrients that are known to have immune boosting benefits. Food sources of these
    nutrients are: Dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, lentils, meat products, nuts, seeds, and carrots, pumpkin, papaya as well as citrus fruits such as lemon, lime and oranges;
  • 2. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties – Garlic, ginger, basil (tulsi), green teas, and turmeric are well known
    for boosting immunity as well as flushing out toxins; and
  • 3. Vitamin D – a fat-soluble-vitamin, different from others in that a major source derives from sunlight (UV light-induced)
    conversion of its precursor (cholesterol) under the skin. Vitamin D helps maintain healthy bones, aids immune system and
    reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections. Apart from sunlight there are also other sources of Vitamin D: Dietary sources include oily fish, liver, cod liver oil, egg york, fortified foods such as milk and milk products and supplements.

There have been a few articles published by the Oceania Hospitals previously in The Fiji Times focusing Vitamin D.

These foods can be part of your diet in order to boost immunity and help recover from illness fast, however, one also needs
to consider that meals are at least balanced to avoid deficiencies and well prepared under good hygiene practices.

Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living.

It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases and just like a healthy diet, exercise  contributes to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already affecting the lives of Fijians where many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful,
overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children.

As the center for disease control states “learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient”.

Some of the ways to care for yourself is to take breaks to unwind through yoga, music, gardening or new hobbies.

Safely connect with friends and families probably through online, get support and share feelings.

Take care of your body and get moving to lessen fatigue, anxiety or sadness and also get enough sleep.

It is important that we do not discriminate and stigmatise, but work together, abide health guidelines and support each other through this time of crisis as it is still not too late to stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Vishal Prasad is the clinical dietician/team leader food and beverage at Oceania Hospitals Pte Ltd. The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.

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