Many people getting COVID tests so they can travel or because they have been exposed to others with COVID are shocked when they test positive because they feel fine. But just because you have few or no symptoms does not mean that you don’t need to take care of yourself or that COVID isn’t impacting your body. Studies of people who were asymptomatic or with barely noticeable symptoms have found irregular lung scans that indicate inflammation, abnormal heart CT scans and heart-muscle inflammation even months after diagnosis, leading researchers to conclude that damage doesn’t correlate with illness severity. These steps may improve your defenses…
Tap into the power of an anti-inflammatory diet. Fighting any infection depletes protein stores, so choose a diet that emphasizes plant-based foods but doesn’t necessarily exclude meat. Ideally, eat one gram of protein per kilo (2.2 pounds) of body weight every day. (A three-ounce serving of tuna or chicken has about 20 grams of protein, and one-half cup of lentils has about nine grams.) Avoid foods that increase inflammation (processed, refined and high in sugar) and excessive alcohol. Eat fish rich in omega-3s, which reduce inflammation and may reduce risk for blood clotting.
Ease up on exercise. Strenuous exercise creates inflammation. That’s OK when you are healthy because it builds muscles and boosts heart health. But when fighting infections, including COVID-19, take your workouts down a notch. According to a study in Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging, one-third of student athletes recovering from a mild or asymptomatic COVID infection had signs of heart abnormalities, such as pericarditis (inflammation and excess fluid in the sac that covers the heart). One theory is that the athletes pushed through their mild symptoms, and the strenuous training worsened the virus’s effects on the heart. This also may occur in older people who are more susceptible to heart conditions. For a few weeks, try easy exercise, such as walking and yoga.
Unless you’re short of breath, add in breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, or Qigong. The use of aromatherapy with eucalyptus oil also may support lung function.
Manage emotional stress. Elevated stress aggravates the body’s inflammatory response, increasing risk for post-COVID complications and lingering symptoms. Try meditation, spending time in nature and safely interacting with loved ones to reduce stress.
Get plenty of restorative sleep. A lot of healing happens and your immune system recalibrates while you are asleep. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night…preferably eight to nine hours.
Take the right supplements. Studies have shown that COVID patients who are vitamin D–deficient have a higher risk for hospitalization. The ideal vitamin D range is between 30 ng/mL and 50 ng/mL. Have your blood level of vitamin D checked. If you are deficient, take vitamin D-3 supplements of between 1,000 IU and 5,000 IU daily. There is no firm research on supplements that improve COVID outcomes, but consider those that support the immune response—andrographis…astragalus (milk vetch)…medicinal mushroom extract…and turmeric. Work with an integrative medicine practitioner to find the right dosages.
Note: We don’t know enough yet to recommend taking baby aspirin to reduce risk for COVID-related clotting, but you might get some protection if you’re already taking aspirin.