Covid-19 how to stay healthy during the crisis

Thursday, 19 March 2020

B Cragg Covid Cover

Tips to stay healthy while the coronavirus disrupts daily life


Becoming infected with the coronavirus is a concern for a lot of people right now, but in addition to this, it is still winter and the risk of picking up other respiratory tract infections such as influenza and the common cold is still high. Its therefore important that you support your immune system in every way possible! This blog post is therefore dedicated to providing some important tips on how to do this. 


1) Avoid Nutrient Deficiencies

The body needs every single nutrient ..from the macros (protein, carbs, fat) to the micros (vitamins and minerals), and a deficiency in any of these can leave you more vulnerable to illness. The best way to ensure you are getting everything you need from the diet is to firstly, make sure you consume lots of colourful fruit and veg – aim for 5-7 portions of each per day, the more colour on your plate the better! Secondly, make sure each meal is balanced, with a portion of protein (fish, lean meat, dairy, eggs, chickpeas, lentils, tofu etc), good quality carbs (porridge oats, sweet potato, brown rice, noodles, fruit and root vegetables) and some healthy fats (oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel or nuts and seeds, olive oil, rapeseed oil and avocado).


2) Consider Having a Probiotic Every Day

Probiotics are quite literally the nutrients that feed the gut bacteria and help them thrive, therefore making them an important part of our diet.

Probiotics are important for our gut health. Gut health relates to the functioning of our entire digestive tract (from entry of food to exit). The lower part of this digestive tract contains trillions of good bacteria that support multiple functions throughout the body. One of the major functions is the absorption of nutrients from the gut – it’s one thing eating the right types of food, but if we don’t have the right gut bacteria then we can’t extract all the nutrients from it. The second major function is the immune system. Approximately 70% of our immune cells lie along this tract!


Probiotics are quite literally the nutrients that feed the gut bacteria and help them thrive, therefore making them an important part of our diet. Probiotics can be bought as a tablet or powder (however these can be quite expensive) so for some it may be better getting them from live yogurt such as Actimel or Yakult.


3) Avoid Vulnerability to Illness

This encompasses a whole range of things including washing and sanitising your hands regularly, avoiding sharing water bottles or personal hygiene products (soaps, razers etc) and limiting contact with individuals and door handles. However, as a performance nutritionist I want to talk about this from a training and dietary perspective.


  1. Firstly, make sure you fuel appropriately for training sessions whatever the intensity. Undergoing low intensity training fasted is a technique that individuals use to improve their body’s ability to use fat as a fuel, however doing this puts your body under strain which can dampen your immune system. Therefore, when you need a strong immune system, eat carbohydrates before your session!! Similarly, avoid long periods in the day without eating.
  2. Secondly, maintaining your hydration is crucial to supporting your immune system. Your saliva provides one of the first defence barriers to incoming infections, however when you become dehydrated your mouth often gets dry which can leave you more susceptible to letting in pathogens! Keep sipping little and often and watch your urine colour, it should be pale yellow – clear!
  3. Thirdly, recovery from training is important. In the 2-3 hour window post intensive exercise your immunity can be supressed. Therefore in this window make sure you eat lots of fruit and veg alongside some protein and carbohydrates (yogurt with granola and berries is a good one)


4) Don’t Forget the Basics.

Limit your intake of high fat foods and high refined sugar foods such as cakes, biscuits, crisps, pizza, sweets etc. These tend to promote inflammation in the body which can affect your immunity. Sadly, the same applies to alcohol!


Get some fresh air – even if you are self-isolating or do want to leave the house, open the window and get some fresh air because this is really important for your mental wellbeing! 


Find time to relax and be mindful. Stress damages our immune system by causing inflammation in the body and reducing the number of cells that fight off infection! Yoga has shown to be particularly beneficial to reduce stress and inflammation in the body, in addition to this, deep breathing and exercise can help!

This piece was written by Beth Cragg, Brookes University Masters Graduate in Sports Nutrition, Performance Nutritionist and Brookes Sport Ambassador. You can find Beth on Instagram

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