total Our pre-pandemic lives seem like a distant memory. It’s been over two years since the novel coronavirus has appeared. The world is now transitioning to a post-pandemic world where we are learning to deal with COVID-19, and news about it, as a normal part of life.
Our healthcare system has become stronger and more equipped to deal with cases. We have learned a lot about prevention and treatment. But you can’t leave it all up to chance and our healthcare providers. You have to support your body through healthy dietary and lifestyle choices. If nothing else, COVID- 19 taught us about specific risk factors and many of those are changeable.
It’s time to rethink our relationship with our bodies, health, and mental health. Mental health issues and chronic health problems are on the rise. Post-pandemic wellness should be about self-care, supporting your body with nutrient-dense food and lifestyle strategies, and improving your mental health. It’s time to take charge of your health and begin taking care of yourself.
Post-pandemic Wellness Recommendations
Here are my post-pandemic wellness recommendations to reduce physical and mental health challenges and improve your overall well-being.
Prioritize Weight Management
Obesity may increase the risk of severe COVID-19 infection, complications, hospitalization, death, and long-hauler syndrome (1, 2). Obesity may also increase the risk for developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and other comorbidities that are risk factors for COVID-19 (3, 4, 5, 6).
I recommend that you prioritize weight management. If you need to lose weight, focus on gradual and sustainable weight loss instead of short fad diets. If you are at a healthy weight, follow a lifestyle that helps maintain a healthy weight. Follow an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet. Drink plenty of water. Exercise regularly.
Try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy that cycles between a period of fasting and a period reserved for meals within one day. Begin your fast after dinner, then don’t eat for 12 – 16 hours until breakfast or brunch the next day. Intermittent fasting not only helps with weight loss and weight maintenance, since it involves often times a reduction in total daily calories, but it may help to reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other risk factors for COVID-19 complications (7, 8, 9, 10).
Improve Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for your bone, immune, brain, mental, and overall health. Your body creates vitamin D when the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun hit your skin cells. Unfortunately, in the modern world, we are leading a mostly indoor lifestyle without much sun exposure. Long winters and gloomy weather may also reduce your chances of sun exposure.
It’s not surprising that vitamin D deficiency is quite common. However, vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk for COVID-19 and related complications. Improving your vitamin D levels may help to lower your risk and improve your overall health (11, 12, 13).
I recommend spending time outside and getting some sunshine every day. Even in the winter, if the sun is shining, go for a short stroll and get your ‘sunshine vitamin’. Eat foods rich in vitamin D, including cod liver oil, eggs, mushrooms, and fatty fish. To reduce the deficiency and improve your vitamin D levels, I recommend taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement daily. Vitamin K2 supports the absorption of vitamin D, so think about adding that too.
Support Your Microbiome
Keeping your gut health may be the most important health recommendation. Your gut affects your entire body, including your physical and mental health. A poor gut microbiome may increase your risk of severe COVID-19 infection and long-hauler syndrome (14, 15, 16). Poor gut health may also contribute to various risk factors of severe COVID-19, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (17, 18, 19).
To support your gut microbiome, I recommend following a gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory diet. Eat plenty of prebiotic-rich foods, including jicama, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, onion, garlic, leek, dandelion greens, apples, and bananas. Eat plenty of probiotic-rich fermented food, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, coconut yogurt, and coconut kefir. For further support, take a high-quality probiotic supplement daily with at least 50 billion colony-forming units (CFU).
[Important note: If you have histamine intolerance, avoid fermented foods. They are high in histamine and can be triggering for histamine intolerance. Probiotics are safe as long as they are histamine intolerance-friendly without Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, as these two strains can be triggering for those with histamine intolerance.]
Follow a Nutrient-Dense Diet
Following an inflammatory diet low in nutrients can increase chronic inflammation and chronic health issues. It may increase your risk of severe COVID-19 and long-hauler syndrome. Following a nutrient-dense diet may support your immune system and your overall health (20, 21, 22).
Remove inflammatory foods from your diet, including refined sugar, refined oil, gluten, artificial ingredients, additives, and overly processed foods. Buy organic as much as possible. Grow your own food if you can. Even a little herb garden in your kitchen is a great idea. Choose home-cooked meals over eating out whenever possible.
Eat a diet rich in nutrient-dense whole foods, including greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, sprouts, fruits, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild-caught fish. Follow my 5 + 2 rule: eating at least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits per day. Eating a salad every day is a great way to increase your vegetable and micronutrient intake.
Support Your Mental health
Let’s be honest, our collective mental health has suffered. Stressors from navigating a new situation, lockdown, burnout from Zooming, getting used to remote work or hybrid work, being far from loved ones — all can have an impact. Dealing with COVID-19 illness alone, hospitalization, or long-hauler syndrome may have affected your mental health too. Depression, anxiety, and eating disorder rates are higher than ever (23, 24, 25, 26).
It’s time to make mental health and stress management your priority in the post-pandemic world. Reduce the use of social media and lower your exposure to sources of stress. I recommend practicing breathwork, meditation, and mindfulness. Move your body daily and exercise regularly. Try yoga to support your physical health and mental health at the same time. These are all parts of lifestyle psychiatry.
Remember, you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for peer support or join a support group. If you need support from a mental health professional, don’t hesitate. There is also plenty of great mediation, yoga, and mental health apps and wellness programs out there to support your journey. Some of my favorite apps include Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, Breathe and Ten Percent Happier.
Learn About Your Mitochondria
Emerging research suggests that the COVID-19 can seriously impact your mitochondrial function. Mitochondrial damage from COVID-19 may determine disease severity and outcomes. Supporting your mitochondrial health may be critical for reducing severe symptoms and hospitalization (27, 28, 29).
Support your mitochondrial health by following an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet and practicing intermittent fasting (30, 31, 32). Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, move your body regularly, and reduce your stress levels (33, 34, 35, 36). Reduce your toxin exposure (37, 38).
Try some anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, and mitochondria-supporting supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and E, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), coenzyme Q10, and a-lipoic acid (39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44). You may learn more about the connection between your mitochondrial health and COVID-19 here.
Learn about Your Mast Cells
Your mast cells are a type of white blood cells in your connective tissues that play an important role in your immune system by storing various inflammatory mast cell mediators, such as histamine. When your mast cells are triggered, they release histamine. When released in large amounts, histamine can result in histamine intolerance and related symptoms. In addition to histamines, your mast cells also release cytokines (45).
Cytokines are signaling proteins in your body that serves a critical role in your immune. Releasing too many cytokines, however, can increase the risk of a cytokine storm, which is a very strong immune reaction. The problem is that COVID-19 can also trigger cytokine release, and viruses activate mast cells. Cytokine-release due to mast cell activation issues coupled with cytokine-release from COVID-19 may risk hyperinflammation and a cytokine storm. This may increase your risk of severe COVID-19 and long-hauler syndrome (46, 47, 48, 49, 50).
Stabilizing your mast cells may be critical for your recovery from COVID-19 and your post-pandemic wellness. Reduce your triggers for mast cell activations, such as chemicals, heavy metals, mold, and other environmental toxins. Reduce stress, exercise regularly, and improve your sleep. Follow a low-histamine diet, and for the histamine intolerant and DAO enzyme be helpful. You may also benefit from supplementation with natural antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers, such as quercetin, resveratrol, curcumin, vitamin C, nettle leaf, and luteolin (51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57). For much more information from me about this topic, visit histamined.com.
Follow my post-pandemic wellness recommendations for improved health and well-being. To learn more about my recommendations for improving your immune system, supporting your body through a SARS-COV-2 infection, and supporting your recovery from long hauler syndrome, I recommend reading this and this and this and this article.
If you are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 or long-hauler syndrome or want to improve your health, wellness, and mental well-being post-pandemic, I welcome you to start a personalized functional medicine consultation with me for further personalized guidance to improve your health. You may book your consultation here.