Diabetic care - building immunity in the times of COVID-19

 

The world is struggling with COVID-19 pandemic and it is uncertain when it will end. It has been declared as a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

 

COVID-19 can infect people of all ages, especially if the immunity of a person is low. A person infected with COVID-19 will have flu-like symptoms like fever, cough, tiredness, muscle pain and even breathing difficulty. The symptoms usually appear within 3-15days of catching the infection. Though for most people (over 80%) the infection is mild, for about 15% people the infection is seen to be severe and 5% become critically ill[i].

While it is posing a huge challenge for everyone, people with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes are at a higher risk of getting critically ill, if contracted with the virus. Studies have shown that amongst the people with severe infection, 25% had diabetes.[ii]

Why are diabetes patients at a higher risk of illness?

When any virus attacks, the body’s immune system fights the infection. The body tries to fight the infection by releasing stored glucose (sugar) in the blood stream causing blood sugar to rise, but being a diabetic, the body is not able to produce enough or any insulin to control the blood sugar levels[iii]. Hence, high blood sugar level weakens the immune system of the body that makes it difficult to fight the infection and the body takes long to recover from the illness[iv]. Also, the virus may grow well inside the body when the blood sugar levels are high. This makes diabetics more vulnerable, if infected.[v]

Though diabetes patients are at a higher risk of critical illness, they are no more likely to contract the virus than anyone else[vi]. So, building your immunity and taking precautions is the best way to avoid contracting the virus.

How can diabetes patients take care of themselves?

Diabetes patients must be extra careful by following some simple practices like-

  1. Working towards building immunity - Having foods rich in antioxidants and prebiotics (food for healthy gut bacteria in stomach) helps inbuilding immunity. A diet rich in fiber can provide both. It will help in better sugar level control and an improved immune system. Fresh vegetable and fruits are a good source of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Foods like sprouts, apples, oranges, cucumbers, carrots, beans, broccoli are some sources of fiber that you must add to your diet.
Adding ActiFiber to your food would help as it is a soluble dietary fiber nutrition with pre-biotic advantage.

    Also, adding ginger, garlic, and turmeric to your food[vii] and taking Kadha, as advised by the ministry of Ayush, also helps in building immunity.

    1. Food rich in prebiotics are proven to increase the number of beneficial gut bacteria and reduces the accumulation of disease-causing bacteria, hence improving immunity[viii]. It is beneficial to add prebiotic rich foods like mushrooms, asparagus, root and slightly under-ripe bananas in your diet. You can also add ActiFiber Natural Sugar Control to your diet which has natural prebiotic fiber to boost immunity and have better glycemic control.

    2. Maintaining your healthy diet practices for a better sugar control like
      • Having timely intake of 3 meals and 3 in-between meals.
      • Having high-fiber cereals or whole grain breads and having foods rich in soluble dietary fiber like fresh vegetables and fruits.
      • ActiFiber is 100% Plant Origin source of soluble fiber. Make it a part of your daily diet practice to get better sugar control.
      • Taking high-quality protein such as eggs, beans, low-fat dairy, and unsweetened curd.
      • Keeping yourself well hydrated.
      • Avoiding simple sugars like table sugar, honey, sugary drinks, etc.
      • Avoiding alcohol.
        1. Keeping yourself safe by following the guidelines of social distancing, wearing a mask, frequent washing of hands and sanitizing, avoiding contact with people showing COVID-19 symptoms.
        1. Keep checking your blood sugar levels regularly and consult a doctor immediately if you show symptoms. 
        1. Regular exercise must be done, and now even more so, because our movement has been restricted due to social distancing norms. You can opt for exercises that can be done at home, like yoga.

        While the above will help protect you from contracting the virus, but if at all you get infected with COVID-19, do not panic. Follow the rules that you practice on a day you are sick. Keep taking your prescribed medicines and consult a doctor.

        [i] International Diabetes Federation
        [ii] WebMD
        [iii] Diabetes UK
        [iv] WebMD
        [v] International Diabetes Federation
        [vi] Diabetes UK
        [vii] Healthline
        [viii] NIH