A Chinese Medicine Guide to Healthy Eating During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 30, 2020 - by enrica - in Diet Therapy

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It’s been really great to see people caring about others and the community by maintaining good hygiene, distancing and self-isolation during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst most of us will survive, if we get infected, it would be better if we can get through the infection well, minimise usage of hospital resources and hopefully be contagious for a lesser amount of time.

From reports around the world, COVID-19 seems to target the lungs only, causing pneumonia. This pneumonia features very sticky phlegm, which seems to form very quickly and cannot be coughed up. In Chinese Medicine, the lungs have a very close energetic relationship with the large intestine so that issues with the lung can affect the large intestine. In China, symptoms of constipation or incomplete bowel motions were often reported occurring with the pneumonia. The characteristics of this illness gives us the framework with which to approach with our diet, as outlined by Andrew Sterman, Chinese Medicine food and dietary expert.

  • Avoid foods that promote sticky phlegm. This includes foods such as sugar, dairy (a bit of low-sugar yoghurt is okay) and high-gluten foods, particularly sticky breads like pizza and bagels.
  • Avoid cold food and drinks. The lungs dislike cold and make it more susceptible to producing mucus and phlegm. Have drinks that are at room temperature or warmer.
  • If you are a smoker, reduce your cigarette intake to no more than 2 – 4 cigarettes daily but don’t quit now. Smoking is a high risk-factor for developing a severe case of COVID-19. However, to quit smoking now would generate a lot of mucus in your lungs as the lungs begin to remove toxins, which would create a higher risk for a severe case for COVID-19.
  • There are foods which assist with clearing phlegm and improving movement through the large intestine:
    • Oats, barley, brown rice, millet, wholewheat or rye bread all promote bowel movements
    • One or two glasses of room temperature water first thing in the morning to flush the large intestine
    • Wet-cooked foods such as porridges, stews and soups to provide the body with timed-release hydration. Hydration, as well as plenty of energy, are essential to a healthy immune system. Drinking water is also important but it’s important to balance your types of hydration.
    • Healthy oils such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and also eggs and butter help to lubricate your intestines.
    • Avoid foods that overstimulate the stomach. One characteristic of the COVID-19 virus is the fever that often accompanies it. If the stomach has dry or heat properties, it will affect the effectiveness of the fever and thus, reduce immunity. Avoid or reduce alcohol, onions, garlic, spicy chilli and fried foods. You often hear of immunity boosting properties of garlic but prolonged use generates heat and in this instance, is not what we want.
    • Foods that reduce phlegm
      • Seed spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamon, star anise, cinnamon and szechuan peppercorns.
      • Vegetables includes carrots, sweet potato, radishes, parsnips and lots of greens such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, endive, arugula and dandelion greens.
      • Kitchen herbs such as parsley, oregano, rosemary, dill and cilantro.
      • Small beans such as lentils, aduki beans, black-eyed beans and mung beans.
      • Sprouts.
      • Fermented foods.

Please take the extra effort and care to look after your health in these times to ensure you get through these tough times well.


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