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How Nutrition Can Reduce Corona Anxiety and Severity of a COVID 19 Case: CNY Dietitian

Many of our routines are changed because of the restrictions caused by the Coronavirus … and those changes can threaten our health.  We've previously told you about replacing yoga and other fitness classes virtually to help with anxiety. 

Now, we hear  the concerns of a dietitian who says ‘what you eat’ can have serious health impacts. 

“I feel like it too a pandemic for people to start thinking about their health.”

Kelly Springer is a registered dietitian  and she’s worried that the way many people eat is actually an additional threat at this time when we’re all concerned about the spread of COVID 19.

“We have a high number of people on ventilators (statewide) and are not recovering well because of obesity and comorbidities that are directly realted to their food intake.”

There are several issues here that she unpacks.  All of the restrictions we’re living under might lead to bad eating habits.  And there are also real medical consequences of what we eat.  To start off, the disruption in our schedules and being at home primarily, can blur the lines of regular mealtimes.

Dietitian Kelly Springer says with people at home all day, the refrigerator can be calling all the time, creating bad eating habits.

“The problem is, I think it’s the lack of routine that is the hardest thing.  We have access to food 24/7 now where before we were (busy) with a job or getting kids to school or something ese.  And now that refrigerator is calling our name all day long.”

So if you’re home a lot more, plus add in extra stress, you have cravings for foods that are usually carb-heavy.  Springer says she falls victim too.  And not everything that comes out of the microwave is healthy.  At work, there’s probably a vending machine, with chips? Candy? Well you know.  And it’s not just lack of will power.  Springer notes hormones and other receptors actually change under stress.

“…and that actually controls our hunger.  So it’s interesting, it’s not that you’re just having low will power.  It’s truly hormones are messed up during this time.  So, by having those set meal times it can actually help to not think about your own hunger and fullness cues.”

With meals, Make sure you’re including a protein, vegetables and good grains in those meals … not just carbohydrates.  You can also control what goes into your mouth to work on anxiety, starting with drinking a lot more water than most of us do.

Kelly Springer owns Kelly's Choice Nutrition and has a background in public health.

“I know that sounds like the simplest thing in the world but your body is made up of 70% water.  And if you become dehydrated, it actually puts a stress on your body in general.  So by making sure you’re getting hydration throughout the day, it actually helps to lower your stress levels.”

She adds fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables help the good bacteria in our digestive tracks, and both reduce anxiety and boost serotonin levels, which help with good moods.  Springer says up to 90% of serotonin is developed in the digestive system.     

Healthy eating can also relate directly to keeping you from getting sick.

“80% of your immunity cells are actually in your digestive tract, so making sure we’re getting foods that are feeding that good bacteria.”

She explains pre- and  pro-biotic foods can help your gut-health, especially foods that have active bacterial cultures.

“That could be foods like kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, fermented pickles; anything that has been fermented is going to have live bacteria.  Those live bacteria help to spur more good bacteria production in your digestive tract, which can actually boost and support your immunity.” 

So, there are a number of issues here related to what you’re eating at this time of worry, of disruption at home and at work, and perhaps of stress because of income or health problems.  Whether it’s avoiding bad snacking habits, eating in a way that can reduce your anxiety, or a diet that can actually keep you from getting sick or sicker, Springer wants you to know, food is pretty important.

“We’ve been really good at having people stop smoking or get moving, but I feel like we’ve missed, the central core of wellness is what we eat.  So you’ve heard the term, you’ve heard it forever, ‘we are what we eat’ but it really is true.  So if you’re eating tons of sugar, rich foods and fried foods, that will kill the gut bacteria and you can actually decrease your serotonin levels, decrease your immunity.  So if you put in good fruits and vegetables, whole grains, you’re going to be a healthier, happier person.” 

Springer’s practice, under the name Kelly’s Choicehas been able to do a lot of work virtually.  Her staff have met with individuals and business clients through video, where they can see materials and interact.  She and other experts are offering a free series starting April 6th to help people with food choices, exercise and their health as a way to give back at this time.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.