Post-ICU and COVID-19 nutrition

post covid-19 nutrition

The road to recovery after critical illness can be long and challenging. However, it is only in recent years that Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) has started to be more widely recognised and understood, and therefore much better managed.

PICS encompasses a range of symptoms that fall under the three broad categories of physical cognitive, and psychological impairment, with ICU-acquired weakness among the most frequently seen symptoms.

Improving ICU survival rates are partly to thank for this growing interest in PICS, as we can now look beyond mere survival and consider quality of recovery. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact in pushing forward this agenda, with a huge public and media interest in the area, coupled with massive clinical urgency.

Several NHS Trusts, including ours, have had multi-disciplinary post-ICU recovery clinics in place for some years, whereas many dozens of others have now done the same to aid the recovery of the huge numbers of patients that have passed through their critical care units in the past year.

I provide the dietetic service for this pioneering clinic, and feel privileged to be in the position to make such a big difference to so many patients in desperate need of nutritional assistance. One of the more common issues I see is a rapid increase in body fat (especially centrally, i.e. around the abdomen), on the background of significant muscle wasting when critically ill. The net result is an alarming change in body composition that has implications for future health (including diabetes, heart disease and cancer), and that can be challenging to stop without nutritional intervention…especially in the face of physical and psychological barriers that so many of these patients are experiencing.

Many other patients present with completely different symptoms, including poor appetite, feeling full easily (early satiety), or persistent GI issues, all of which are significant barriers to nutritional status and the ability to engage in and benefit from physical rehab.

Visitors to this site will know that I have traditionally focussed far more on sports and plant-based nutrition than my critical care work, as this is the main focus of my private clinic. However, in order to help out the many thousands of individuals recovering from COVID-19 and other critical illnesses in the UK right now, I am delighted to be able to offer my specialist private services to support these patients. Please see my dedicated page if this is helpful for you or any friends or family.

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