Nutritious Chicken & Vegetable Soup with Noodles in Bone Broth
Living in New York City, the epicenter of the covid-19 pandemic, I guess it’s not too surprising that I got covid, despite the strict social distancing and safety protocols I had undertaken. I’m sharing here my story of what happened and details of what I did to treat covid-19 at home, in case it’s helpful.
I’m lucky that mine wasn’t a severe case to land me in the hospital on a ventilator. For a non-hospitalization case though, it was still quite awful. My fever lasted more than 4 weeks – that’s a long time to have daily fever. I had ended up in the ER because I was having a hard time breathing and experiencing a terrible sharp pain with each breath. A modified version of the Police song kept going through my head in a loop – Every Breath You Take… I’ll be stabbing you. It was like breath —> stab, breath —> stab. I found out that my lung had partially collapsed as a result of the infection (that later developed into pneumonia). The ER didn’t give me any medicine for treatment. There is no treatment yet for covid-19 so unless your condition gets serious enough to require hospitalization, they tell you to rest at home and wait it out.
Fortunately, my regular doctor asked me to go and see her in person. She was more thorough than the ER – she prescribed me azithromycin for the lung infection, albuterol inhaler to help with my breathing, and asked me to use a spirometer to force oxygen into my lungs and to help uncollapse it. She also suggested that I take ibuprofen twice a day. The oft-quoted “study” about the possible negative effects of advil had been debunked. She had seen how the body’s extreme inflammation response to covid was landing patients in the hospital (she had been treating hospitalized covid patients for weeks, and had direct relevant clinical experience), so she thought maybe it would be good to keep the inflammation in check with ibuprofen. Thanks to her I had a treatment plan for my infection and breathing difficulties.
Once I got sick it amazed me how many friends, old childhood friends, relatives, cousins of my parents reached out from all over the world. Everyone was kind and tried to help in their own way; they sent me medical advice that they knew of, they prayed for me. Some messaged or called daily from Switzerland, Singapore, Bangladesh, Japan, from around the US and Canada to check in on me. Because I wasn’t being able to speak on the phone or respond regularly, and my husband also fell sick after I did (his luckily was a mild case and he’s fully recovered), some called my sister for updates. We received get-well baskets laden with goodies to cheer us up, a couple of friends sent me nourishing bone broth which was very thoughtful and practical. A friend of mine got me an Oura ring and he drove to our place to drop it off – so I could have the ring to track my condition while I slept at night. My sister surprised us one day by biking all the way from her apartment (for context, on the subway it takes 45 minutes to get to my place) – she’d cooked food to last us days. She carried all those heavy containers of food in her backpack, biked all that distance and stood outside our building while I stood at my window, and we saw each other that way. That’s love! My little nephews, brother, sister-in-law videoed me regularly from Switzerland – even when I could barely speak it cheered me up to see my munchkins who would randomly call me on their own.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have so many kind and thoughtful people in my life. A friend of a friend who I’d met at a party years ago and we had stayed very loosely connected, randomly messaged me during this time not knowing I was sick. She’s a physician and once she knew of my condition, she messaged me daily to check in on me; and I was able to message her to check what I should do when I felt really bad but didn’t want to bother my doctor. I’ve been blown away by how kind people are. All the love and moral support helped keep my spirits up and gave me the willpower to fight the virus over all those weeks of fever and struggles to breathe, not knowing quite what was happening in my body.
Even though I’m done with covid itself, I’m not yet back to my old self. According to my doctor the pneumonia might take another few weeks to resolve. What covid did to my lungs, based on a CT scan, will take some time to heal. I had planned to go running again when the weather got warmer, but I’m finding it’s taking a bit of energy to even walk 3 blocks. In the meantime, I’m also still having random terrible inflammation responses to certain foods, which started with covid. Foods that I had no problems with before are now triggering severe allergic reactions. Earlier this week I had yogurt for the first time since I got covid; within 5 minutes my throat started closing up, my chest felt tight, my heart was erratic, and I felt like I would stop breathing. I took the albuterol inhaler my doctor gave me. She also gave me an epipen because I’ve had quite a few of these attacks since covid. It seems that my body didn’t quite know what to do with the virus, my immune system was trying to fight it and going all out; something in these foods appears to be a threat so my body fights back with extreme inflammatory response. It’s terrifying because I don’t know what will trigger it (I’ve obviously not repeated a food that caused it), nor do I know how extreme it’ll be next time. This particular effect of covid has lasted even though the virus is gone.
So, it’s not necessarily as simple as getting sick for a few days and getting over it. For a non-hospitalization case, mine lasted weeks, caused quite a bit of suffering and terror, and now is leaving some longer-lasting effects that will take more weeks to heal. My hope is people will take it seriously enough to at least wear masks so that everyone will be protected somewhat – because you just don’t know how it will affect you.
What I took and did to fight covid
Fighting the coronavirus, trying to get through covid takes work. There’s the dreaded possibility of developing pneumonia which can be fatal. I feel lucky that despite getting pneumonia and sitting unmonitored at home with breathing difficulties, I didn’t need to be hospitalized. I think the fact that my doctor prescribed the azithromycin antibiotic at the beginning helped prevent my condition from getting much worse.
In addition, there were things I did at home that may have helped. For I wasn’t ready to lie around and just hope that things would work out. I decided to also do research on my own, I read medical studies available online to see how hospitals were treating covid patients. While realistically there’s no treatment yet for covid-19, I wondered if there were things that were being tried that might increase the probability of a positive outcome. I found out a few things that I then incorporated into my own personal at-home covid-19 treatment plan.
Since I got sick, two others who also got covid reached out to me because they weren’t given any suggestions either and I shared my treatment with them. I’m sharing here what I did to treat covid-19 at home in case it helps, as it seems to have helped me. Most of what I did is based on ongoing studies, what medical professionals have advised or how hospitals were treating covid patients. These won’t prevent you from getting covid-19, they won’t cure covid, but they may help the body fight covid. I’ve included the sources of information based on which I decided to take these myself; the blue colored words are hyperlinked and clicking on them will lead you to the source material if you’re interested.
- Vitamin C, 2000 mg: This is the upper limit of the dosage (shouldn’t take more). Hospitals were treating covid-19 patients with high doses of C intravenously and were seeing benefits (as listed in the study in the link). As an at-home patient, I decided to take the highest safe dose orally; I double-checked with my physician friend who said it was ok.
- Vitamin D3, 5000 units: I was advised by my physician friend to take this dose of D3. Vitamin D supports the immune system; higher levels of Vitamin D have been associated with lower covid-19 infection and death rates. Here are additional links about possible connection of Vitamin D3 to covid-19.
- Zinc: My physician friend also advised me to take zinc. It may regulate inflammatory response and modulate antiviral immunity.
- Fish Oil: Fish oil may help with immune response and may help clear viral infections. It’s not harmful, so I took it.
- Fresh Ginger : I drank copious amounts of warm liquids like chamomile tea, infused with fresh crushed ginger root and lemon juice throughout the day. Ginger is supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties. It breaks down mucus and helps improves lung health. Ginger is also supposed to help reduce kidney damage, which has happened to one-third of hospitalized covid-19 patients. I like fresh ginger so with this many possible benefits, why not have it? I added fresh squeezed lemon juice for vitamin C benefits.
- Hydration: It’s extremely important to stay hydrated to help our body fight infections. The guidance is to drink at least 2-4 ounces of fluids every 15 minutes. In addition to drinking teapot after teapot of warm liquids with fresh ginger root and lemon, I also drank water throughout the day. Added fresh squeezed lemon to my water for the added vitamin C. I wasn’t very thirsty most of the time, but I forced myself to keep drinking fluids.
- High protein, high calorie nutritious meals: Acute infection in adults can cause high amount of protein loss, greater than 1g/kg of body weight per day; we need to maintain muscle mass during illness. And energy restriction suppresses the immune system, so we need to take in enough calories. It’s especially important to eat nutritious, high-calorie, high-protein meals to help the immune system fight covid. During the entire period I was sick, even on my worst days, I made sure to eat properly. I had chicken soup with vegetables and noodles in bone broth, I had made a huge batch of simple nutritious pish pash (rice porridge with chicken in broth) just when I started getting sick, so it was easy to heat up and eat that, and it was comforting and soothing as well.
- Avoid soybean oil and oils other than olive oil : Soybean oil promotes inflammation. In the medical literature I’ve included here, the hospital nutrition guidelines said to avoid it in treating severely ill covid patients; olive oil is safer. To be safe, since this is an easy one, I used only extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil in my food.
- Avoid processed foods: There are so many preservatives and unhealthy ingredients in processed foods, I decided to avoid them completely (even normally I tend to avoid processed food). There’s also this WHO guideline on Covid-19 nutrition.
- Breathing exercises: These are crucial to do when down with covid as it might be painful to take deep breaths and you may unconsciously start taking shallow breaths. Without enough air getting into your lungs, fluid and mucus can build up, leading to serious lung infection like pneumonia. Also, with shallow breaths, the air in your lungs may not move much and won’t clear out any existing infections. Deep breathing exercises force air into every bit of the lungs. Because my lung had partially collapsed, I already had developed lung infection and every breath was painful like a stab. I had gotten a spirometer based on my doctor’s advice. But you don’t need a spirometer to do breathing exercises. There’s an excellent video going around that multiple friends and relatives sent me showing how to do deep breathing exercises for covid. It opens up the airways and forces air into the lower part of the lungs. I did this and the spirometer frequently, especially when I was really sick and even when I didn’t want to.
- Discuss with your doctor about getting an inhaler if you’re having breathing difficulties: My doctor had prescribed me albuterol inhaler to help with my breathing difficulties. That was one of the most helpful things while I suffered through covid (however it’s not safe for everyone and an overdose can be fatal; your doctor should evaluate whether it’s safe or not for you).
- Move as much as possible during the day, don’t lie around: Much as it was tempting to lie around, I avoided it. My physician friend and my doctor cousin both suggested that I try to keep moving to stimulate my lungs. I stood up, walked around the apartment, or sat up. I avoided lying down except to sleep or rest.
- Lie on your stomach if the breathing gets difficult: Lying on the back compresses the lungs, and they get less air. When breathing is difficult, lying on the stomach helps.
- Keeping track of oxygen level using an Oximeter: Having an oximeter to measure your oxygen level and keep track of it is also crucial. Unlike with any other diseases, covid patients are not even aware when their oxygen has fallen to seriously dangerous levels. They may have breathing difficulties throughout but it can be hard to know what the real oxygen level is. I had ordered a pulse oximeter online when I started getting sick and I’ve used it throughout to keep track of my oxygen level and my heart rate. The oximeter took over a week to arrive even with the most expedited shipping, so in the meantime I downloaded an oximeter app for my iphone. It gave surprisingly accurate readings. When I landed in the ER, my phone app oximeter reading was the same as the ER’s oximeter reading. The phone apps apparently don’t work well for oxygen levels below 93%, so it’s still better to have a real pulse oximeter if possible. However, the app is better than not having anything because at least you can monitor your oxygen level trend.
- Thermometer: Fever is a sign of infection or that the immune system is fighting something. Obviously it’s important to have a thermometer to measure your temperature and understand how high your fever is, if it’s trending up or down, so you can decide whether you can ride it out at home, or contact your doctor, or go to the ER.
- Keeping track of symptoms: Understanding the trends are important and having data is helpful. I created a google doc, which served as my covid-19 medical diary. I kept a log of my symptoms and basic vitals throughout the day – temperature, oxygen level, heart rate, what medicines I had taken, what happened that day (breathing difficulties, allergic reactions, etc). When you’re sick it’s hard to remember clearly from one day to the next what happened, things start blending into each other, as the brain gets fuzzy with fever and illness. The google doc helped me keep track of the trends, so I could accurately report to my doctor what had been going on and for how long.
I’ve shared these details in case it’s helpful. Covid-19 can be difficult to deal with and I was at a loss when the ER first sent me home with no guidance. I wanted to share the helpful things my own doctor did for me, suggestions from my physician friend, and other things that I did. Given that my lung had partially collapsed and I got pneumonia, I do feel very lucky that my condition didn’t get much worse. I have been overjoyed this past week as I have gotten better, and extremely happy and thankful to be alive.
Recipe for Simple Chicken, Vegetable & Noodle Soup in Bone Broth
Since my blog is a food blog, I’m sharing a very simple and basic soup I made while sick. My friends had sent me nutritious chicken bone broth from Brodo. I added some ginger and onions, healthy veggies, chicken (for protein) and noodles (for carbs) to it. Topped with garlic chips, for a little bit of crunch, but mainly because garlic has so many health benefits. That’s the concept. The recipe here is a specific mix, but you can add whatever nutritious veggie mix you have and like and want.
Nutritious Chicken & Vegetable Soup with Noodles in Bone Broth
- 2 cups broth (I used Brodo chicken bone broth)
- 2 cups water
- 1 carrot, thin sliced (about 1 cup sliced)
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, thickly sliced
- About 1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I used crimini and oyster mushrooms)
- 1/2 cup chicken breast, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, thin sliced
- handful of greens, like bok choy leaves (or can use baby spinach)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup green peas
- 1/2 cup noodles of choice (I used rice noodles)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, thin sliced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- sprig of herb of choice, I used fresh dill
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (if broth is sodium-free)
- Add broth and water to a deep pot and bring to a boil.
- Add sliced onion, ginger, carrots. Cook on medium high heat for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion looks translucent and the carrots soften.
- Add chicken pieces and mushrooms, cook for another 3 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a small pan and fry the garlic slices till light brown and crisp. Remove from oil and set aside.
- Add the noodles to the soup pot and cook for as long as directed, till soft. In the last minute, add bok choy leaves, green peas, dill. Cook for a minute, remove from heat. Check for salt, add if necessary. Transfer to a bowl, add fried garlic slices on top, and enjoy!