Nutrition for Weakness and Fatigue After Pneumonia

Having pneumonia can leave you feeling weak and fatigued. Perhaps the recovery process is taking longer than expected or you've had a pneumonia relapse after antibiotics. Sticking to a certain diet can boost the immune system and in some cases speed recovery.

Proper nutrition can help get you back on your feet following a bout with pneumonia. Credit: fcafotodigital/E+/GettyImages

Recovering From Pneumonia

Pneumonia, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in an infection of the lungs mostly caused by bacteria or viruses. Symptoms may include fatigue, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, headache, loss of appetite, cough, nausea and vomiting and fever.

Recovering from pneumonia can depend on several factors, including your age and severity of your symptoms. The British Lung Foundation provides a brief summary of recovery time. By the end of week one your fever should be gone; after about four weeks, you'll produce less mucus and your chest will feel better; after six weeks you may find yourself coughing less. By month three, your symptoms should be gone, but you may feel tired. After six months you should be back to normal.

Make sure to check in with your doctor regularly to determine the best steps for recovery. Generally, exercise, doing deep breathing and eating well will help combat weakness after pneumonia. Treatment will depend on certain factors, such as the type of pneumonia. For instance, if the pneumonia is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

According to the American Lung Association, symptoms can be managed with rest, drinking plenty of fluids, drinking warm beverages or taking steamy baths to improve your breathing, staying away from smoke and controlling your fever with aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Read More: Symptoms of Bronchial Pneumonia

Vitamin D and Immune Boosters

There's some evidence suggesting that higher vitamin D levels can speed recovery of pneumonia symptoms. Overall, vitamin D helps strengthen the immune system in order to better fight infections, says Vitamin D Council. Low vitamin D may weaken the protective barriers of cells, allowing bacteria and viruses to enter.

For a diet rich in vitamin D, NIH recommends a diet consisting of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, mushrooms, egg yolk, beef liver, cheese, milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice and more. You can also get vitamin D from the sun or from supplements.

In general, it's important to maintain a diet that strengthens the immune system in order to speed recovery or to help avoid pneumonia altogether. Harvard Health Publishing recommends eating plenty of fruits and vegetables in order to boost the immune system.

Micronutrient deficiencies in zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E are known to alter immune responses, so it's key for proper immune functioning and staving off illnesses to consume foods with those vitamins and minerals.

Read More: Vitamin D Deficiency and Skin Problems

Recovering from Pneumonia Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the last symptoms to depart on the road to pneumonia recovery. It may be several months before you begin to regain your energy. Better Health Channel recommends nutrition tips that will help you fight fatigue, such as:

  • Eat foods rich in iron, such as red meat, as iron deficiency can result in feeling fatigued.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, wholegrain foods and low fat dairy products.
  • Drink plenty of water, especially after exercise.
  • Eat breakfast and don't skip meals, so that your blood sugar levels don't dip.
  • Try not to overeat, as this too can alter blood sugar levels and drain your energy.

Other strategies for fighting fatigue include regularly doing physical activity, getting enough sleep and limiting your caffeine intake, avoiding smoking and reducing stressors. Ask your doctor which options are best for you in order to combat fatigue and weakness after pneumonia.

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