Here are some 2021 health trends - most are Covid-influenced
At first view, it seems odd - linking health trends to a pandemic.
But if it’s one thing we’ve learned during this pandemic, it’s that health is the most important thing we have.
And Covid-19 has changed us, marked us, and scared us. Lockdowns, illness, loss, health safety measures, and restrictions have rocked our world in 2020. This has motivated us to experiment with new ways to stay healthy – from home.
Yes, we’ve changed. Our world has changed. Our habits have changed. We are creating our “new normal” with the help of Zoom, computers, the internet, and technology.
The focus is now on how to support health and immunity. This has started a revolution in the way we think and how we take charge of our health.
This revolution will continue in 2021 – and beyond.
Here is a glimpse of how we will support health in 2021 – in order of importance.
1. Immune system support
Covid-19 sparked a rush to take care of our immune system in 2020. “Boosting” the immune system became crucial. And these are what was most popular and what will likely continue in 2021:
Vitamins –D & C
Dietary supplements – turmeric
These are trends, but what does science have to say? Let’s have a closer look.
The role of vitamin D is to reduce the risk of infection and inflammation in the respiratory tract. We get vitamin D through sunlight and food such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms. Many of us don’t get enough. Observational studies have reported that taking vitamin D supplements reduces inflammation risk, but not all studies confirmed this. The takeaway is that vitamin D could protect against the risk and severity of Covid-19. Taking a supplement within the recommended daily intakes could be a prevention measure. More studies are required.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant – it protects cells from oxidative damage. And so supports the immune system. We get vitamin C in lemons, oranges, kiwis, kale, and broccoli. Some studies have suggested that vitamin C supplementation can impact the immune system. Even though there isn’t any firm evidence, some studies found that vitamin C could decrease susceptibility to viral respiratory infections. More studies are needed to confirm the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 with vitamin C.
Probiotics are live cultures in the form of bacteria and yeast found in the intestines. This is considered “good bacteria” that helps the immune system fight off “bad bacteria,” which cause disease. We find these good bacteria in the gut, mouth, and lungs. The main function is to ward off harmful bacteria, help digestion, and breakdown medication.
We can get probiotics by consuming fermented food such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, and some cheeses.
A study published in Nature provided scientific evidence that taking probiotics can prevent respiratory tract infections. Studies are now being conducted to see if this is the case for Covid-19.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral and nutrient that plays a vital role in several bodily functions and immunity. It reduces oxidative stress that leads to chronic inflammation. We get zinc from dairy products, eggs, turkey, red meat, and shellfish.
Zinc has become trendy because many articles tout its effectiveness in the prevention of Covid-19. But the proof is lacking. Zinc is said to prevent upper respiratory tract infections. A meta-analysis study evaluated people who took high doses of zinc with a placebo group. The study found that the group that took high amounts of zinc didn’t experience less severe cold symptoms than the placebo group. Zinc’s effectiveness in preventing and treating Covid-19 is still unclear and is being investigated.
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family that has been used in Indian medicine for centuries. It had a revival during 2020 due to its anti-inflammatory properties that may support immune functions. This has yet to be proven. In response to the many articles on turmeric, the World Health Organisation has put out a statement: “There is no scientific evidence that turmeric prevents Covid-19.” Despite this, we’ll probably be seeing more of turmeric in 2021.
2. Digital Health
2020 has been the year of remote health care services: from Zoom consultations for Covid-19 to digital apps for mental health. Health care's digitalization is now a reality.
This due to unprecedented health challenges and the urgent need for expanded health care services. Patients fearful of being in contact with the virus canceled appointments for check-ups and medical exams. Fear, anxiety, and depression have dramatically increased due to the pandemic. Patients discovered digital apps – some having been around for years – for their medical needs.
This brings back a quote from Sanjaya Mariwala:
“Health is no more about medicines; it is now a way of life.”
OmniActive Health Technologies
Medical communities estimated that 70% of all health problems can be handled online. During the first week of March 2020, there was a 200% increase in time spent on the Mayo Clinic app. It provides information on symptoms and diseases and has a symptom checker and guidance on what to do if a professional diagnosis is needed. Health care providers developed apps targeted to specific chronic diseases such as diabetes and mental health.
The pandemic has put a spotlight on the need to widen access to health services. Both patients and the medical community have shown that the digitalization of health care is here to stay.
3. Home wellness
Closed fitness centers and gyms during lockdowns have forced us to look for new ways to of keeping fit. And some of what we’ve turned to isn’t new.
Popular are video fitness and exercise classes and remote coaching either via video or personalized coaching via Zoom.
In my case, I have wanted to start Pilates classes but never got to it because of my schedule. I bought books on Pilates but found it challenging to create classes on my own. I discovered a Pilates instructor who puts new videos on YouTube for all ages and levels – for free. It’s great. I now do Pilates two to three times a week and will continue even once the pandemic is over.
Another Covid-influenced tendency is prescribed training via downloadable manuals such as the one the World Health Organisation offers. These are targeted to people who are recovering from Covid-19 and need to get back to exercising.
The healthy home
Covid-19 is a lung virus. This means that air quality in the home is more important than ever. We can spread the virus through the air. This has sparked a rush on high-efficiency particulate air HEPA air filters. According to the Mayo Clinic, these filters are effective in removing virus particles from the air.
Minimalist living has surged during the pandemic. As we spend more time indoors, we feel the need to declutter and reorganize our living space. The minimalist philosophy says that we should only have what we need – nothing else. When applied to the home, this produces a clean and more spacious living area. It promotes a feeling of peace, rest, and well-being. Minimalist living is less costly, gives us more time and space to do other things. My bet is that we’ll be seeing more of this in the coming year.
4. Nature & outdoor activities
Since the 1980’s we’ve been spending less and less time outdoors. The reasons: the internet, indoor activities, technology, and indoor activities such as fitness and home cinema.
Not so much anymore. As lockdowns, semi-confinement, and work from home impact our lives, we look to escape. The trend in 2020 was to rediscover the outdoors. This will continue in 2021. These are popular outdoor activities:
Reconnecting with nature is therapy. In nature we experience the healing power and energy of the Earth.
Richard Louv wrote in his book, The Nature Principle:
“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real.”
2020 was the year of the flexitarian. Flexitarianism has been growing for ten years.
A flexitarian is someone who occasionally eats meat and other foods derived from animal sources. The main diet is plant-based.
Some reasons for the shift to flexitarianism – in order of importance:
The growing market of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives has seen exponential growth. These products are made to taste like and have the texture of meat or dairy. They tempt consumers to convert to the vegan/vegetarian diets.
In Europe, flexitarians make up from 25-30% of consumers. Although they are satisfied with the flexitarian diet, 57% would like to become vegetarian, and 8% say they want to be vegans in the future.
Yes, health will remain a hot topic in 2021. But with the healthcare system running at full capacity, it's for us to take charge of our health. Proper diet, physical activity, and seeking peace and tranquillity in green spaces is a good start.