HIV stands for ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’, which causes a life-threatening illness known as AIDS or ‘Acquired immune deficiency syndrome’. When people are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, they need full nutritional support to manage the symptoms and complications caused by this deadly virus. In this situation, the chances of food-borne diseases become very high because HIV directly attacks the immune system, especially CD4 cells or T-cells and weakens the body’s capability to fight against harmful infections and diseases. CD4 which are often called T-cells, are the type of white blood cells (lymphocyte) responsible for fighting infectious diseases.
Point to be noted, there is no special food or diet which can cure HIV/AIDS from roots, but nutrition plays an important role in suppressing the infectious symptoms. They also let the prescribed medications work effectively. HIV-positive patients should follow a strict dietary guideline and should have balanced meals to stay healthy and fit. When the body is strong, the risk to contract infection gets lower, hence diet is too crucial.
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General nutrition guidance for HIV positive patients-
Consuming nutritious food in a suggested personalized amount fulfills the body’s nutritional requirements and helps to fight against such deadly diseases.
- Eat a well-nourished diet that includes all food groups with a variety of high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fat, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy products, pulses, beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to support immune system and to regenerate new cells.
- Include vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, selenium, zinc, and Iron.
- Drink plenty of fluids including fresh and homemade fruit juices, vegetable juices or soups, buttermilk, smoothies, etc.
- Avoid skipping meals and long-term fasting as it is not only an unhealthy practice but can also interfere with the effectiveness of medication.
- Maintain a healthy weight to stay strong during treatment.
- Be physically active as it brings positive impact on the cells and boosts the immune system.
- Minimize or avoid consumption of caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
Some remedial foods to inhibit HIV symptoms-
- Garlic- It has antiviral properties and it also improves the immune cells.
- Turmeric- The active ingredient of turmeric called curcumin reduces the infection and replication of viral genes due to its antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
- Bitter gourd- Bitter gourd helps to boost the immune system and slows down the replication and effect of HIV infection.
- Coconut oil- Coconut oil has antiviral properties that decrease the effect of infection or virus in HIV-positive patients.
- Moringa- Moringa contains antiviral and antioxidant properties which help in delaying some of the serious complications arising from HIV/AIDS.
- Green tea- Regular consumption of green tea, in some way, helps to protect the human immune cells (T-cells) from HIV infections.
- Spirulina- Spirulina in itself is a superfood due to its richness of nutrients which effectively supports the immune system. It helps to delay the progression of HIV disease healthily.
Medicines and supplements -
A balanced diet must be managed well with HIV medications, as some medicines work well with certain foods while some don’t. Essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are used for the proper growth and functioning of the body. Generally, we get all these nutrients from foods we eat but during such type of chronic illnesses, people tend to suffer from less hunger sensation, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, etc. which reduce the absorption of nutrients. This necessitates the administration of supplementations to fulfill nutrition requirements. Take a suggestion from your healthcare provider and add multi-vitamin and mineral supplements I your daily routine to maintain a healthy status and to prevent nutritional deficiency.
Common side effects and problems caused during HIV-
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth ulcers due to medications
- Swallowing problems which make it difficult to eat anything
- Weight loss
- Fluctuation in blood sugar or blood pressure
Follow these basic food safety rules to protect yourself from foodborne illness
- Always wash your hands with handwash or soap before preparing and eating anything.
- Make sure to clean your nearby places all the time.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables with clean water before using.
- Don’t consume raw or uncooked food items and unpasteurized milk.
- Avoid eating leftover or stale food.
- Check your drinking water or prefer only warm water, filtered or bottled water.
- Avoid eating processed, more salty and sugary foods.
- Always check the expiration date on food packaging.
Note- HIV defensive herbs, vitamins, and minerals through foods or supplements can be used to improve the immune system and to manage the side effects of HIV/AIDS. However, their effectiveness depends on the immune conditions and different levels of infection in an individual’s body. Always consult with your doctor or dietician before continuing any regimen as it is important to understand its contradictions with any prescribed medications.