Nutrition for HIV/AIDS

 HIV/AIDSIn the absence of a cure, it is important to control symptoms, support the immune system, and lower the levels of HIV circulating in the blood. To lower the level of HIV in the blood, patients take a prescribed combination of antiviral drugs . The role nutrition plays will vary along the disease continuum (disease progression over many years), with consideration given to the patient’s age, gender, behaviors, current medication, drug history, socioeconomic status , and associated health concerns.

In all cases, adequate hydration (fluid intake) and increased calorie and protein intake are necessary to fight the infection. Proper nutrition must begin immediately to support nutritional deficiencies (including vitamin A and E, the B vitamins , magnesium, and zinc ) that occur early in the disease process. These nutritional deficiencies contribute to decreased immunity and disease progression. Ellen Mazo and Keith Berndtson, in The Immune Advantage , suggest that once the patient has been diagnosed with HIV infection, more protein and complex carbohydrates , along with moderate amounts of fats, should be consumed. The diet should include lean meat, fish, beans, seeds and nuts, whole-grain breads and cereals, and fruits and vegetables. Moderate amounts of fat for energy and calories can be acquired through foods such as nuts, avocado dip, peanut butter, and seeds.

The diet should include each of the five major food groups (dairy, vegetable, meat, fruit, and bread). The sixth group (fats and sugars) should be used sparingly. Patients with a poor appetite should eat six or more small meals throughout the day, rather than three large ones. In prolonged cases of appetite depression, a physician may prescribe an appetite stimulant (e.g., ergosterol acetate). It is important to keep all foods refrigerated, to avoid eating rare meats, to practice proper hand washing, and to use soap and hot water to clean sinks and utensils. Food-borne illnesses pose serious threats for HIV/AIDS patients.

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