HIV / AIDS and Diet - Alternative and complementary HIV treatment
Regular exercise and a well balanced diet are important elements of good health for everyone. For those infected with HIV, diet and exercise can be crucial weapons in the battle to control the virus.
When the immune system is busy trying to fight HIV, all sorts of opportunistic infections are ready to strike as the body’s defences become ever weaker. So if you’re HIV positive you need to give your body a fighting chance by keeping it as healthy as possible in the circumstances. If you have a healthy heart and lungs and are not either overweight or underweight, then at least that’s one less thing for your embattled body to worry about.
Unfortunately, HIV and good nutrition are not always easy bedfellows.
When the body is fighting infection it uses extra energy which needs to be replaced by extra quantities of nutritious food. But if anti HIV medication is making a person sick or the virus has caused a fungal infection in the mouth or throat, eating sensibly can become a problem.
Diarrhea, a very common symptom of various opportunistic infections, can lead to dehydration and the loss of important nutrients.
HIV/AIDS Diet: Carbs, Protein and More
But it’s important that people with HIV try to eat more than those without the virus as they need the extra energy and nutrients. Plenty of proteins are needed to help build and maintain muscle. Fresh meat is a good source of protein as are beans, nuts, seeds and fish. Processed meats should be avoided as many are high in salt.
Carbohydrates are important because they can give an energy boost. Vegetables, grains, fruits and cereals are good slow release carbs while sugar carbs like jam are good for a quick fix.
Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided as these are diuretics which encourage you to urinate so increasing the risk of dehydration. It’s a good idea to drink at list eight glasses of water a day as this can help avoid constipation and lessen the feeling of sickness from any medications.
Antioxidant foods such as leafy green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes break down free radicals – harmful molecules in the body that can cause cell damage and ageing. The HIV infection leads to higher levels of these damaging free radicals in the body.
Studies have shown that people with HIV may also benefit from taking vitamin supplements, although because of the nature of their illness they may need between six and 25 times more than the normal recommended levels.
B vitamins (such as thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid) are great for building up the immune system. Vitamins A, E and C are brilliant antioxidants and Zinc is ideal for creating a healthy mind.
The supplement Coenzyme Q10 has been found to be effective in boosting the immune system of some HIV patients while evening primrose oil is renowned worldwide for healthy skin. One of the trendiest supplements at the moment is acidophilus, which is a bacterium that naturally grows in the intestines and helps aid digestion.
But the bottom line is that if you’re HIV positive you need to eat a well balanced diet. If in doubt, check with your doctor about what’s right for you.
A sensible eating plan needs to be coupled with resistance exercise, such as gentle weight lifting to build muscle and body strength and aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, dancing - anything that gets your heart rate moving a bit faster on a regular basis.
Strengthening the body gives someone with HIV a head start on the virus and, along with antiretroviral medication, can lead to a long and productive life.