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Nutrition Tips For Healthy And Strong Immune System For People With HIV

Every year, 1 December marks the commemoration of the united fight against HIV and AIDS. World AIDS Day has been raising awareness of the epidemic that kills at least 1 million people every year, since 1988.

The idea behind the international observance is to expunge the outmoded stigma and to show solidarity to the HIV affected. AIDS and HIV infections are one of the biggest problems of the current world, despite the establishment of enhanced and upgraded preventive measures.

The theme for the 2019 observance is "Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community"/"Communities make the difference". The 2019 theme shines a light on the significant and essential role played the communities in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.

In the current article, we will take a look at the importance of proper nutrition for individuals suffering from AIDS.

Why Is Good Nutrition Important For People With HIV

In people with HIV, good nutrition supports overall health and helps maintain the immune system. It is also critical for maintaining a healthy weight and promote the proper effectiveness of the medications [1] . The human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) attacks and destroys the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight off infections [2] .

Although the medications for HIV, called antiretroviral therapy or ART help prevent the viruses from attacking and destroying your immune system, a healthy diet is critical to strengthen the immune system.

The inflammatory nature of the condition puts the affected individuals at an increased risk of infection, kidney failure and certain types of cancers. Following a diet encompassed of vitamins and minerals can help minimise the associated symptoms, manage the side effects of medications, improve your resistance to other infections and complications; hence improving your quality of life [3] [4] .

A good diet will consist of a balance of the following types of food such as starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, dairy products or alternatives, beans, pulses, nuts, fish, eggs and meat and unsaturated oils and spreads. Also, foods that are high in fat and sugar should be eaten less often and in small amounts.

Consequently, HIV attacks the immune system and, a weakened immune system makes it hard for the body to fight off infections, including food-borne illnesses. In people with HIV, food-borne illnesses are likely to be more serious and last longer than in people with a healthy immune system [5] .

Here, the article will provide few nutrition and diet tips for individuals with HIV AIDS, to help improve their immunity and prevent the onset of various diseases and conditions, which can contribute towards worsening the overall health of the individual.

Nutrition Tips For A Healthy & Strong Immune System

It is imperative to consider individual needs, however, a general healthful eating pattern which focuses on improving the immune system can be considered as a good (and healthy) start.

1. Add protein to every meal

Protein helps build muscles, organs, and a strong immune system. It is essential to make, repair and maintain the healthy cells in your body. Consuming the right amount of protein can help improve your immune system and thereby, protect your body from infections and severe health conditions [6] . Go for lean protein and chose healthy options like lean beef, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts [7] .

According to studies, the following is protein intake tips for individuals diagnosed with AIDS.

  • If you are an HIV-positive male, consume 100-150 g protein a day.
  • If you are an HIV-positive woman, consume 80-100 g protein a day.
  • If you have kidney disease, limit your consumption of protein as it can put stress on your kidneys.

2. Include vitamin- and mineral-rich foods

They help regulate your body's processes and functions. For individuals with AIDS, extra vitamins and minerals are required to help repair and heal damaged cells, to improve the immune system and prevent one from contracting infections and diseases. As it is impossible to gain the right amount of nutrients and minerals from foods, your doctor can recommend a multivitamin or mineral tablet [8] .

3. Control your calorie intake

One of the most common symptoms or side-effects of AIDS is extreme weight-loss and in the same line, gaining excess weight. People suffering from AIDS carry too much weight as the medications tend to lead to obesity, which can raise the risk of developing long-term and fatal diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers [9] .

An imbalance in the calorie intake also leads to making your immune system weak. Consume adequate calories throughout the day to maintain a healthy weight and prevent the onset of various diseases. Consume foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado, fish, and canola oil, olive oil, fatty meat, walnuts, butter, whole-milk dairy foods, and coconut and palm oils etc.

4. Food safety is important

Individuals affected by AIDS are increasingly vulnerable to food poisoning because HIV weakens the immune system. It is imperative to practise food safety as it aids in minimising one's risk of falling sick. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, fish and eggs and only consume pasteurised milk or cheese [10] .

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you eat.
  • Wash cutting boards and utensils after every use.
  • Thaw frozen meats and other foods in the fridge or microwave.
  • Avoid raw eggs, and cook all meat, seafood, and poultry.
  • Rinse all fresh fruits and veggies with clean water.
  • Reheat leftovers thoroughly before you eat them.

Apart from the aforementioned nutrition tips, some common tips to be considered are as follows [11] [12] :

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Have healthy fats in moderation
  • Limit your sugar and salt intake
  • Choose whole grains
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

On A Final Note...

A good and well-balanced diet help provide the full range of essential micronutrients can help bolster the immune system, boost energy levels and maintain body weight and overall well-being.

Note: Before incorporating the vitamins and minerals into your diet, consult with your doctor/dietician.

View Article References
  1. [1] Byron, E., Gillespie, S., & Nangami, M. (2008). Integrating nutrition security with treatment of people living with HIV: lessons from Kenya. Food and nutrition bulletin, 29(2), 87-97.
  2. [2] Bello, T. K., Gericke, G. J., & MacIntyre, U. E. (2019). Development, Implementation, and Process Evaluation of a Theory-Based Nutrition Education Programme for Adults Living With HIV in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Frontiers in Public Health, 7.
  3. [3] Pokharel, P., & Shettigar, P. G. (2019). Impact of counseling in knowledge, attitude and practice and association of nutritional status with CD4 count and opportunistic infections of HIV patients of Udupi, India. Clinical nutrition ESPEN, 29, 154-159.
  4. [4] Lyon, M. E., D’Angelo, L. J., Dallas, R. H., Hinds, P. S., Garvie, P. A., Wilkins, M. L., ... & Cheng, Y. I. (2017). A randomized clinical trial of adolescents with HIV/AIDS: pediatric advance care planning. AIDS care, 29(10), 1287-1296.
  5. [5] Salem, B. E., Bustos, Y., Shalita, C., Kwon, J., Ramakrishnan, P., Yadav, K., ... & Nyamathi, A. M. (2018). Chronic Disease Self-Management Challenges among Rural Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Prakasam, Andhra Pradesh, India: A Qualitative Study. Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (JIAPAC), 17, 2325958218773768.
  6. [6] Rombola, A. (2018). How Aware Are the Interns in Nutrition About Their Role in the Palliative Care Team?. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 56(6), e96-e97.
  7. [7] Nogueira, L. F. R., da Fonseca, T. C., Paterlini, P. H., Duarte, A. D. S., Pellegrino, P., Barros, C. R. D. S., ... & Marqueze, E. C. (2019). Influence of nutritional status and gastrointestinal symptoms on sleep quality in people living with HIV. International journal of STD & AIDS, 0956462419846723.
  8. [8] Lyon, M. E., Briggs, L., Cheng, Y. I., & Wang, J. (2015). P-54 The longitudinal impact of advance care planning (ACP) conversations between adolescents with HIV and their families on congruence in end of life treatment preferences. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 5, A60.
  9. [9] Webster, P. D., Deka, S., Ismail, A., Stern, A. F., & Barker, P. M. (2019). Using a Multicountry Learning Network to Harvest and Rapidly Spread Implementation Knowledge across Programs Aimed to Reduce Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Improve Nutrition: Perspectives and Lessons Learned for Similar Large-Scale Initiatives. Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (JIAPAC), 18, 2325958219847452.
  10. [10] Thapa, R., Amatya, A., Pahari, D. P., Bam, K., & Newman, M. S. (2015). Nutritional status and its association with quality of life among people living with HIV attending public anti-retroviral therapy sites of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. AIDS research and therapy, 12(1), 14.
  11. [11] Diouf, A., Badiane, A., Manga, N. M., Idohou-Dossou, N., Sow, P. S., & Wade, S. (2015). Daily consumption of ready-to-use peanut-based therapeutic food increased fat free mass, improved anemic status but has no impact on the zinc status of people living with HIV/AIDS: a randomized controlled trial. BMC public health, 16(1), 1.
  12. [12] Chege, P. M., Ndungu, Z. W., & Gitonga, B. M. (2016). Food security and nutritional status of children under-five in households affected by HIV and AIDS in Kiandutu informal settlement, Kiambu County, Kenya. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, 35(1), 21.
Story first published: Sunday, December 1, 2019, 10:30 [IST]
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