Regular exercise helps reduce the risk of HIV and ART-related complications, such as high blood fat levels and loss of muscle mass.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a chronic retrovirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The AIDS is the final stage of the HIV virus that attacks the body’s immune system and destroys white blood cells needed to fight infection. The HIV treatment has come a long way. People with HIV have access to medicines, including antiretroviral therapy (ART), and if taken as directed can live long and healthy lives.
In addition to ART, many people living with HIV are interested in natural ways to support their health, including diet and nutritional supplements. People living with HIV have higher requirements for certain nutrients and are more likely to be malnourished than the general population. People with HIV have a higher risk of malnutrition. Energy requirements are approximately 10% higher in asymptomatic HIV patients and 20-30% higher in symptomatic HIV patients.
Although people with HIV are known to have higher protein requirements than people without HIV, there are currently no guidelines for protein intake for people with HIV. This may be due to immune system dysfunction, increased nutritional requirements, decreased nutrient absorption, and ART-related side effects. Over the time, studies have shown that people with HIV are likely to be deficient in many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, folic acid, selenium, vitamin E, and vitamin B6.
Get a raise
Eating a diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and fiber can help reduce its side effects associated with ART and HIV, such as insulin resistance and hyperlipidemia. Vitamin D supplements have also been shown to help increase vitamin D levels in the body, reduce inflammation, protect bone health, and improve CD4 levels. Supplementing with other nutrients may also help people with HIV. Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals can benefit people with HIV and AIDS. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good sources of nutrients.
For people with HIV, good nutrition supports overall health and helps maintain the immune system. It also helps people with HIV maintain a healthy weight and absorb HIV medications. Food and water can be contaminated with bacteria that cause illness (called food poisoning or food poisoning). Because HIV damages the immune system, food poisoning can be more severe and longer-lasting in people with HIV than in people with healthy immune systems. Food safety is the way food is selected, handled, prepared and stored to prevent foodborne illness. Following food safety guidelines helps reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
People with HIV are at high risk for food poisoning (food poisoning) and should take certain precautions to reduce these risks. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people with HIV avoid foods that can cause food poisoning, such as raw eggs, raw meat, unpasteurized dairy products, and seafood. Also wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), a nutritious diet has several benefits for people living with HIV or AIDS, including:
- Improved resistance to infections and complications
- Reduce side effects of medications
- Relief of HIV symptoms
- Improve people’s quality of life
These foods include:
- Fruit: Eat a variety of fruits of different colors, such as blueberries, peaches, and grapes.
- Vegetable: Vary your vegetable intake to include different colored vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, and beets.
- Full grain: These foods contain dietary fiber. Examples include oats, brown rice, and 100% whole grain bread.
- Protein: Good sources include beans, eggs, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and lean meats. • Low-fat dairy products:
- Examples include low-fat cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt.
Foods and beverages that people with HIV or AIDS and a weakened immune system should avoid include:
- Salt: Foods with the highest sodium content include cold meats, soups, breads, pizza, and sandwiches.
- Sugar: This includes sweet drinks and desserts such as ice cream, cakes, cookies, tarts and pastries.
- Unhealthy Fats: These include saturated fats found in fatty meats and palm oil. You should also avoid trans-fats in processed foods, including partially hydrogenated oils. A person is infected with HIV or AIDS and has a weakened immune system. Proper nutrition and diet help your immune system fight infections. Certain eating habits can also help manage many of the eating problems that people with HIV or AIDS can have, such as nausea and difficulty swallowing. A balanced diet for people living with HIV or AIDS includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Also, limit your intake of foods high in salt and sugar, and foods high in saturated and trans-fats.
Good nutrition is very important for long-term health and well-being. Research shows that people living with HIV eat healthy foods in appropriate amounts on a regular basis, tolerate HIV treatment, maintain a healthy weight, and feel better overall. Professionals often use the term ‘nutritional status’ to describe whether you are getting the right amount of nutrients from your diet. Diet here means everything you eat and drink, not specific dietary restrictions for weight loss.
HIV-related changes in any of these factors can affect nutritional status. Over time, this can lead to a variety of problems, including:
- Weight loss
- Muscle wasting (muscle loss)
- High levels of fat and sugar in the blood
- Not getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Some important recommendations
Regular exercise helps reduce the risk of HIV- and ART-related complications, such as high blood fat levels and loss of muscle mass. It also helps improve overall quality of life and mental health. Sleep disturbance such as sleep apnea and insomnia can adversely affect health and worsen disease progression, so it’s important to see a doctor. If you are HIV-positive, nutritional deficiencies can have a negative impact on your health and exacerbate disease progression. Smoking is more life threatening to people with HIV than the general population and can lead to a variety of health complications, including lung cancer. If you currently smoke, you should take steps to quit. It is best to limit your alcohol intake. If you’re having a hard time quitting after starting to drink in moderation or drinking, or if you feel you need or depend on alcohol, you’ll feel empowered to seek support.
Parkash Meghwar is M. Phil Scholar at Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Karachi.