Positive Living: Looking After Yourself (cont.)

There are many products on the market (such as Ensure and Advera) that have proven to be reliable sources of nutrients for people with HIV or AIDS. These supplements, which often come in liquid form, can be great food on the run, if you don't feel like cooking, or if you just want to boost your protein a bit. It's important to remember these products are not meant to replace meals, they are supplements. It is very important that you maintain a balanced diet to the best of your ability.

Fighting HIV Symptoms with Food


Diarrhea is a fairly common problem, and becomes even more so with HIV disease. If you have chronic diarrhea, it's even more important that you get good nutrition and liquids into your body. Check with your health care provider to see if any parasites or your medications may be causing the diarrhea. Here are some nutrition suggestions for helping to reduce diarrhea:

  • Avoid high fiber foods such as raw vegetables, fresh fruits, dried beans, and bread, cereal or pasta made from whole grain because they will make your stools looser. Eating white bread, white rice and pasta is helpful because they are processed and they will stay with you better. Potatoes, applesauce, canned fruits, cooked cereals, melons and skinless fruits are all good options. Avoid prunes or any other fruit with seeds.
  • Avoid hot spices - peppers, chili powder or Tabasco can make diarrhea worse.
  • Try to stay away from foods that cause gas, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, green peppers and onions.
  • Avoid citrus fruits and try to drink fruit nectars, such as apricot, instead.
  • Switch to decaffeinated drinks. Caffeine will make food and water go through your system faster.
  • If you are at all lactose intolerant, you will probably be experiencing a lot of bloating, gas and cramping. You might try a lactose reduction aid like Lactaid, or stay away from dairy products until the diarrhea passes.
  • Sometimes greasy or fried foods, butter and oils can cause diarrhea. There are now a lot of fat free foods on the market you may want to try.

Diarrhea causes dehydration so drink lots of fluids. Try to drink eight or more glasses of juice or calorie-rich liquids each day. Water is best. Severe diarrhea can cause a lack of protein. Check with your health care provider to make sure that you are getting enough protein in your diet.


For most people, feeling sick and throwing up is related to infection, stress, medication or medical treatment. If nausea lasts for more than two days, call your health care provider. Here are some tips for dealing with nausea:

  • Drink clear and cool beverages; sip them slowly using a straw.
  • Eat small amounts of food many times during the day - a few mouthfuls
  • Eat bland foods such as potatoes, rice, bread, noodles and fruit. It's good to go by the "BRAT" formula: bananas, rice, applesauce and dry toast.
  • Avoid skipping meals - an empty stomach will make you feel sicker.
  • Avoid fried or greasy foods, very sweet foods, spicy foods, and strong-smelling food.
  • Do not lie down for at least one hour after eating.


Unfortunately, the mouth is a breeding ground for all sorts of opportunistic diseases. And since that's where your food goes first, the infections can be a real annoyance and can keep you from getting the nutrition you need. Fortunately, thrush and other mouth infections can be treated with medicine and sometimes by a change in diet. Here are a few suggestions to help with eating if you have a mouth infection:

  • Don't eat food with a lot of acid in it. Stay away from lemons, limes, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruits, etc. Apple juice, milk, soy or rice milk, and supplements will reduce a lot of the sting that you might get from more acidic foods.
  • Try to avoid carbonated drinks (soda pop, sparkling water), hot coffee or tea, and alcohol because they can cause severe mouth pain.
  • To relieve dry mouth caused by medication try gum, hard candy, or breath spray. Avoid candy and chewing gum containing Sorbital - it may cause diarrhea.
  • Eat softer foods like stews, casseroles, ice cream, bananas, etc. If a food is too hard, make it softer. Try dipping your bagel in coffee or your cookies in milk. Add butter and cream sauces to pasta dishes; this makes them easier to chew and swallow.
  • Ice cream, popsicles or ice cubes can numb your mouth for a while andn provide some relief.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is common and can be a serious problem in HIV disease. Sometimes what seems like a few pounds lost can quickly turn into twenty or thirty pounds. It is very difficult to regain this weight. If you experience a loss of 10-15 pounds without intending to do so, consult your doctor or a nutritionist.

You might want to consider nutritional supplements such as Ensure. You need as many calories as possible and these drinks are easy to carry around with you. If you haven't already, check with your health care provider to figure out which supplement is best for you. Additionally, health care providers can prescribe an appetite stimulant if they feel it is needed.