Positive Living: Looking After Yourself (cont.)
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
- 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
- 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 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.
Cooking and Eating Defensively
People with HIV get sick more
often from food-borne illnesses than other people. Everyone can get food
poisoning, but people with weakened immune systems can get a lot sicker.
Once someone with HIV gets sick from a food-borne illness, it can be
very hard to treat and can come back again and again.
Know how to protect yourself from
food-borne illness. Diseases such as salmonella, botulism or
hepatitis-A can cause serious infections or even death. Most of
these diseases are caught directly from an infected person, but you can
also be infected by raw or poorly cooked food, improperly canned food,
food contaminated by insects, and food that has been handled by someone
who has not followed proper food handling practices.