By: Helen Ruth
If you are HIV positive then proper nutrition is essential to ensuring that you remain as strong and healthy as possible. The medication that you take on a daily basis to keep your HIV symptoms under control, as well as the progression of the disease itself, will cause your body to undergo changes, and wasting is a common side-effect, which is why focusing on what you are eating and ensuring that your diet is nutritionally balanced is so important. What’s more, HIV positive individuals are more likely to suffer from diarrhea, and lipid abnormalities, which makes maintaining good levels of food hygiene and watching what you are eating particularly important.
The healthy balanced diet of an individual that is HIV positive is slightly different to that of someone who is not HIV positive. Here are the dietary changes you should make, and why good nutrition is so important:
Increase Your Protein Consumption
The right nutritional balance can help to boost your immune system: protein consumption is particularly important for immune system strength as well as for building muscles and the preventable weight loss that often accompanies HIV diagnosis. If you want to keep your weight under control whilst increasing your protein consumption then seafood is an excellent source because it is low fat, as well as containing high levels of protein. Other excellent sources of protein include lean beef, pork tenderloin, and white-meat poultry. If you are following a vegetarian diet, or looking for a more affordable protein source, then soy, eggs, beans, and dairy products (such as cheese, milk and yoghurts) are all a great source of protein.
Add Starchy Carbohydrates
Although carb-free diets are very popular right now, now is not the time to cut carbs from your diet. Starchy carbohydrates are essential for giving you a much-needed energy boost that is essential when your treatment or condition is leaving you feeling lethargic and fatigued. Some of the healthiest forms of starchy carbohydrate to introduce into your diet include: brown rice, potatoes, whole meal pasta and bread. Not all carbs are created equally: avoid carbohydrates that are high in saturated fat and sugar, such as cakes and cookies. Whilst these kinds of foods may give you an energy boost in the short-term, in the long term they will only leaving you feeling increased levels of fatigue, as a result of the spike and then drop in your sugar levels that they cause.
Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption
For many individuals, an HIV positive diagnosis is the wake-up call that they need to completely overhaul their lifestyle and change it for the better: improving their diet, increasing their fitness levels by exercising more frequently, and completely cutting out alcohol and drugs from their lifestyle. If your former lifestyle was particularly decadent then undergoing a short period of detox before switching to a new, healthy and balanced, lifestyle may well be particularly beneficial.
Research has suggested that the dangerous side effects of alcohol consumption can be more harmful when you are HIV positive, and positive people feel the effects of the alcohol they have consumed much faster than negative individuals. If you enjoy drinking, and consider it a positive part of your lifestyle, then you don’t have to cut it out completely, but it would be a good idea to drastically reduce the amount of alcohol you intake.
Maintain your Weight
Being both dramatically underweight and dramatically overweight can have increased negative effects on your health when you are HIV positive. Maintaining a normal, healthy weight is one of the best things you can proactively do for yourself to help you manage your condition. One of the best ways to maintain your weight, and increase your overall levels of health and wellbeing, is to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables: recommended guidelines suggest that you aim to consume at least five portions a day, but for optimal health it is now recommended that you aim to consume 10 separate helpings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet may seem like hard work, but when used in conjunction with the medication plan laid out by your physician, for many patients that are HIV positive, it can literally make the difference between life and death.