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The nutrition experts in our professional membership are ready to help you create the change to improve your life. Find an Expert. Freshly Picked. What Is a Whole Grain? Thus, nutrients are an important tool for helping people to feel better and maintain a higher quality of life. For people coinfected with HIV and hepatitis all of the above is doubled in importance since the body must handle more than one chronic infection, and has a particular need to support the liver, and prevent it from being damaged.

How does nutrition become a problem in HIV?

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Unfortunately, research has shown that nutritional problems are among the first negative effects of HIV infection. These problems—deficiencies in certain nutrients—often get worse over time and can contribute to immune dysfunction and disease progression in multiple ways. There are several reasons why these deficiencies are common: Nutrients burn faster: As discussed above, the immune system is continuously fighting HIV—even when anti-HIV drugs are being used—and repairing damage caused by the virus and other infections. This causes the body to burn nutrients faster, which can cause many nutrient levels to become low.

Some HIV-positive people have a difficult time absorbing fat, which can prevent the absorption of important vitamins like A, E, D and K. This may be due to fatigue, appetite loss, changes in the senses of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, infections or other problems of the mouth or throat, or simply not knowing how to eat to best support health. Which nutrients are deficient?

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It is common for HIV-positive people to have multiple nutrient deficiencies, even early on in the course of infection. Researchers have reported that in both children and adults, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, copper, B-6, and B all of which are important for an intact immune response are common in HIV-positive people, even before their immune system becomes damaged. In people with AIDS, nearly every specific nutrient is deficient. Researchers have also reported that these deficiencies appear to speed disease progression and that replenishing these nutrients including B-6, B, and zinc can actually help boost CD4 T4 cell counts.

Many other researchers have reported that deficiencies of glutathione and other important antioxidants including vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium are common.

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These free radicals serve an important immune purpose but after their mission is carried out, they need to be countered by antioxidant nutrients in order to stop a chain reaction that could otherwise damage the body. Researchers have shown that oxidative stress is very common in both HIV disease and hepatitis C , and is a factor in progression of both diseases.

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Keeping optimal levels of antioxidants in the body is crucial to lessen oxidative stress and prevent body damage. The amount of this oxidative damage increases early in HIV disease, and tends to worsen over time. For example, studies have shown that decreased levels of glutathione, the most important antioxidant found in cells, occur within weeks of HIV infection. The lowered levels of glutathione lead to immune cell dysfunction in multiple ways, and allow body cells and tissues to become damaged from the oxidative stress.

In fact, researchers have shown that lowered levels of glutathione are strongly tied to an increased risk for disease progression. Insufficient glutathione also means that the liver is less able to properly break down drugs and other toxins, increasing the potential for liver damage from meds. Thus, boosting glutathione levels is important for anyone living with HIV. How can I improve my nutrition? There are two sources for obtaining the nutrients that can meet all the needs discussed in the previous sections: eating and drinking the right kinds of foods and liquids, and taking appropriate nutrient supplements— vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids.

Thus, any information aimed at improving nutrition in HIV-positive people must begin with a discussion of diet. Research continues to show us that nutrients about which nothing was known in the recent past may play critical roles in immune function and health preservation. The first step in ensuring the presence of all the nutrients required to meet the needs of those living with HIV is making the most of what you eat.

In the simplest terms, this means consuming a wide variety of whole foods—as opposed to processed, nutrient-poor foods—every day, along with plenty of water and the other healthful liquids that your body needs to function at its best. Instead of struggling to follow complex dietary rules, it is easier for most people to just look at the overall picture and try to always choose healthful foods, while avoiding those that adversely affect health.

So here are some simple guidelines to accomplish that: Choose carbohydrates wisely. Certain breads, cereals, rice, and pastas are good carbohydrates that are rich in nutrients and loaded with fiber. Along with the carbohydrates you get from fruits and vegetables, they can provide a substantial portion of the energy you need every day.

Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis. Aim for at least three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit each day. One serving of vegetables is approximately one cup of raw vegetables or one-half cup of cooked vegetables. One serving of fruit is approximately one-half cup of fresh chopped or canned fruit.

Get plenty of protein. Protein is essential for a healthy body and a stronger immune system. You can choose from a wide variety of foods that will contribute to your total protein intake, including lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, milk, yogurt, and cheese.

The exact amount you need may need to be adjusted, based on individual needs. Watch intake of fats and sweets. Although a reasonable amount of the good kinds of fats is healthy, keeping the overall fat content of the diet moderately low is important since researchers have shown that a high fat intake can be immunosuppressive, can cause diarrhea in some HIV-positive people, and is tied to an increased risk of progression to cirrhosis in those also living with chronic hepatitis C.

For those with taking HIV medications causing elevated blood fats, a high-fat diet could also be risky to cardiovascular health. They contain few nutrients and are often used as substitutes for more healthful foods that should be eaten. Lowering your intake of sweets and white-flour snack foods will likely improve your intake of healthy nutrients, help keep triglyceride levels in check, and maintain cardiovascular health. Remember variety and color. Each food has its particular strengths and weaknesses in terms of nutrient content so choosing from a wide variety of foods at each pyramid level will help ensure intake of all the nutrients nature can provide, rather than the more limited number that might result from repeating the same foods over and over.

And emphasizing color when you select that wide variety of foods is nutritional insurance. Malnutrition accelerates the onset of the disease and give rise to repeated illnesses because of their weakened immune systems. Consequently, HIV and malnutrition provide a cyclic form of feedback for each other, with worsening conditions of malnutrition being linked to a more rapid onset of HIV.

People living with AIDS have impaired immune systems and therefore are more susceptible to infections and diseases due to foodborne pathogens. Food safety includes food handling, food preparation and food storage, all to be dealt with carefully to ensure safety from food-borne bacteria.


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Those that are more prevalent in people with AIDS include Salmonella , which is the most common cause of illness, being times more prevalent in AIDS patients than healthy individuals. Washing your hands, the food about to be prepared, kitchen utensils and kitchen surfaces is effective against bacterial growth.

A Practical Guide to Nutrition for People Living with HIV

Keeping raw meat and cooked meat separate and cooking foods thoroughly, using a food thermometer to be sure. And lastly, storing leftover foods in the refrigerator within two hours to ensure minimal risk of food-borne illnesses. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Journal of the American Medical Association. USDA Diet and Disease. Association of Nutrition Service Agencies. Archived PDF from the original on March 25, Retrieved March 31, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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