HIV Side Effects and Nutrition
Many people with HIV and those taking HIV medications experience a variety of adverse side effects. Dietary changes can be crucial in minimizing these side effects. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, reflux and heartburn.
Besides being uncomfortable, diarrhea and vomiting can cause excessive losses of fluids, nutrients, and electrolytes, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. What is eaten can make a big difference. Consultation with a dietitian will ensure that nutrient needs are being met while managing these side effects.
Treatment for Diarrhea:
- Avoid all dairy products – lactose intolerance is very common in people with HIV.
- Avoid greasy, high-fat foods.
- Avoid high-fiber food, whole grain foods, and popcorn.
- Avoid clear apple juice. Sometimes citrus juices can also cause problems.
- Eat more foods such as oatmeal, applesauce, grated apples, pears, potatoes (no skin), white rice, bananas, canned fruit (rinse off the syrup), yams, squash, and taro root. Limit raw salads, bran, seeds, and grain husks.
- Avoid foods high in sugar.
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated beverages, water, sports drinks, non-caffeinated sodas and broths. Suck on popsicles.
- If cramping and gas is a problem, avoid carbonated drinks, beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, highly spiced foods, sweets, and sorbitol-sweetened chewing gum.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
- The following recipe is helpful in reducing diarrhea. For persistent diarrhea, eat congee three times a day or more, plus fluids.
1 cup white rice
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt Cook until soft for about 40 minutes. Let thicken for 15 minutes. This will be the consistency of thin porridge or thick soup.
Treatment for Nausea:
- Avoid high fat foods.
- Drink clear and cool beverages.
- After keeping down fluids for a few hours, try small, frequent amounts of food.
- Eat white, bland foods such as crackers, toast, potatoes, rice, bread, cereal, and noodles.
- Eat cold foods.
- Aromas often aggravate nausea – stay out of the kitchen or sniff lemon wedges.
- Ask medical providers about medication to reduce nausea.
- Avoid skipping meals. A little food in your stomach helps to feel better.
- Drink ginger tea: boil 2 cups of water with ¼ inch of peeled ginger root. Let set for 10 minutes. Remove ginger and add honey or sugar to taste.
- Drink ginger ale or anything with ginger in it.
- Read medication labels: make sure to take with food or take without food as directed.
Treatment for Reflux and Heartburn:
- Avoid large meals; eat five to six small meals each day.
- Avoid eating meals or snacks for at least 2 hours before lying down.
- Avoid or limit the following foods that make reflux worse: caffeine (tea, coffee, colas), alcohol, chocolate, high fat foods (gravies, cream sauces, butter, oils, fried foods, salad dressing, high fat meats, chips, dip), peppermint, spearmint, and oils of garlic and onion.
- Limit the following foods that may irritate the stomach: coffee, tomato products, hot spices, pepper, citrus fruit and juices, and all carbonated beverages.
- Sleep with the head of the bed elevated by at least 4 inches.
- Avoid clothes that fit tightly around the waist.