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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Nutrition and HIV/AIDS

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Nutrition and HIV: Coping with Special Problems

Your body may have a variety of responses to HIV and you may also experience side effects from medications. Here are tips for dealing with some of the most common problems.

Nausea and vomiting

  • Try bland, low-fat foods, such as plain pasta, canned fruit, or plain broth
  • Eat smaller meals every one to two hours.
  • Avoid greasy or spicy foods, or foods with strong odors.
  • Drink ginger tea or ginger ale.
  • Eat more cold foods and fewer hot foods.
  • Rest between meals, but don't lie flat.
  • Ask your doctor about nausea medications.


  • Drink more fluids than usual. Try diluted juices or Gatorade.
  • Limit milk and sugary or caffeinated drinks.
  • Eat slowly and more frequently.
  • Avoid greasy foods.
  • Try the B.R.A.T. diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) for a brief time.
  • Instead of fresh produce, try well-cooked vegetables or canned ones.
  • Try calcium carbonate supplements or fiber supplements like Metamucil wafers.

Lack of appetite

  • Exercise to help stimulate your appetite.
  • Don't drink too much right before meals.
  • Eat with family or friends, making meals as attractive as possible.
  • Try smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Include a variety of textures, shapes, and colors.
  • Ask your doctor about medications that stimulate appetite.

Too much weight loss

  • Include more protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet.
  • Use cream or half and half on cereals. Add ice cream to desserts.
  • Eat dried fruits or nuts for snacks.
  • Talk to your doctor about adding a nutrition supplement, such as Boost, Ensure, or Carnation Instant Breakfast.
  • Ask your doctor about medications that stimulate appetite and treat nausea.

Mouth and swallowing problems

  • Eat soft foods such as yogurt or mashed potatoes.
  • Avoid raw vegetables; cook them instead.
  • Choose softer fruits, such as bananas or pears.
  • Stay away from acidic foods, such as oranges, lemons, and tomatoes.
  • See your doctor to make sure you do not have an opportunistic infection or need more diagnostic testing.

Lipodystrophy (fat redistribution syndrome)

  • Limit fat, especially saturated and trans fats.
  • Choose unsaturated fats and sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna.
  • Limit alcohol, and refined sugars.
  • Prevent insulin resistance by limiting foods that raise glucose and insulin levels: primarily carbohydrates.
  • Eat more fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Exercise.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 17, 2014
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