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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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