If you are sick with HIV/AIDS you need more food to recover from illness. When your body does not get enough food it uses energy and protein stored in fat and muscles. This leads to weight loss, muscle weakness and malnutrition from which it takes longer to recover. Once weight has been lost it is difficult to regain it.
Why do people with HIV/AIDS not eat enough food?
- Illness and medicines reduce appetite, modify the taste of food and prevent the body from absorbing it.
- Symptoms such as a sore mouth, nausea and vomiting make it difficult to eat.
- Tiredness, isolation and depression reduce the appetite and the willingness to make an effort to prepare food and eat regularly.
- There is not enough money to buy food.
Gain weight by eating more food
- Eat more staple foods such as rice, maize, millet, sorghum, wheat, bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and bananas.
- Increase your intake of beans, soy products, lentils, peas, groundnuts, peanut butter and seeds, such as sunflower and sesame.
- Eat meat, fish and eggs as often as you can afford them.
- Increase the fat content of your food by using more fats and oils as well as eating fatty foods - oilseeds such as groundnuts, soy and sesame, avocados and fatty meat. If problems with a high fat intake are experienced (especially diarrhoea), reduce the fat intake until symptoms are over and then gradually increase it to a level the body can tolerate.
- Eat snacks regularly between meals. Good snacks are nuts, seeds, fruit, yoghurt, carrots, cassava chips, crab chips and peanut butter sandwiches.
- Add dry milk powder to foods such as porridge, cereals, sauces and mashed potatoes. However, avoid using coffee and tea whiteners, which do not have the same nutritional benefits as milk. Note that some people may find milk difficult to digest. It should be avoided if it causes cramps, a feeling of being full or skin rashes.
- Add sugar, honey, jam or syrup to your food.
Try to eat three good meals daily with frequent snacks in between
Keep active and stay fit
Exercise helps you to gain weight properly.
- Regular exercise strengthens the muscles, makes you feel energetic, helps to relieve stress and increases appetite.
- Cleaning, working in the field and collecting firewood and water may provide enough exercise.
- Find an exercise that you enjoy and can fit into your daily life.
- Walking, running, swimming or dancing are all suitable.
Increase your intake of vitamins and minerals
Your immune system needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. When you are ill with HIV/AIDS you need even more.
- Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit every day, as these are a valuable source of vitamins and minerals.
- Take care not to lose vitamins and minerals when cooking your food. Boil, steam and fry vegetables only for a short time.
- Multivitamin and mineral supplements, usually in the form of pills, can help but they are expensive and leave less money for food.
- Too many vitamins and minerals can harm you. If you take supplements, follow the instructions on the label.
- It is very important to try to eat, even though you may not feel like eating, to avoid weight loss.
- Treat infection as early as possible. If you are ill for more than a couple of days see a health worker.