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Food and the symptoms of HIV

Despite the increase in life expectancy and quality of life following the introduction of antiretroviral drugs, some typical symptoms caused by the HIV virus can appear during treatment, such as weight loss or gain, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores and/or pain when swallowing, dry mouth, heartburn, gas, fever and night sweats, constipation, high triglycerides and cholesterol, Lipodystrophy Syndrome, among others. According to Andrea Zumbine, director of the Nutrition service at Hospital Emílio Ribas in São Paulo, and Roberta Camargo, head nutritionist in the Clinical Nutrition department at the same institution, there are specific dietary precautions that can minimize these undesirable effects. See below for their advice:

Weight loss: Divide your diet into small meals - 5 to 6 meals a day; include energy foods such as powdered milk, grated cheese, sour cream, olive oil, etc. in your meals; use nutritional supplements, always under the supervision of a nutritionist.

Inappetence: Eat meals in the company of family and friends, making it a pleasurable activity. Avoid stress, depression and isolation as much as possible. Eat meals at regular times, varying the combinations, avoiding monotony and diet foods; do not drink liquids during meals.

Nausea and vomiting: avoid fasting for too long, eat every 3 hours; when you wake up, eat dry food, such as crackers, cookies and toast, without liquids; suck on ice; ice cream can also reduce symptoms; opt for cooked food and avoid very hot temperatures; don't drink liquids with meals and, in cases of vomiting, drink homemade saline solution; avoid very sweet or spicy meals. Lighter and milder preparations will be more acceptable.

Diarrhea: Avoid drinking milk until symptoms subside; drink plenty of fluids, avoid sugar, sweets, sweeteners and fried foods, as well as raw and fiber-containing foods; increase consumption of potassium-containing foods such as bananas, potatoes and white meats; prefer carbohydrates such as bread, toast, crackers without filling, cooked vegetables, lean meats, raw or cooked fruit without peel. The use of oral rehydration serum, coconut water and pro-biotics to restore intestinal flora is recommended, under the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist.

Sores in the mouth and pain when swallowing: It is recommended to consume foods in liquid form, soft or well-cooked, such as purees, soups, broths, yogurt, pasta, creams and porridges. Spicy preparations and acidic foods should be avoided; the temperature of the food should not be hot, giving preference to cold or room temperature food; rinse your mouth before and after meals; use a straw as necessary. If swallowing is painful, give preference to well-cooked food, avoiding liquid food. Food that is more solid but softer is useful to help it pass through the glottis.

Heartburn: avoid spicy, fatty foods and coffee; don't lie down after meals; avoid sweets.

Gas: avoid carbonated drinks, beer, sweets, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, sweet potatoes; chew food well, eating with your mouth closed and not talking while eating; reduce your intake of insoluble fibers such as grains and cereals.

Fever and night sweats: increase fluid intake, maintain a varied diet and increase calorie intake.

Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a type of fat found in our bodies which, although it is essential for our bodies to function, when in excess (hypercholesterolemia), deposits itself on the walls of the arteries and can cause angina, heart attacks and strokes. The main factor in preventing its appearance or worsening is to maintain a healthy diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and cereals, avoiding excessive intake of foods containing animal fat. Eat cooked, roasted or grilled food and avoid fried foods and fats such as bacon, bacon, poultry skin, whole milk and its derivatives, yellow cheeses and sausages. Engage in regular physical activity.

Triglycerides: Hypertriglyceridemia occurs when the level of triglycerides in the blood exceeds 200 mg/dL, which can form fatty plaques that accumulate on the walls of the arteries, hindering circulation and becoming one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It's not enough to control the fat in your diet, you need to change the quantity and quality of the carbohydrates you eat. You should give preference to whole grain breads, cereals and pasta (brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole grain breakfast cereals, whole grain crackers, bran, etc.); moderate your consumption of French bread, tubes, sweet cookies, puff pastry, polished white rice, pasta and cornmeal; avoid sweets, snacks, soft drinks, fatty foods and replace sugar with sweetener; increase your consumption of fiber and also practice regular physical activity.

Lipodystrophy: This is a syndrome in which changes occur in the distribution of body fat and can be associated with early atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus and other pathologies. Therefore, a healthy diet is essential to keep cholesterol, triglyceride and glucose levels at the right levels. A nutritionist is best placed to help in this situation.

Constipation: The diet of people with constipation should aim to improve intestinal function by stimulating intestinal work. It should be high in fiber and substances with a laxative effect, i.e. increase consumption of raw foods, leafy greens, whole grains and fruit with peel. Fluid consumption (at least 2 liters of water a day) is extremely important, as is physical exercise.

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