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Nutritional care and the use of antiretroviral drugs

Since the advent of antiretroviral therapy, HIV infection has been considered potentially controllable, which has made a very positive contribution to the quality of life of people living with the virus. However, adherence to treatment also includes other prevention and control measures, which often require behavioral and dietary changes.

According to Andrea Zumbine, director of the Nutrition service at the Emílio Ribas Hospital in São Paulo, and Roberta Camargo, head nutritionist in the Clinical Nutrition department at the same institution, patients living with HIV should eat a balanced and healthy diet just like the general population, maintaining a balance between quality, quantity and variety, avoiding alcohol, smoking and drugs, so that the body reacts better to infections.

People living with HIV are more prone to health problems. Therefore, taking care with hygiene, both in preparation and consumption, is essential to avoid diseases transmitted through food, warns Andrea Zuimbine .

According to Roberta Camargo, food alone cannot improve the levels of T-CD4 (the body's defense cells), but some nutrients help to keep the immune system functioning much more strongly. These include foods that contain vitamins A (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables), C (citrus fruits, oranges, lemons, strawberries, kiwi, papaya, acerola, red peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts), E (vegetable oils, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, soybeans, eggs, avocado), soy, eggs, avocado), folic acid (beans, almonds, peanuts, lentils, cereals, corn, soy, milk), along with minerals such as selenium (Brazil nuts, marine foods, liver, meat and poultry) and zinc (meat, fish, including oysters and shellfish, poultry, milk, whole grains, beans and nuts).

Another issue is the interference of some antiretroviral drugs in the process of nutrient absorption, or the impairment of the potency of some drugs due to the intake of certain foods. See the table below for examples:

Other common problems in HIV patients are 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. Find out what nutritional care is recommended to prevent these symptoms by clicking here.





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