Weight Gaining Tips for People Living With HIV/Aids

When a person is not eating adequate food portions or sometimes when the food that they have eaten is not well absorbed, weight loss can occur. Hence, the body draws from its reserve stores of energy, which mainly come from body fat and muscle protein. Therefore, this leads to loss of body weight and muscle. Weight loss in adults is normally gradual and sometimes may not be that obvious. But when a person loses about 10 per cent of their body weight or about 6 to 7 kg in a month, then there is a cause for concern.

Special Eating Requirements for People with Aids

People infected with Aids develop special eating requirements and therefore needs to ensure they are put on a balanced diet. This will help them meet their increased nutrient essentials and hence maintain their nutritional status while avoiding the risks of weight loss.

A person living with Aids has increased energy and nutrient necessities as the body's defense system tries to work hard to fight the infection. Generally any infection will cause one to have fever which increases their body's demand for food and nutrients. The three main factors that cause weight loss and malnutrition in people infected with Aids are:
  1. Reduced dietary or nutrient intake.
  2. Reduced food and nutrition absorption.
  3. Increased nutrient requirements.
If these three major components are not addressed, weight loss and malnutrition is inevitable. when a person is malnourished, their immune system becomes weak and therefore they are not able to fight off infections. In the case of HIV infection, malnutrition causes the disease to progress faster to the Aids stage and as the disease progresses, opportunistic infections are increased.

This in turn lowers the CD4 cell count and the cycle continues. CD4 cell are the cells that constitute the main body's defense system. The HIV virus attacks these cells.

Many people living with Aids are not able to address these three components either due to ignorance or lack of financial capacity to cope. Unfortunately medical nutritional therapy has not been given the emphasis that it deserves, considering that it is one of the most important facets of the overall medical management of HIV/Aids.

Other reasons that may cause weight loss and malnutrition in people living Aids include:
  • Opportunistic infections coupled with other related symptoms such as sore mouth, oral thrush, diarrhea, painful chewing or swallowing due to sores in the mouth or throat, definitely lower volume of food intake.
  • The illness and drugs taken may reduce appetite or cause nausea.
  • Aids also reduces the absorption of food or cause the body not to absorb the food well. The virus may damage the gut wall which then affects the passage of food. When this happens, then diarrhea occurs as a result of food passing through the gut very quickly.
  • Loss of appetite due to depression, anxiety, isolation, tiredness, medication or even the disease itself.
Here are 7 tips on how to gain weight:
  • Increase foods from all the food groups to keep to the recommended percentages. Include staple foods such as maize, rice, arrow roots, potatoes, millet, sweet potatoes or bananas.
  • Eat more food by increasing your portions and also eating frequently.
  • Include beans, lentils, peas, groundnuts, peanuts or peanut butter and meats such as beef, chicken, goat meat and fish. Minced meat, fish and chicken of course are easier to digest. Also, add sugar, honey, jam to your food or beverage.
  • Introduce more dairy products to your daily meals such as sour milk, butter, yogurt and cheese. Fermented drinks like milk or porridge are more tolerated by persons with diarrhea.
  • Enrich your soups or porridge with powdered milk, full cream milk, buttermilk, yogurt. You can add the same also to mashed foods, cereals and sauces.
  • Increase your fat content gradually in your food by adding more fat or oil. Make sure you don't eat excess fat as this may cause diarrhea.
  • Do not skip meals. Remember you can only eat what the body is able to tolerate depending on the symptoms being experienced. Eat snacks regularly between meals. Choose bites such as sand witches with rich fillings like peanut butter, fruit yogurt and other healthy snacks.
Just like early treatment of infections is important, the same is even important for nutritional intervention. Seek nutritional help in the early stages of the disease so as to maintain adequate weight and live a positive life.

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