Nutrition & HIV

Nutrition is very important for the health and life quality of HIV patients. As soon as the infection is introduced, the patient’s body goes through significant changes that are due to both the disease itself and the medication taken by the patient.

The most common changes are weight and muscle mass loss, lipodystrophy and an increased susceptibility to infections. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, oral ulcers and swallowing difficulty are the main problems faced by HIV patients in their daily lives

Nutrition can affect the development of the disease. According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), in asymptomatic patients that follow a good diet regime, the symptoms of the disease occur later in time compared to the ones with undernutrition.

This is why an individualised nutritional scheme is necessary for patients to follow in each distinct stage of the disease. HIV patients are encouraged to follow a balanced diet that ensures sufficient intake of all nutrients, depending on their particular needs, to boost their immune system.

This is a list of the basic nutritional guidelines for HIV patients:

– Follow a diet regime rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and vegetable fibres.
– Consume fish, lean meat, chicken and eggs as often as you can.
– Combine all food groups in each of your meals (proteins, fats, carbohydrates).
– Keep well-hydrated (1.5 – 2 lt/day, preferably water).
– Consume small snacks inbetween meals, such as dried nuts, fruits, yoghurt and small sandwiches.
– Include in your diet sweets and do not replace them with other alternatives.

As the disease evolves, HIV patients are faced with specific symptoms, which sometimes are side-effects of medication. The following guidelines are grouped by each of these symptoms.


– Consume more rice, potatoes, bananas.
– Avoid pears, plums and figs.
– Avoid fatty foods.
– Avoid caffeine.
– For a while, consume less milk.
– Chew your food slowly.
– Keep well-hydrated.

Nausea and vomiting

– Try foods that are sweet in flavour and have a low fat content, such as pasta with no sauce, fruit preserves.
– Consume small but regular meals, e.g. every 2 hours.
– Avoid fatty, spicy and strong-smelling foods.
– Prefer cold to hot dishes.
– Rest after your meal, but do not lie down.
– Ask your attending doctor to prescribe some nausea medication.

Poor appetite

– Do not drink any juices before your meals.
– Consume small but regular meals (every 2 hours).
– Consume foods that you used to like in the past.
– Have your meals together with friends or relatives.
– Make your meals as appealing as possible.

Oral ulcers and discomfort in swallowing

– Consume smooth foods, such as yoghurt or mashed potatoes.
– Avoid raw vegetables. Prefer cooked ones (boiled, grilled, steamed).
– Choose soft fruits, such as bananas or fruit preserves.
– Avoid acidic foods, such as oranges, lemons and tomatoes.
– Use a food processor for harder foods and, if you wish, add some yoghurt.


As mentioned above, the nutritional scheme to be followed should definitely be personalised for each distinct stage of the disease. The guidelines given here are general and they should not in any way be a substitute for a qualified nutritionist advice.