The immune system

Your eating and ARV treatment

It’s a partnership.

Eating balanced meals is critical when you’re taking ARVs.

Stick to the plan

Coping with your diagnosis itself is a major uphill climb. There’s so much information being thrown at you at that moment you find out; it’s hard to make sense of it all. One of the last things you might be thinking about at this point is the changes you need to make to your eating habits. This being said, there is also a lot of great reference material to help you cope with this life-changing news.

One thing you need to be very strict about is your treatment regimen. You need to pay special attention to when and how your medicine should be taken. If you’re placed onto a co-infection programme, it’s even more vital. One wrong step could make you sicker because of the chemical reactions (see below) inside your body. If you do miss a dose, contact your doctor, nurse or clinic sister as soon as possible for further instructions. 

Another important thing is to never act on assumptions. Something as simple as taking your missed dose along with your next dose may make sense to you but it could have a major impact on your body. Because of this, whenever you’re in doubt, always speak to your healthcare professionals.

Did you know?

At AllLife, we support your treatment adherence. We send you regular reminders about medication and medical appointments.

How ARVs work

ARVs, and any other medication include chemicals that are designed to react with your body in a very specific way. Just like in chemistry class, some substances mix well and others cause disaster. Imagine that risk inside your body, if you mix the wrong chemicals together.

This is why treatment adherence and healthy eating go hand in hand. What we eat and drink contains ingredients and additives which cause a variety of chemical reactions inside us. Your ARVs are digested along with your food. The right foods aid digestion so that your medicine can work inside your bloodstream. 

The importance of fibre

Fibre helps keep your digestive system healthy and your bowel movements regular. This means that no gut lining prevents the absorption of vitamins, nutrients and minerals. An optimal meal plan includes between 28g-35g of fibre, daily.

While a lot of people avoid talking about things like bowel movements, you must tell your doctor about any changes you experience. Changes in your stool consistency, colour and odour can give doctors a lot of clues about any problems or side effects. Eating more fibre means that the number of times you excrete stools in a day can change. Don’t try to hold it in or prevent your body from processing this important function of getting rid of your body’s waste. That could lead to many more problems and interfere with your chemical balance and toxicity in your bloodstream.

Timing is everything

Introducing new chemicals into your body, potentially in large doses, requires careful monitoring and management. Not only do you need the right food groups, but you also need to do so at the right time. Too little substance inside your stomach could lead to acid reflux or ulcers. Too much of the wrong food groups could also result in reduced absorption of your medication. Be sure to ask your doctor, nurse or clinic sister about the exact conditions and timing to take your medication.

Some foods, like fruit, are best eaten on an empty stomach for nutritional value. Others, like proteins, are better when digested alongside vegetables for a good mix of enzymes to break down a variety of nutrients altogether. You can also click here to view three handy rules to live by when it comes to managing your eating. 

Handy tips

  • Always wash your hands before you prepare, serve, or eat food.
  • Ensure your kitchen and food preparation spaces are clean.
  • Cook food to the right temperature to prevent food poisoning.
  • Keep raw meat separate from fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread.
  • Ensure you drink potable water.


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World Health Organisation. 2003. Nutrient requirements for people living with HIV/AIDS: report of a technical consultation. Geneva: World Health Organisation. Available at: [Accessed 30 July 2019].

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