Nutrition to prevent and heal tuberculosis

Anyone with a weak immune system is susceptible for tuberculosis (TB) in certain situations. These situations are malnutrition, diabetes, renal failure, long term drug/alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy for cancer, old age and living in unsanitary crowded places.

Good food that meets the recommended daily allowances of macro and micronutrients are imperative in preventing and treating tuberculosis.

TB patients have lowered appetite and nausea both of which make getting them to eat a difficult task for the caregiver.

Hence, the diet of a tuberculosis patient must consist of nutrient-dense foods that provide:

High quality proteins to repair the damaged tissue

  • The best and easily digestible proteins are from egg whites and milk. About 2 eggs and 3 glasses of milk are required in a day.
  • Other good sources of protein are chicken, fish, meat, cheese, nuts and seeds, pulses.
  • Because of low appetite and possible gastric disturbances the preparation should be low in spices and not fried. Therefore, initially, egg and milk based puddings, peanut butter/chutney, chicken soups, cheese/chicken sandwiches and fish/meat patties are good choices to include in the diet.
  • As the appetite increases, all regular non veg preparations may be eaten. Chicken/fish/meat also contain good amounts of iron that will correct anaemia.

Vitamin/antioxidant rich foods to increase immunity

  • Emphasize on fruits/juices especially oranges, mangoes, grapes, pineapple, pomegranates, lychees, sitaphal and vegetables especially the yellow and green varieties.
  • Vitamin C helps in healing and absorption of iron, and Vitamins A and E act as a potent antioxidants.

Sufficient calories to prevent breakdown of tissue and help recuperation

  • Prepare cereals and whole grains that are usually used, in any way that is appetizing to the patient. Since TB patients may eat only small quantities, whatever he/she eats should be calorie dense.
  • Calories may be increased by adding a little ghee or butter to porridges and rice, supplements like Ensure, Horlicks or Proteinex added to milk, or even a scoop of ice cream added to milk, butter and milk added to soups, etc.
  • Fruit juices provide more calories than fruits
  • A multivitamin (both water and fat soluble) tablet taken daily will ensure that whatever vitamin is missing from the diet is got.

Although good food is necessary, overfeeding the patient should be avoided.

Also read: TB: Risk factors
Image: Flickr creative commons futureshape