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Good and bad vitamins
Oct 15, 2001

Hi, I was wondering what vitamins are good for someone with HIV to take while not on meds. And what are some that I should stay away from. Thanks for your hard work.

Response from Ms. Fields-Gardner

While it may sound like a basic question, you have asked something that there isn't a good answer to...

At this moment, the "natural" part of vitamins is what you will find in your food. And, that is where you should start. Vitamins are not a good substitute for food for many reasons. The vitamins you find in food come in several forms and act in different ways, depending on what other things in foods can assist in their actions. For instance, if you eat yams you not only get vitamin A and beta-carotene in pretty high doses, but you get the pigments (such as canthaxanthin) many of which are pretty powerful antioxidant and can assist beta-carotene exponentially to make it a more powerful antioxidant.

With that in mind, start with your HIV-savvy dietitian and go through what you do now and what you could change to enhance those properties of foods.

Second, you will need to look at other risk factors that can contribute to poor nutrition, like smoking, alcohol, recreational drug use, and lack of exercise. These are "biggies" and are known to adversely affect what you want to accomplish: health.

And last, you can check into vitamins or mineral supplements to shore up additional needs. You should, however, be aware that there is some downside potential that we know less about. While many of my colleagues believe that HIV increases needs for certain nutrients, little is known about what levels may not be tolerated in HIV disease and what interactions "supplements" (think drugs) may have with medications and disease processes.

If, once you have been adequately evaluated, there is something to shore up or a special circumstance (such as diarrhea or vomiting), a personalized program can be worked out. The most that is known at this time is that HIV disease challenges nutritional status and that there are many factors to address in keeping nutritional health. I only wish it would all be available in a pill!


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