Part of HIV & You: Managing Gut Symptoms
Last Reviewed: February 1, 2015
Many factors can cause gas to build up inside your stomach, which leads to any number of uncomfortable feelings: stomach pain, cramps and -- most embarrassingly -- flatulence (farting).
|Name: Pastor Andrena Ingram|
|CD4 Count: 565|
|Viral Load: Undetectable|
|Job: Lutheran church pastor|
PASTOR ANDRENA INGRAM knows never to schedule a meeting before 10 a.m. Before then, "I'm taking care of business," she says. Andrena believes her morning diarrhea is due in part to taking meds at night; that's why she takes them then, so she can make her bathroom trip before her day begins. It's a far cry from the diarrhea she had on previous meds: "It's not debilitating, but it is a routine."
Andrena has cut back on eating some things she loves, like dairy products and foods that are spicy or fried. Some items have been hard to let go -- she still drinks coffee with milk, though both caffeine and dairy likely contribute to her gut symptoms, which include passing gas and bloating.
Andrena occasionally takes over-the-counter anti-gas or antidiarrheal medications, but prefers not to add more pills to her regimen of Norvir, Prezista and Truvada. So, for now, she manages her gut symptoms by adapting her diet and routine; utilizing the air freshener she carries at all times ("They have those tiny bottles of Febreze"); and, of course, employing her wonderful sense of humor.
Read Andrena's blog at TheBody.com/pastor-ingram.
THERE ARE A VARIETY of supplements manufactured specifically to curb gas, available at any local drugstore. Beano, for instance, claims to prevent gas from foods such as beans, broccoli, onions, whole grains and pasta. Lactaid can help with lactose intolerance.
Simethicone, at doses of 80-120 mg up to four times a day, may be prescribed. Gas-X contains simethicone and can relieve the discomfort of gas, pressure and bloating. Activated charcoal supplements may help decrease gas, but are not recommended since they can impair absorption of HIV medications.
Over-the-counter antacids can also be used to relieve gas, but may interact with some HIV meds. Be sure to talk with your doctor before you take them. Acupuncture may relieve gas in some people.
Bloating may occur without the presence of gas. It is very difficult to assess the cause of bloating that is not due to gas or indigestion. Eating smaller meals, avoiding foods that are spicy or high in sugar, and exercise may decrease the severity of bloating.
If your HIV meds are the cause of your gas and anti-gas treatments or alternative methods don't help, then it may be time to talk with your doctor about switching HIV medications.
|CD4 Count: About 300|
|Viral Load: Undetectable|
|Job: Airline employee currently on leave|
IN THE EARLY DAYS of combination HIV therapy, Steven was a "guinea pig" for every drug study he could join. It was his Norvir-containing regimens (including Kaletra, which has some Norvir in it) that caused gut side effects such as painful bloating and chronic diarrhea. He treated the symptoms with homeopathic remedies, drugs like Lomotil and prescription-strength Imodium, and fiber in the form of Metamucil that he added to his diet.
Then, in 2007, Steven was treated for HPV-related anal cancer. "Radiation treatment killed all the friendly flora in my gut," he says. His doctor at the time prescribed "the big guns" of gut symptom management: tincture of opium, which is often used when other options have proven ineffective. "It's not mind or mood altering, but I wasn't too hot on the idea that it was a controlled substance," Steven remembers. Still, it worked beautifully, and has ever since. "I generally take four or five drops under my tongue, before I eat anything -- or else my food will go right through me, undigested."
Today, Steven still participates in drug studies -- his current HIV medication regimen consists of an investigational drug -- and his viral load is finally undetectable. Steven also remains cancer free.
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