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Mogwai Rule No. 1: On Nutrition After a New HIV Diagnosis

No Feeding After Midnight and Other New Rules

February 6, 2014

Do not feed after midnight.

One of the common themes when I began perusing the wealth of material in online forums was this:

After medication, nutrition is THE major adjustment thrust upon the recently-diagnosed.

And nutrition is something I can talk at length about until you'd be smacking me around to get me to shut up about it.

Why? What kind of "street cred" do I have?

Well: my father is a hippie. He's one of those guys who are all too common now (sensitive, foodie, maybe not the most macho thing, great with kids -- think 1970s John Lennon), but was rarer when I was a tot. Any devotion to raw produce I have as an adult I owe to him -- I recall him eating random greens with just some table salt on it: celery, green beans, even green onions! Diet is something learned very very early, so I think of him every time I crunch through a raw vegetable.

My mother is where I get my "white ethnic" from, and Euros have a very different relationship with food/nutrition than we do in the U.S. (EU ex-pats say we DO have the same food here, however it's so chock-full of preservatives that initially, anyway: it's inedible to them). Also, she has a degree in clinical nutrition, so any food science questions I have, she can answer -- or knows the right book to refer me to. It is because of her that I was forced to start eating quinoa 25 years ago (is this ... an example of a "humblebrag"?).

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Further: we should eat better because we CAN eat better. It's similar to how the advent/usage of clean drinking water 150 years ago made those human beings the luckiest in history. Due to the confluence of globalism and the internet, we have the ability to mine data on traditional remedies that the immuno-compromised simply did not have 20-30 years ago. To the point: we have the opportunity to be the healthiest human beings who ever existed.

The main point of this post: WOW has my palate changed in the past month. First, the overt: most of the time, when I have had to take a sick day, it's been due to throwing up ("going #3"), having diarrhea, or "going #5" (an affectionate faux-portmanteau I made up when stuff comes out both ends) within the first hour of waking up. The urban metropolis I inhabit doesn't have reliable public transit, so my very worst fear these days is sharting my pants while we're stopped endlessly for no apparent reason. Seriously. Freaks me out.

As mentioned prior, I take my T/t cocktail in the PM. This is mostly because my meds make me feel loopy, dizzy and out of focus. A bit more than over-the-counter medicine-head, but slightly less than completely baked.

I am finding myself reminded that the best way to ingest food is in small snack-sized meals, spaced as evenly as possible throughout the day. This way, your blood sugar levels remains constant -- which for me right now means my mood and nausea level will stay stable.

I knew when I started antiretroviral therapy (ART) that some side effects would go away over time, but others I would have to learn to live with. Doing the latter means changing some key routines in my life, to date.

This means my January saw me realizing that regular grocery shopping is a must -- no more bachelor-pad-leftovers-plus-maybe-a-couple-condiment-packets-in-my-fridge behavior for this one. My grocery excursions have become more time-consuming, as I hog space in the aisles while I stare at old favorites as though we were strangers.

And we are. We really, really are.

Animal fats? Nope, cannot do in the same capacity/frequency as before. Within hours of ingesting poorly-thought-out animal-offerings, my stomach will turn.

Spiciness? Not at all (I am slowly trying to re-introduce components of Indian curry spices -- starting with the "super-root" Turmeric). Anything quasi-Mexican burns my tongue something fierce, down to Cool Ranch Doritos and guacamole.

Dairy? Lately I'm trying to stay away from dairy as it produces mucus in the body, and mucus is an ideal shelter for HIV. Plus if I eat beyond a bite or two ... I get that same stomach turning motion within hours.

Processed sugar? Well, here's the crux of this entry: in recent years I had developed a bad habit. Namely, midnight snacking. Anytime I had trouble falling asleep, I would eat CANDY in bed. I would work through the blood sugar spike, and the ensuing plummet would send me into sleep (this is a risky tool for addressing insomnia -- there were many years in my early 20s where any kind of sugar past 2 in the afternoon would keep me up all night).

I have noticed, between talking with Positive friends and perusing online forums, that late-night junkfood snacking seems to be a generally new and verboten thing for the recently-diagnosed.

If I DO "feed after midnight," I wake up nauseous. My first impulse is to take a drink of water off of the nightstand. This ... will usually result in me throwing up within 10 minutes.

However, I've discovered an anti-spasmodic, anti-nausea secret that's really, really helping my adjustment to this new life. It's a tea, and my first post on it is coming up next ...


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A House in Virginia


Ben B.

Ben B.

Ben is an old soul from the American heartland. Indoctrinated as a child on AIDS education throughout the 80s/90s, he's fascinated by the sociological and psychological outcomes that resulted from that exposure, for all of us. Especially as new medicines and new generations rise to the challenge, relegating this once-fatal disease into "merely" a serious condition.

A recent diagnosis paired with this ancient education means internal conflict. Ben thrives on examining the layers of HIV-- where society, relationships and even the law are concerned.

Besides that, Ben's innate intellectual curiosity steers him toward diverse things such as immunity and diet, body politics, and "HIV subculture.

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