Overcome digestive discomfort from ARV treatment with these tips

Overcome digestive discomfort from ARV treatment with these tips

Many of the medications taken for various health problems can cause digestive discomfort, from nausea to diarrhea, which can make it more difficult to take the treatment properly.

In the case of drugs to combat HIV, gastrointestinal side effects are the most common and usually occur when a person starts taking antiretroviral treatment, so it becomes very important to control these discomforts.

Remember that modifying or stopping HIV medications can cause the virus circulating in your body to develop resistance to treatment, which will cause the infection to get out of control and it will be necessary to change the therapeutic regimen.

Fortunately, digestive discomfort is less these days than it was with the first antiretroviral drugs, and it’s also quite temporary, so know that after a few weeks you’ll feel better.

In any case, nobody wants to live with discomfort, so here are some recommendations to control the inconveniences that may arise when starting your antiretroviral treatment.

Put a stop to nausea and vomiting

Although some medications can cause irritation to the lining of the stomach or intestines, it is actually the “vomit center,” a part of the brain, that is activated when we start taking certain medical treatments.

As explained by the Venezuelan organization Stop HIV, if the vomiting center detects certain imbalances in the body, such as unknown substances entering the blood, it sends signals to the stomach to empty its contents. This can bring anything from a feeling of discomfort or “upset stomach” to vomiting.

Prolonged nausea can cause a person to stop eating, with the consequent malnutrition that this entails. On the other hand, the action of vomiting repeatedly can lead to dehydration, in addition to the fact that, more frequently, the ingested medications come out with the vomit, and this causes them not to be absorbed into the body.

Some simple measures you can take if you are facing nausea or vomiting are:

  • Eat small portions of food throughout the day, instead of three large meals.
  • If you feel nauseous, cut a lemon and smell it in order to relieve them. Drinking ginger tea also helps.
  • Avoid using too many condiments in your meals.
  • Eat foods that are low in fat but high in starch and carbohydrates (such as bread, rice, potatoes, corn or yogurt).
  • Chew slowly.
  • If you start to feel nauseous, breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Avoid odors such as tobacco smoke, perfumes or spicy foods.

Another common discomfort: diarrhea

Among the most serious consequences of diarrhea is the reduction in the amount of water and nutrients that the body absorbs. If the lost water is not replaced, you could become dehydrated. Dehydration causes dizziness, thirst, anxiety, weakness and confusion, even fainting.

If you start to suffer from diarrhea due to your antiretroviral treatment, put these tips into practice:

  • Try to follow a BRAT (acronym in English) diet, which consists of bananas, white rice, apple juice or puree, bread and tea.
  • Eat foods rich in starch (such as white rice, mashed potatoes and white bread).
  • Eat oatmeal or tofu.
  • Drink clear fruit juices, such as apple, peach or pear, and avoid those that are more irritating to the stomach, such as orange or grapefruit.
  • You can add nutmeg to food to slow down its movement through the intestines.
  • To replenish the electrolytes you lose with diarrhea, drink sports drinks or other rehydration drinks that you can get at the pharmacy.
  • Drink mint or ginger tea.

Everything is temporary

Whenever you feel digestive discomfort, remember that it is temporary. The most important thing is to stick to your treatment as prescribed by your doctor in order to keep HIV under control and achieve a better quality of life for much longer.

If you haven’t started your treatment yet or if you suspended it and want to resume it, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you. Locate our offices in your country or write to us on Whatsapp and make an appointment now.