Living With HIV: Do You Need Supplements?

    Side view of a man taking a vitaminStaying healthy when you’re HIV positive is about so much more than taking antiretrovirals. Yes, HIV medications are the most important part of the equation for most people.

    However, they’re not the whole story…

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    For instance, ensuring that your body maintains optimal levels of key nutrients can be critical in maintaining your health.

    Much of the time, people with HIV can maintain good nutrient levels simply through a balanced diet, regularexercise and a healthy overall approach to the way they take care of their body. But it’s not always easy to do this — and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it’s still not enough to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need. When this happens, taking supplements can help fill the gaps.

    Please note that this information is not meant to be a comprehensive review of everything a person with HIV needs to know about supplements. It’s the beginning of the conversation that you should continue with your medical team.

    Why Bother With Supplements?

    The word “nutrients” refers to a group of chemicals that aid in all of the body’s natural functions, whether it’s cognition, digestion or immunity. Nutrients include vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

    You get most of your nutrients by eating food. But if you’re living with HIV, food might not always be enough, since the virus can impair your immune system or force it to work in overdrive.

    This is when supplements can come in handy.

    Supplements are substances you can take to make up for not getting enough nutrients through your everyday life. Although supplements are usually taken in pill, capsule or tablet form, they can also potentially be in powder or liquid form, and sometimes are required to be injected.

    Supplements can control or improve many aspects of your health, including:

    • bone health
    • brain function
    • dehydration
    • depression
    • diarrhea
    • fatigue
    • focus
    • lipids (such as cholesterol and triglycerides)
    • muscle mass
    • nausea
    • neuropathy
    • sleep disorders

    Many supplements also have antioxidant qualities, which relieve a condition called “oxidative stress.” Oxidative stress occurs in our bodies because every metabolic process produces chemicals that can damage healthy cells.

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