Tuberculosis and Nutrition

Tuberculosis or TB as it is famously referred is an airborne contagious infection that affects the lungs. TB can be prevented by eating healthy food that enhances the immune system of the body. People with existing TB also need a nutritious diet because malnutrition is a common complication of the disease. The healthiest TB diet should basically be nutrient rich foods packed with essential minerals, vitamins and nutrients.Image

Nutritional response to infection

When a person is infected with TB, their body begins using more energy in an effort to fight the infection, while at the same time the infection causes a decline in appetite of the patient causing the patient to lose weight. The body starts to breakdown proteins for energy which causes muscle wastage in the patient’s body. The heightened energy expenditure and breakdown of tissue related to TB are believed to cause an increase in requirements of vitamins A, C, D, B6 and folate. In addition, trace elements including iron, selenium and zinc decreases during the infection, worsening the condition.

Nutritional Prevention of TB

TB can be prevented by eating a balanced diet particularly fruits and vegetables which are essential in strengthening the immune system. Other nutrient rich foods that can help prevent TB include low fat dairy products, whole grain, and lean proteins. Vitamins that are essentially critical for strong immunity include vitamins A, C, E and D. Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants which destroy harmful oxygen molecules in the body called radicals, thus protecting the body. Free radicals are responsible for destruction of cells and tissues, resulting to chronic diseases. Vitamin D on the other hand is important in regulating the immune system.

Nutritional factors that increase TB risk

Nutritional deficiencies are usually linked to an increased risk for TB infection and also have an effect on severity of the disease. The poorer the diet, the higher the likelihood of developing complications related to the disease. Besides, the nutritional status and utilization of nutrients of an infected person is adversely affected after infection. Furthermore, malnutrition can decline the effectiveness of the drug regiments which are taken by TB patients. If the immune system is weakened, nutritious foods can help restore the strength of immunity. Hence, nutritional intervention together with medical therapy just like for HIV patients could boost the outcome in malnourished patients of TB.

Nutritional treatment of TB

The risk and morbidity of infectious depend on the nutritional status of the individual patient. Similarly, the nutrition status, food intake and food utilization are largely affected during the response of the body to the disease. It is also of paramount importance to consider factors influencing food intake such as appetite, food availability, medication side effects, eating patterns, traditional food taboos, stigma, lifestyle factors (alcohol, smoking, caffeine intake, physical activities), psychological aspects (stress and depression) and economic factors. 

Nutritional needs in TB patients

  • Energy: Energy requirements of TB patients are raised because of the disease itself. In the case of HIV/AIDS, energy needs rise by 20 to 30% to maintain body weight.
  • Micronutrients: A good mineral and multivitamin supplement, supplying between 50 to 150% of the suggested daily allowance, is required since a person with TB is unlikely to meet the heightened requirements for vitamins and minerals with diet alone due to loss of appetite.
  • Protein: Protein is critical in to thwart the wasting of body reserves such as muscle tissues.

Nutritional needs of children with TB

A child’s intake of nutrition should be optimal to maintain the rapid growth periods of infancy and childhood. Due to the association between TB and malnutrition, kids with malnutrition or failing to achieve normal weight must be assessed for probable TB.

Consequently, children diagnosed with TB require lots of nutrients and energy as the child has increased requirements for both growth and TB. Since children have a small stomach capacity and less appetite, it usually becomes a challenge meeting their nutritional requirements. Therefore, to ensure adequate nutrients intake, it is important to plan and modify their diet carefully or seek nutritional advice.

Ultimately, TB is a rather traumatizing ailment as it is usually associated with HIV/AIDS. Nutritional counseling comes in handy in assisting patients to check their weight. It can be extremely difficult for people of low economic status to meet nutritional needs of a TB patient; hence TB is higher and severe in populations with low economic status.



Tuberculosis popularly known as TB is a potentially severe infectious disease that generally affects the lungs. TB causing bacteria are spread from one individual to another through tiny droplets released into the atmosphere through sneezes and coughs.

Types of TBImage

Though your body may harbour the TB causing bacteria, your body immune system normally can stop you from becoming sick. This is why doctors have classified TB into two forms;

Latent TB: This is a condition whereby one has TB infection, but the bacteria remain in the body in an inactive form and do not cause symptoms. Latent TB or TB infection or inactive TB is not contagious, though it may become active. Treatment is therefore important for an individual with latent TB as it can help control the spread of TB.

Active TB: This is the condition that makes a person sick and is contagious. It occurs either in the first few weeks after infection or in later years.

Symptoms of Active TB include; cough, fatigue, fever, chills, night sweats, unintentional weight loss and loss of appetite.

TB usually affects the lungs and symptoms include:

  • Coughing that lasts for more than 3 weeks,
  • Chest pain or pain while coughing or breathing
  • Coughing up blood or sputum.

TB may also attack other parts of the body such as the kidney, brain or the spine. Symptoms for these attacks vary depending on the affected organ.

For instance, when TB affects the kidney, blood may be present in the urine.

It’s advisable to see a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of TB so that tests can be performed.

Causes of TB

TB is caused by bacteria that are spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air through coughing; sneezing; talking; spitting or singing. Despite being contagious, it is not easy to get TB, hence it’s not likely for one to get infected by a stranger, but rather by a person that you spend more time with at home or at workplace. Mostly people with active TB who have had proper drug therapy for at least two weeks are not contagious.

HIV and TB

HIV and TB have a deadly relation. HIV infection represses the immune system, making it hard for the body to control TB causing bacteria. As such, people with HIV are more likely to contract TB and to progress from inactive to active TB than people who are HIV negative. This is why people have always associated TB with HIV.

Drug-Resistant TB

Also TB has remained a major killer due to the increased drug resistant strain of the bacterium. TB germs have developed the ability to survive antibiotics that were used to treat TB 60 years ago, and they are passed through descendants. Drug resistant strain occurs when an antibiotic can no longer kill all the bacteria it targets.

Risk Factors

TB can get anyone but there are particular factors that heighten ones risk of getting the disease. They include:

  • Weakened immune system: caused by some diseases and medications such as HIV/AIDS, certain cancers, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, end stage kidney disease, diabetes, malnutrition, very young or old age, some drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease.
  • International connection: people who travel to or travel to countries with high rates of TB such as India, sub-Saharan Africa, China, Mexico, and parts of the Soviet Union.
  • Poverty: people with low income or in the rural may have no access to medical care required to diagnose and treat TB.
  • Substance abuse: long term drug use including alcohol weakens the immune system making a person susceptible to TB. Smoking also raises the risk for TB.
  • Place of work or residence: people living in refugee camps and healthcare workers are at a great risk of getting TB.


If TB is not treated, it can be lethal. Active TB usually affects the lungs but can also spread to the brain, spine, liver or kidneys as well as to the heart.


TB is mainly treated by the use of medications, treating TB usually takes longer than other bacterial infections. TB medications are taken for period of at least 6 months. Vitamin D enhances effectiveness of TB medication. Side effects from TB medication are rare although they can be serious if present. They include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine, and fever that lasts for days.

Completing TB medication is very essential.


TB can be prevented through vaccination, completing medication, covering mouth when sneezing, ensuring your house is well ventilated among other health measures. 


Pneumonia is a lung infection characterized by inflammation of the air sacs in either one or both lungs. The air sacs may be filled with pus or fluid causing cough with pus, chills, fever and breathing difficulties. Pneumonia varies in severity from mild to fatal. It is more serious in children, infants, the aged (above 65years) and in those with pre-existing health problems or jeopardized immune system. Fortunately pneumonia can be treated using antibiotics or antiviral medications depending on the cause.Image
Causes of Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be caused by various agents. The most common causes of pneumonia are viruses and bacteria in the air. Normally, your body’s immune system is able to thwart these viruses and bacteria from causing pneumonia, but sometimes the body is overpowered. Pneumonia is likely to attack when one has flu or a cold, as these illnesses suppress the immune system. Having a chronic or long term ailment such as asthma, cancer, diabetes or heart disease increases susceptibility to pneumonia.  
Symptoms of pneumonia vary widely from mild to severe based on the germ causing it, age and overall health. Symptoms that are mild are usually similar to those exhibited by cold or flu but stay longer. Symptoms of pneumonia generally include;
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever, chills and sweating
  • Chest pain when breathing deeply or cough
  • Cough that may result to thick sticky fluid
  • Lower than normal body temperature in the elderly and in people with pre-existing health conditions.
  • Increased heartbeat.
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting

Newborns and infants may not exhibit any signs of infection. They may vomit, cough, have a fever, appears restless, fatigued or difficulty in eating and breathing. In older people, symptoms may include sudden changes in mental awareness. Pneumonia may be detected through taking an X-ray of the chest, blood test or pulse oximetry. Sputum from the lungs may also be tested to establish the cause of infection which will help determine treatment.  

Risk Factors

  • Pneumonia is likely in people older than 65 and infants.
  • Smoking and being placed in a ventilator also increases risk.
  • Chronic diseases such as heart disease as well as suppressed immunity such as HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy or organ transplant increases the risk.

Treatment and Drugs

Pneumonia treatment involves curing the infection and preventing any complications. Treatment of pneumonia depends on the age, general health and the cause of infection.

Antibiotics:  antibiotics are used to treat bacterial pneumonia. It may take long before establishing the type of bacteria causing the infection and to establish the right antibiotic to treat it. Symptoms usually improve in three days’ time, but it takes twice as much in smokers.

Antiviral medication: used to treat pneumonia caused by viruses, symptoms improve within one to three weeks. Fever reducers such as ibuprofen and aspirin as well as cough medicine may be administered as part of treatment. Cough medicine calm down coughs although it’s recommended not to eliminate coughs completely as coughing helps loosen and move fluids in the lungs. A person may become hospitalized if:

  • They are older than 65 years,
  • have had mental disorientation,
  • have lower blood pressure,
  • If one needs assistance with breathing,
  • If the temperatures are below normal body temperature or
  • If nausea and vomiting prevent a person from sustaining oral medications.
  • Children may also be admitted if they have low oxygen levels; appear dehydrated; are excessively sleepy; have low temperature or are younger than 3 months old. 

To help recover fast, one should get plenty of rest, take lots of fluids, complete medication and avoid working.

Complications Normally, people are successfully treated for pneumonia with drugs. However, in rare cases complications may occur including:

  • Lung swelling which occurs when pus forms in a cavity in the lung;
  • Bacteria in the blood stream which can spread the infection to other parts of the body leading to organ failure;
  • Fluid accumulation around the lungs which may be drained using a tube or through a surgery; and
  • Difficulty in breathing which may require a ventilator.


Pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination. Vaccination against pneumococcus is recommended for people older than 65 years or anyone in increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia such as people working in healthcare facility, or those living in nursing homes regardless of their age. Having a seasonal flu shot can prevent viral pneumonia caused by influenza virus. In addition, good hygiene, avoiding smoking, eating healthy to keep immunity strong can help prevent pneumonia.


Bronchitis is the swelling or inflammation of the air passage between the lungs and the nose known as bronchial tubes. One is considered to have bronchitis when the lining of these tubes become infected or inflamed. When you have bronchitis, you take in less air and oxygen into your lungs than normal and have mucus in the airways. Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic.Image

Acute bronchitis is very common and usually develops from a cold or other respiratory related infection such as flu. It is usually characterized by cough with green sputum, fever, chest discomfort, and at times shortness of breath. Acute bronchitis improves in a few days with no lasting effects, even though one may continue to cough for weeks. Nevertheless, repeated bouts of acute bronchitis may result to chronic bronchitis which requires medical care.

Chronic bronchitis is characterized by persistent, mucus producing cough on most days of the month, three months of a year for two consecutive years without secondary cause of the cough. Persons with chronic bronchitis exhibit varying degrees of breathing difficulties, with symptoms getting better and worse during varying times of the year.

Causes of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is caused by bacteria, viruses and other particles that agitate the bronchial tubes. Particularly, acute bronchitis is normally caused by a viral infection in the bronchi; the same viruses that causes flu and cold. Besides bacteria and exposure to tobacco smoke, solvents or pollutants can trigger acute bronchitis.

Chronic bronchitis commonly results from cigarette smoking. It also results from persistent acute bronchitis. In addition, toxic gases dust and other air pollutants can cause chronic bronchitis.


Symptoms of acute or chronic bronchitis may entail:

  • Inflammation of the bronchi,
  • Cough,
  • Fatigue,
  • Production of sputum/mucus which can range from clear, white, yellowish to green in color,
  • Chest discomfort,
  • Wheezing,
  • Blocked or running nose as well as
  • Mild fever and chills.

Who is at Risk?

People who are at risk of contracting bronchitis and high risk of having more severe symptoms include;

  • People with weakened immunity
  • Elderly and infants
  • Smokers
  • People exposed to too much second hand smoke
  • Those exposed to air pollution, irritants at work such as chemical fumes from strong acids, chlorine, ammonia and other industrial chemicals.

Test and Diagnosis

In the initial stages of bronchitis may be confused may exhibit similar symptoms for common cold. Diagnosis usually entail chest x-ray, sputum culture which tests for presence of bacteria in the sputum and a pulmonary function test where a patient blows into a spirometer, which measures the amount of air your lungs can hold and how fast you can get air out of your lungs.

Treatment of Bronchitis

People suffering from bronchitis are often advised to rest, breathe warm and moist air, take fluids, and consume over the counter cough suppressants and pain relievers for managing symptoms and ease breathing. In most instances, acute bronchitis disappears without any special treatment but chronic bronchitis has no cure. 


Bronchitis can be prevented through reducing risks for infection including avoiding cigarette smoke, getting vaccinated against influenza or against some types of pneumonia, avoiding cold, damp or polluted areas, avoiding people who are coughing and sneezing and finally ensuring hand hygiene to reduce risks of viral infection.


Though a single occurrence of bronchitis is not a cause for alarm, it can lead to pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, sinusitis and cystic fibrosis.