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.


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