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Managing Symptoms & Side Effects

Your digestive system plays an important role in keeping you healthy but the side-effects of uncontrolled HIV and some antiretroviral drugs and other medications may affect how your system functions day-to-day.

It is important to maintain a healthy digestive system. The digestive system includes the mouth, oesophagus (food pipe), and stomach, small and large intestine and is also known as your gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract) or gut. 

A healthy GI tract is important to support absorption of nutrients from the diet. If you are taking anti-retroviral drugs, a healthy digestive system will help ensure proper absorption of medication. It is also one of your body’s defences against infection as the lining of the gut contains many cells that form part of  your immune system.

Tips to help maintain a healthy digestive system

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugary and fried foods

  • Keep your bowel movements regular by eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, for example brown rice, wholemeal bread and oats.

  • If you smoke, aim to stop smoking altogether

  • Attend your regular check up appointments

If you are experiencing symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting try completing a food diary. This is useful information to discuss with your doctor or HIV dietitian.