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World TB Day: 6 essential foods for optimal nutrition during TB treatment



Patients undergoing TB treatment often face challenges such as loss of appetite, weight loss, and. nutrient deficiencies, making it essential to prioritise nutrient-dense foods to support their health and well-being.

As we get ready to observe World TB Day on Sunday, 24 March, the global burden of tuberculosis (TB) is again pushed to the forefront. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with TB in 2022 alone. Among these cases, 5.8 million were men, 3.5 million were women, and 1.3 million were children, underscoring the urgency of addressing nutritional needs during TB treatment.

Despite significant strides, TB persists as the second leading infectious killer worldwide, surpassing even HIV and Aids. The disease claimed the lives of 1.3 million individuals in 2022, including 167 000 deaths among people living with HIV.

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World TB Day observed in South Africa

While the Department of Health (DoH) and the Anova Health Institute (AHI) will place the spotlight on the transmissible (mainly) lung disease with a massive public awareness event in the Sedibeng District on Sunday, more needs to be done to educate patients about the role proper nutrition plays in supporting recovery and boosting the immune system.

“Ensuring optimal nutrition is vital for individuals undergoing TB treatment to support their immune system, facilitate medication effectiveness, and promote recovery. While medical interventions are paramount, incorporating nutrient-rich foods into one’s diet can complement treatment efforts and improve overall well-being,” says Founder of Newtricion Wellness Dieticians, Omy Naidoo.

She explains that the body requires additional nutrients to repair tissue damage, fight infection, and regain strength, adding that optimal nutrition can help mitigate side effects of medication, accelerate recovery, and prevent relapse.

Naidoo recommends these six essential foods to include in your diet during TB treatment:

Protein-rich foods

Incorporating protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and nuts can help meet your body’s demand for more protein to support tissue repair and immune function. Protein also helps prevent muscle wasting and promotes overall strength and energy levels during TB treatment.

Fruits and vegetables

Colourful fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre, all of which are essential for supporting immune health and promoting recovery. Including a variety of fruits and vegetables such as berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, carrots, and bell peppers can help boost immunity and reduce inflammation.

Whole grains

Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, and whole wheat bread provide a steady source of complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients help maintain stable blood sugar levels, promote digestive health, and provide sustained energy levels.

Healthy fats

Incorporating healthy fats from sources such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon into the diet can provide essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s, which have anti-inflammatory properties and support immune function. Healthy fats also help in nutrient absorption and promote satiety, which can be beneficial for individuals experiencing poor appetite during TB treatment.

Dairy or fortified alternatives

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, or fortified plant-based alternatives, are excellent sources of calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients crucial for bone health and immune function.

Fluids and Hydration

Staying hydrated is essential for supporting immune function, aiding digestion, and preventing dehydration, especially for individuals experiencing fever, night sweats, or gastrointestinal symptoms during TB treatment. Drinking water, herbal teas, broth-based soups, and electrolyte-rich beverages can help maintain hydration levels and support overall well-being.

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