Food & TB

What is the best food for a person with TB

There is no special food that is required by a person with TB.

Some people with TB believe that more expensive foods are better than less expensive ones. This is not true. For example, it is not true that expensive varieties of rice are better than cheaper ones.

There are also no foods that can cure TB. Some people say that foods such as vinegar can cure TB but this is not correct. It is only TB drugs that can cure TB.

It is often better that a person with TB has the same diet as normal but possibly with some changes being made to increase their intake of food. People with TB often have a poor appetite initially, but having more frequent food intake can be helpful.

Within a few weeks of starting TB treatment, the person’s appetite should increase and come back to normal. A person with TB should aim to have three meals and three snacks each day to increase the amount of food they eat.

A diet for a person with TB

A person with TB should aim to have a healthy balanced diet. A healthy balanced diet can be achieved by having foods from four basic food groups. These are:

  • Cereals, millets and pulses
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Milk and milk products, meat, eggs & fish
  • Oils, fats and nuts and oils seeds.

A food group is a collection of foods that share similar nutritional properties. If the food eaten contains food from all the above food groups, then the diet is considered healthy. Not all the food groups need to be eaten at every meal.

Food & TB, essential nutrients

An essential nutrient is a nutrient that must be provided by a person’s diet. These nutrients are necessary for the body to function properly. The six essential nutrients are carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals & water.

Attempts should be made to increase the energy and protein content of the food in meals and snacks without increasing its volume. So, for example, addition of oil or butter to chapatti or rice can increase the energy content of the diet. A person with TB should also be encouraged to eat pulses in other forms e.g. roasted chana.

Oils & fats for a person with TB

Food for a person with TB

Food for a person with TB

Oils & fats are a source of energy. In terms of oil, soyabean oil, mustard oil and coconut oil, are all acceptable. Nuts like ground nuts are good sources of energy and protein and can be taken as snacks in either dried or roasted form. Ground nuts are equivalent in nutritional terms to more expensive nuts like almonds and cashews.

Proteins for people with TB

Proteins can be of animal origin like milk, eggs, meat and fish or of plant origin as in cereals & pulses. For vegetarians, a combination of cereals & pulses can give a quantity of protein equivalent to that of animal proteins. The daily consumption of milk and milk products is also beneficial. In the case of non vegetarians, consumption of eggs on a daily basis can provide the same benefit as meat and fish at a lower cost.

Increased protein needs can be met by including groundnut, or dry fruit and nut mixes. If the person with TB is not able to eat due to poor appetite, then dry fruits and nuts can be powdered finely and mixed into a milkshake or added to roti or phulka.

Vitamins A, E & C for people with TB

Vegetables, especially leafy vegetables and fruits are vital sources of vitamins & minerals and should be part of the daily diet. Locally available fruits are as good as more expensive fruits transported over long distances.

Some of the best foods for TB patients include the yellow-orange fruits and vegetables such as orange, mango, papaya sweet pumpkin and carrots which are rich in Vitamin A. Vitamin C is found in fresh fruits like guava, amla, orange, tomato, sweet lime, lemon and capsicum. Vitamin E is usually found in wheat germ, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

Food & TB & Nutrition

Nutrition means looking at the nutrients that are provided by people’s diets. For a long time it has been known that there is a link between TB & malnutrition. If people do not have sufficient nutrition, sometimes referred to as under nutrition, then this makes TB worse.  Under nutrition weakens the body’s ability to fight disease.

TB also makes under nutrition worse. Most individuals with TB experience weight loss. This can be caused by several factors including reduced food intake due to loss of appetite.

In India a Direct Benefit Transfer scheme provides people with TB with additional money for food.

Physical activity

If a person with TB is able to carry out any physical activity then this can be beneficial. Physical activity helps food intake to be converted into muscle mass, and it also improves the appetite.

What food should be avoided by a person with  TB

A person with TB should avoid the following:

  • Alcohol in any form, as it increases the risk of drug toxicity
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Excess of tea and coffee, or their intake with food
  • Tobacco and tobacco products
  • An excess of spices & salt.

Page Updating

This page was last updated in September 2022.
Author Annabel Kanabus

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