Fight Tuberculosis by changing your diet

Recently released reports have found that TB (tuberculosis) and diabetes remain the top two killers among South Africa’s population.

May 2018

Tuberculosis remains the world’s leading infectious killer, being responsible for the death of approximately 1.7 million people a year.  We all know that you need to take your medication every day in order to beat tuberculosis but getting the right nutrition can help speed up the treatment process as poor nutrition can encourage the persistence of TB.  The signs and symptoms of TB can be similar to the symptoms of lung infection in general.  These symptoms can include pain in the chest, a persistent cough, weight loss, night sweats, fever, constant fatigue and loss of appetite.

Tuberculosis bacteria spread from person to person through airborne microscopic droplets.  If someone has active TB and is not being treated, he or she can spread it by sneezing, coughing and even just by talking.  When a person breathes in TB bacteria from an infected person, the bacteria settle in the lungs and starts to grow.

“To give your body the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to fight TB, you need to eat a diet that contains a variety of healthy foods,” says Gert Coetzee Pharmacist and Diet pioneer, who founded The Diet Everyone Talks About.  Below he shares some superfoods that can help fight active tuberculosis and help you regain your strength and stamina as well as a list of foods that you need to avoid in order to fight TB.

Foods to include in your diet

  • Dark, leafy greens:  These are high in iron and B vitamin content.  Examples of dark, leafy greens include: kale, spinach, turnip greens and romaine lettuce.
  • Fish:  Choose fatty fish varieties that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The best options are salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and flounder.
  • Brightly coloured vegetables:  The pigments in these vegetables act as powerful antioxidants that help in fighting disease-causing free radicals.  Make sure that you include foods that are rich in vitamin A such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and broccoli.
  • Fruits:  Go for fruits that are high in vitamins and antioxidants.  This includes lemons, grapefruit, melons, oranges, berries and cherries.
  • Whole grains:  Whole grains are rich in vitamin B and fiber which will help keep you energised and help fight fatigue.  These include foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat cereal. ₁

Foods to avoid:

  • Greasy foods:  Greasy food such as fried beef, chicken, French fries and onion rings contribute large amounts of saturated fat which is associated with high cholesterol and increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.  Greasy foods can worsen the symptoms that accompany TB such as fatigue and abdominal cramps.
  • Coffee:  Coffee is a stimulant and should be avoided when you have tuberculosis.  Coffee is high in caffeine which will encourage bacterial action.  Rather drink green tea.
  • Refined sugars:  Refined sugars can encourage bacterial action and should be avoided if you have TB.  This means that you need to cut down on your intake of white sugar, refined cereals, puddings and other sweet treats.
  • Sodium:  Having a well-balanced diet is important for everyone but especially for people infected with TB which is why it’s important to watch your salt intake.  Avoid foods such as pickles and processed meats.
  • Red meat:  Avoid high fat, high cholesterol red meat.  Replace this with leaner meats such as poultry and fish.