Here’s how healthy eating can help you fight TB

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You can beat TB by eating the correct foods.

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According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis remains the world’s leading infectious killer being responsible for the death of approximately 1.7 million people a year.  South Africa is one of the countries with the highest number of those ill with TB, with over 100 000 dying a year according to World Health organisation.

How does one get TB?

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 settles in the lungs and starts to grow.

What are the symptoms?

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.

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Treatment needs to be supported by good nutrition. You need to eat a diet that contains a variety of healthy foods to give your body the right nutrients it needs to fight TB.  Pharmacist and diet pioneer, Gert Coetzee shares some superfoods that can help fight active tuberculosis and help you regain your strength as well as a list of foods that you need to avoid.

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 fibre 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.

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Foods to avoid:

  • Greasy foods: Greasy food such as fried beef, chicken, hot/slap chips 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, sweetened drinks, puddings and other sweet treats.
  • Red meat: Avoid high fat high cholesterol red meat.  Replace this with leaner meats such as poultry and fish.