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Being Alive

Managing HIV Disease: A Natural Approach


Being Alive 1992 Feb 5: 10

In my own practice, I have developed a "healing through empowerment" program that focuses on the management of cofactors and on nutrition and metabolic issues. The goal of this empowerment program is to help people maximize their immune system and strengthen its functioning.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES In order to successfully manage HIV disease, you need to rid yourself of some common addictions. You have to stop smoking. There are no "ifs, ands, or buts" (excuse the pun) about it. Smoking is "dangerous to your health" and you can't successfully deal with HIV and smoke cigarettes.

Next I recommend that you stop using alcohol. Alcohol in any of its forms--wine, beer or hard liquor--is simply not something your body needs. You are definitely better off without it.

Finally, and most obviously, you need to give up recreational drugs. Cocaine and marijuana have both been shown to be immunosuppressive. You can't expect to do drugs and have a healthy immune system.

DIETARY CONSIDERATIONS An HIV+ person has specific dietary needs that are not shared with the non-infected population. If you are HIV+, you need more protein on a daily basis. Quality protein comes from chicken, fish, eggs, and soy bean products such as tofu and soy milk. Protein powders can be used as a supplement. I find Gator's Fuel and Amway's Protein II to be good products.

I strongly recommend a largely vegetarian diet. Eat all the veggies and salads that you like. Stay away from red meat! Animal meats don't provide the quality protein you need. Also, I encourage people to stay away from cow's milk and cow's milk products such as cheese and butter. My rule is: "If it comes from an animal with four legs, don't eat it!" One important dietary change is to get the sugar out of your diet. A high sugar diet shuts down white cells. Further, sugar feeds yeast and yeast can accelerate the growth of HIV. If you're serious about managing HIV, you'll avoid all forms of white sugar.

In general, I tell HIV+ people to eat naturally. You need to get away from packaged, processed, prepared foods and to start using fresh, whole foods. To sum up, I encourage you to adopt a fresh foods, high protein, vegetarian diet. Your white cells will love you for making these changes.

NUTRIENTS Various nutrients are integral to successfully managing HIV disease. They are used as replacements for the nutrients lost to HIV and as therapy in place of certain drugs.

People who are HIV+ have been found to be deficient in a number of important nutrients: Vitamins C, A, E, the B Vitamins, Selenium, Zinc, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese and Essential Fatty Acids. These are the nutrients most needed to keep the immune system functioning at peak. Thus, you need to take concentrated nutrients as supplements to make up for any deficiencies.

Zinc is one important mineral that should be supplemented. You should stay under 100 mg per day. A higher dose can have a negative effect. I offer all my patients a weekly B complex shot to deal with B vitamin deficiencies.

We also have found that if we give certain nutrients in high doses, they can have a drug like effect. We are talking about doses way beyond the RDA level. By and large, such megadoses do not have significant side effects.

I believe that high doses of Vitamin C are a cornerstone of any program to manage HIV disease and prevent the onset of AIDS. People have different tolerances for high dose Vitamin C. I recommend that you experiment until just under a diarrhea inducing dose. For most people, this is between 10 and 20 grams (that is grams, not micrograms) per day.

Beta-carotene is another important nutrient that has proven effective in stimulating the immune system. This nutrient becomes Vitamin A in the body. A 75,000 IU/day dose is recommended.

OTHER NATURAL SUBSTANCES There are other substances that I have found to have value in fighting HIV. Garlic could be called "nature's sulfa drug." It is a superb antibiotic but you couldn't possibly eat all you need for a therapeutic effect. The Jarrow-gar product is one garlic supplement that I like. I recommend three capsules each day for general prevention.

I am excited about a bioflavanoid called Quercitin. This has been shown to block HIV by working as a reverse transcriptase inhibitor. Quercitin may be the natural AZT.

I also think that NAC and Nupericin may be useful, natural antivirals. I have found ginger to be an effective anti-nausea product and tea tree oil to be very good for skin infections. SSKI (Potassium Iodide) is a very effective topical antibiotic that herpes outbreaks respond to quickly.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS The thing to remember is that people don't die of AIDS. They die of opportunistic infections. These OIs take hold as the immune system is weakened by HIV. Lifestyle changes, a high protein diet, the use of nutritional supplements and other natural substances help to keep your immune system strong. These natural approaches are integral to successfully managing HIV disease.

(Joan C. Priestley, MD is in private practice in Hollywood and can be reached at 213.957.4210.)


Information in this article was accurate in February 5, 1992. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.