How Nutrition Plays a Vital Role in Fighting Against Tuberculosis

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Introduction

Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious bacterial infection affecting mostly the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Over 1.4 million people died from TB in 2019, making it one of the top 10 killers in the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the WHO report, In 2021, 1.6 million individuals worldwide (including 187 000 persons living with HIV) passed away from TB. Following COVID-19 (behind HIV/AIDS), TB is the second infectious killer in the world and the 13th largest cause of death overall.

Malnutrition weakens the immune system and makes people more prone to TB infection, whereas a well-balanced diet can help strengthen the immune system and support the body in fighting infection. While TB can be treated with antibiotics, proper nutrition is crucial for both preventing and recovering from the disease. 

In this article, we will discuss the relationship between nutrition and tuberculosis and explore the nutrients and foods that can help.

Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system that can fight off TB bacteria. A diet lacking essential nutrients can lead to malnutrition and weaken the immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to TB infection.

In addition, TB itself can cause malnutrition by reducing appetite, causing weight loss, and depleting the body’s nutrient stores. Malnourished individuals with TB are more likely to experience more severe symptoms and have a higher risk of developing drug-resistant TB.

Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet that includes all essential nutrients is crucial for preventing and treating TB.

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Nutrients That Boost Immunity and Support Recovery

Certain nutrients play a vital role in strengthening the immune system and supporting recovery from TB. Here are some of the key nutrients and foods to include in your diet:

Protein

Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, including the cells that make up the immune system. It also helps maintain muscle mass and prevent wasting, which can occur during TB infection.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean foods like fish, poultry, and turkey
  • Include legumes like kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils and beans.
  • Seeds and nuts like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and almonds
  • Dairy items like cheese, yogurt, and milk
  • Eggs

Vitamins A, C, and E

Vitamins A, C, and E are powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Moreover, they are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Good sources of these vitamins include:

  • Vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and liver
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, and bell peppers
  • Vitamin E: nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy greens

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that helps support immune function and aids in wound healing. It also plays a role in the production of white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting infection.

Good sources of zinc include:

  • Oysters and other shellfish
  • Lean meats such as beef and pork
  • Chickpeas and lentils are legumes and beans
  • Cashews and pumpkin seeds are good sources of nuts and seeds

Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that helps produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. The immune system also relies on it.

Good sources of iron include:

  • Lean meats such as beef, chicken, and pork
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and kale
  • Beans, lentils, and kidney beans are the legume options available.
  • Fortified cereals

The Role of Macronutrients in Fighting Tuberculosis

Macronutrients are the nutrients that we need in larger amounts in our diet. They include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each of these macronutrients plays an important role in maintaining our health and supporting our immune system.

Carbohydrates

The body needs carbohydrates as a source of energy. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are examples of complex carbs that include fiber and other vital elements that support the body’s overall health. Contrarily, empty calories from simple carbs like sugar and processed flour contribute to weight gain and other health issues.

Among the best sources of complex carbs are:

  • The consumption of whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread is recommended
  • Fruits such as apples, bananas, and berries
  • Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, broccoli, and leafy greens

Fats

To absorb fat-soluble vitamins and produce hormones, fat is necessary. They also help provide energy and protect our vital organs. However, not all fats are created equal. Saturated and trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems, while unsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for our health.

Following are the Good sources of healthy fats:

  • Salmon, tuna, and sardines are the Fatty fish options available in the market.
  • Include seeds and nuts like chia seeds, walnuts, and almonds.
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil

Proteins

As we discussed earlier, proteins are essential for building and repairing tissues and supporting immune function. However, not all proteins are created equal. Animal proteins contain all essential amino acids, while plant-based proteins may lack one or more essential amino acids.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean foods like fish, poultry, and turkey
  • Lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas can all be included in your diet
  • Seeds and nuts like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and almonds
  • Dairy items like cheese, yogurt, and milk
  • Eggs

Nutrition for TB Prevention and Treatment

Here are some specific dietary recommendations for preventing and treating TB:

Eat a well-balanced diet

A well-balanced diet that includes all essential nutrients is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing TB infection. You must include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet.

Consume enough calories

TB infection can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. Therefore, it is important to consume enough calories to maintain a healthy weight and prevent malnutrition. However, it is also important to avoid overeating and weight gain, which can lead to other health problems.

Avoid alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol and tobacco use can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of TB infection. Therefore, it is important to avoid or limit these substances.

Take supplements if necessary

If you are unable to get all essential nutrients from your diet, you may need to take supplements. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if you need any supplements and what doses are appropriate for you.

Conclusion

Millions of individuals around the world suffer from the severe infectious disease TB. Since it boosts the immune system and helps avoid malnutrition, proper nutrition is crucial for both preventing and treating tuberculosis. A well-balanced diet with all necessary nutrients, enough calories, and moderate alcohol and tobacco use can greatly reduce the risk of TB and help people recover from the condition.

While nutrition alone cannot cure TB, it is an important component of TB treatment and can help prevent the development of drug-resistant TB. It is important to talk to a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations based on individual needs and health status.

In conclusion, good nutrition is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing the development of TB. By following a well-balanced diet, avoiding harmful substances, and ensuring adequate caloric intake, we can support our body’s ability to fight off infections and improve our overall health and well-being.

FAQs

Can nutrition alone cure TB?

No, TB requires treatment with antibiotics. However, proper nutrition can support recovery and prevent the development of drug-resistant TB.

Can a vegetarian diet provide all essential nutrients for TB prevention and treatment?

Yes, a well-planned vegetarian diet that includes a variety of plant-based proteins can provide all essential nutrients for TB prevention and treatment.

Are there any specific foods that can boost the immune system to prevent TB? 

While no single food can boost the immune system alone, a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can support the immune system and prevent TB.

How does nutrition affect tuberculosis?

A secondary immunodeficiency brought on by malnutrition can make the host more vulnerable to infection. It causes a decrease in appetite, nutritional and micronutrient malabsorption, and altered metabolism in tuberculosis patients, all of which contribute to wasting.

What are the nutritional needs of Tuberculosis?

You should have a protein-rich diet. Include protein-rich foods such as dried beans, peas, lentils, milk, meat, chicken, and fish. You should up your daily intake of meat and alternatives to three to four servings.

Why Protein is important for TB patients?

Patients with TB should consume protein since it aids in the body’s ability to fight infection and recover from sickness. Protein is necessary for creating and repairing immunological tissues, and TB impairs the immune system. Protein also enhances general health and helps stop additional muscle loss. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and dairy products are all excellent sources of protein.

How can nutrition and good health practices prevent the spread of tuberculosis?

Nutrition and good health practices can help prevent the spread of tuberculosis (TB) by strengthening the immune system and reducing the risk of infection. A healthy and balanced diet that includes a variety of foods can improve overall health and boost the immune system. Good health practices such as regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with sick people can also prevent the spread of TB. Additionally, those at higher risk of TB infection should take extra precautions, such as wearing personal protective equipment and getting vaccinated if available.

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