What Holiday Foods You Can Enjoy on ART

With Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas and New Year’s following closely on its heels, you know that a near-constant barrage of rich, decadent holiday foods is going to be present at home, work and on seasonal restaurant menus. For people on antiretroviral therapy (ART), you may be wondering, “Can I eat this? Should I eat this?”

The good news: as long as you enjoy foods in moderation and at appropriate times, there are actually few dietary restrictions for patients on ART.

Enjoying Holiday Foods Is More about Timing

For most ART medications, the issue with eating is about when you eat in relation to when you take your medicine rather than what you eat. Some medications require gastric acid for proper absorption, so they should be taken with meals. Other medications’ effectiveness may be impaired by stomach acids, so they should be taken on an empty stomach.

As long as you take meds before, after or with meals as indicated, you are generally free to eat what you like.

One notable exception is Efavirenz (brand name Sustiva). Risks for adverse effects increase with fat consumption because fat affects absorption. People living with HIV who are on this ART medication should adhere to a low-fat diet, even during the holidays.

Foods to Avoid or Consume with Caution

Many holiday festivities rely on alcohol to increase everyone’s cheer. While a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner or a champagne toast to ring in the New Year do not pose a threat, excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided no matter what ART medications you take. Alcohol may increase the risk of adverse side effects, but more importantly, it can damage the liver, which is responsible for processing ART medications. Without a healthy liver, your medication is rendered nearly ineffective.

Beyond alcohol, food and supplement restrictions are medication-specific. Here’s a quick guide:

If you take… Avoid…
Integrase inhibitors Calcium supplementation with dose
Saquinavir (brand: Invirase) Garlic capsules; grapefruit juice with dose
Non-nucleoside transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), protease inhibitor (PI) St. John’s Wort

Medication and dosing information dispensed with your prescriptions may have more detailed information about food, drug and supplement interactions. If you have questions about safe holiday consumption on ART, please ask your doctor or contact UNM Truman Health Services.

Losing Sleep on Dolutegravir? You’re Not the Only One

Recent studies are showing that dolutegravir, an antiretroviral marketed under the name Tivicay or Triumeq (when combined with abacavir/lamivudine), may cause neuropsychiatric side effects at higher rates than clinical trials indicated. These symptoms are causing many people to cease taking Tivicay and search for more side-effect-neutral treatment medications.

Dolutegravir Facts

Dolutegravir (DTG) is an integrase strand transfer inhibitor. It works by blocking the HIV virus from inserting or integrating DNA into the DNA of the host cell. Without integration, the virus cannot replicate, helping the body to maintain a low viral load.

DTG’s approval was fast-tracked by the US Food and Drug Administration, arriving on the market by August 2013. Soon after, DTG was approved by Health Canada (November 2013) and the Continue reading

Are you just feeling bad, or is it a reaction?

Any medication has the potential to cause and adverse reaction. Whether you’re taking a prescription medication or something over-the-counter, it’s best to be aware of what reactions you may face and what to do in order to deal with the reactions.

Reactions that deal with the gastrointestinal system are probably some of the most common reactions out there. Nausea after some medicines is very common, especially if not taken according to instructions like “take after (or before, or with) food”.

Allergic reactions are also a major concern when taking a medication. You may experience: Continue reading

Transgender People and Medical Care

Seeking medical care is already something that people put off out of fear. How much harder is it for a transgender person to explain to a medical professional about their physical body when society is conditioned to expect gender binary expression? It’s extremely difficult, and many transgender individuals go without basic medical care due to Continue reading

Why You Shouldn’t Turn to Google for Medical Advice

The Internet is a treasure trove of information, and a simple search can provide answers to many problems. These days, more and more people are turning to the Internet for medical advice, with sites like WebMD providing information about a staggering number of diseases and problems.

These tools can be invaluable for providing you with the basic information you need to be an informed patient at your next doctor’s visit, but they’re not meant to replace a doctor’s opinion — and when you develop symptoms of a potential medical problem, you should always rely on the expertise of a medical professional rather than attempting to self-diagnose on the Internet. Continue reading