Saturday, May 24, 2008

For A Holistic Medicine Approach to HIV Treatment

Kaiser recalls a patient who could not tolerate protease inhibitors, but once an intestinal parasite problem was diagnosed and treated, the patient continued with antiviral drugs without stomach or intestinal upsets. Dr. Kaiser's standard treatments for parasite elimination include paromomycin (Humatin), iodoquinole (Yodoxin), and a natural treatment with psyllium seed husks or black walnut tincture. These should be taken only under medical supervision.

Miscellaneous gastrointestinal problems associated with HIV therapy often include constipation and intestinal gas. Chris Feagan, a registered nurse who works with HIV patients, advises that for constipation it's best to avoid laxatives if you can. Laxatives can be harsh and often exacerbate side effects.

Fegan suggests natural remedies like ginger root, peppermint or chamomile tea, allspice, fennel, and Swedish bitters. For gas, which can be embarrassing as well as painful, Fegan recommends walking, yoga, and over-the-counter antiflatulents.

For other natural remedies, Fegan recommends the "Professional's Handbook of Complementary & Alternative Medicine," by Charles W. Fetrow, Pharm.D., and Juan R. Avila, Pharm.D. (Springhouse Publishing, 1999).

Protein intake

For HIV patients, diet is extremely important both in alleviating side effects and in maintaining the immune system. One food group that patients sometimes ignore is protein, which Dr. Kaiser says helps your body fight illness; too little protein can cause fatigue.

When one of his patients adopted a macrobiotic diet, eliminating all meat, his CD4 count (an indicator of immune function) dropped "quite a bit," Dr. Kaiser recalls. When the patient started eating meat again, his CD4 count increased.

When an HIV-positive individual is under stress, Dr. Kaiser recommends 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, a 170-pound person should consume 100 grams of protein daily. In addition to meat, the doctor suggests beans, tofu, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, and nuts such as peanuts and cashews.

Hormone levels

An optimal hormone balance is also crucial, says Dr. Kaiser. One hormone level he tests for is DHEA, because it's a "common deficiency with HIV patients." DHEA, an over-the-counter supplement, "helps with appetite, mood, and energy level," says Dr. Kaiser.