Hesperian Health Guides

Eating When You Are Sick

Healing from most sicknesses does not require a special diet. Healthy food is the same whether you are sick or not.

A happy, healthy man eating a carrot, and an unhappy man who is thin and unhealthy
A well-nourished person has a strong body that can fight off infections. A malnourished person may get sick very often.

When you are sick, do not avoid food. Food will help make you well.


People with HIV need to eat more than they did before they were sick to have enough energy to fight the infection. Eating more often each day is usually the most effective way to do this. Be sure to eat protein, vegetables, fruit, and fat, all of which are needed to stay strong and fight infection. Like everyone else, people with HIV also need to exercise. Even walking each day keeps your muscles working and your heart pumping well.

When you are sick with HIV, mouth sores, dry mouth, sore throat, nausea, or a lack of appetite can make eating feel impossible. See Care for Sick People (in development) for ideas about how to eat enough when you feel bad.

Unfortunately, there are no special foods that cure HIV. Only medicines can control the virus (see HIV and AIDS - in development).

Gallstones and gallbladder disease

Fried food and fat bring on gallbladder attacks. Boil, steam, or bake food instead of frying. Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits too.

A girl bringing a bowl of food to her mother, who is sick and clutching her stomach


Do not avoid food when you have diarrhea. Avoiding food does not make diarrhea go away; it can worsen malnutrition and dehydration (the real dangers of diarrhea). See more information on diarrhea.

Keep germs out of your food

Making food safe by washing your hands and your food, keeping insects away, and storing food safely can protect you from stomach aches and diarrhea, see Water and Sanitation: Keys to Staying Healthy.

Nausea or mouth pain

Care for Sick People (in development) suggests ideas for how to get nourishment when you feel too sick to eat.

This page was updated:12 Jun 2019