How some HIV meds can leave your tummy achin’ and your HAARTburn breakin’
Stomach complaints are very common, whether you’re HIV positive or
negative. Just look at the smorgasbord of tummy-ailment products
available at any pharmacy. GI problems can be either a chronic
condition—that demands the help of a doctor or nutritionist—or
something that comes and goes like the flu.
For people living
with HIV, such tummy trauma is likely to be a regular part of life. A
recent study on HIV and GI problems conducted at the University of
Pennsylvania found that almost two-thirds of people taking antiviral
medication will eventually find themselves hanging out in the tummy
treatment aisle. And, unlike the general population, their
gastrointestinal drama is likely to be caused by their HIV meds instead
of a spicy ballpark sausage.
One reason why HIV drugs can cause,
or worsen, your tummy problems is clear. The lining of your gut is a
major gateway to the bloodstream; it must be ‘open’ enough to let
nutrients through, while keeping out nasty critters like viruses. This
delicate balance of cells and chemicals can be disrupted and irritated
by HIV meds, leading to chronic diarrhea, bloating, cramping, nausea or
Fortunately, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upset stomach
often ease up once your body gets used to the presence of the drug.
Some HIV meds, however, cause persistent stomach problems as long as
you are taking them, but you don’t necessarily have to live with these
problems indefinitely. Changes of medications or tummy treatments that
are compatible with your HIV meds could help solve these problems if
they persist. When you don’t have other HIV treatment options, managing
side effects is vital to making the tummy torturing HIV med successful
in keeping your virus levels as low as possible. The key is to consult
with your doctor before you stop your HIV meds or load up on tummy
drugs available at your local pharmacy.