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Pulmonary Tuberculosis Diet

Pulmonary tuberculosis can be described as a slow-growing bacterial infection that occurs in your lungs. You can contract this air borne infection when you breathe in the droplets that have been sneezed or coughed out by an infected person. Anyone can get pulmonary tuberculosis, but the risks of infection are much higher in –

  • Seniors and elderly people
  • Babies and infants (below the age of 6 months)
  • People with compromised a immune system (due to diabetes, HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy)
  • Underweight people or those suffering from malnutrition

Most people make a complete recovery from tuberculosis, though the treatment could take many weeks or even months. In some people, the disease gets activated within weeks after exposure to the bacteria, but it is also possible for the bacteria to stay inactive or dormant in the body for years. At times, tuberculosis could also spread to the other organs, in which case, it is known as extra-pulmonary tuberculosis.

There is no specific pulmonary tuberculosis diet that patients are asked to follow.

However, you need to be very careful about your dietary choices while recovering from this condition. There is a high risk of malnutrition in adults suffering from this condition. Moreover, the deficiency of protein can have a negative impact on your body’s ability to fight off tuberculosis.

To avoid such problems, you need to follow a proper pulmonary tuberculosis diet. The key element of a good diet for pulmonary tuberculosis patients is good nutrition. The eating plan you follow should provide your body with adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and other essential nutrients. Given below are the daily recommended amounts to consider when planning a pulmonary tuberculosis diet –

  • Fruits: Around 2 cups (in a 2000-calorie diet)
  • Vegetables: Around 2½ cups (in a 2000-calorie diet); make sure to include all 5 vegetable sub-groups (dark green, starchy, legumes, orange and others) several times each week
  • Grains: Around 3 ounces or more of whole grains, in addition to enriched grains and whole-grain products every day.
  • Dairy Products: 3 cups of low-fat or skim milk (or equivalent milk products like yogurt)

It is important that you check with your doctor before making any dietary changes, especially if you are suffering from any other preexisting medical condition.

Foods to include

The treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis could take up to a year and you will probably be asked to take an antibiotic every day. At the same time, good nutrition is a very important aspect of pulmonary tuberculosis treatment, as it can help your body fight off the bacteria. Being underweight or malnourished could cause you to become more susceptible to a relapse. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for you to get the right nutrition.

Make sure that your body gets an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals, along with other nutrients in order to regain your strength and stamina. Given below are some of the healthy foods to include in a pulmonary tuberculosis diet –

  • Whole grains, especially whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole wheat bread and breakfast cereals
  • Brightly colored vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, such as carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, peppers and tomatoes
  • Dark, leafy greens, like spinach, broccoli and kale
  • Fruits that are high in vitamins and antioxidants, especially oranges, lemons, melons, grapefruit, berries, pumpkins and cherries
  • Fatty fish varieties that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which include herring, halibut, albacore tuna, sardines, salmon, flounder and mackerel
  • Dairy products like skim milk and plain yogurt and low-fat cheese
  • Unsaturated fats such as olive oil
  • Iron-rich sources of food, which include eggs (especially the yolk), meat, poultry, nuts and beans

However, it is essential for you to consult your doctor before including large quantities of any foods in your diet.

Foods to avoid

Just like some foods are good for a speedy recovery in pulmonary tuberculosis, there are other foods that may worsen the condition. Given below is a list of foods to avoid while undergoing treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis –

  • Aerated drinks and packaged juices (with preservatives)
  • Alcohol
  • Black coffee and other caffeinated beverages
  • Cured and processed meats like bacon, sausage and ham
  • Red meat varieties like pork, beef, veal, venison and lamb
  • Refined and processed foods like white bread, regular rice, crackers, biscuits, puffs, pastries and so on
  • Sweets and sugary items like cakes, pies, chocolate and candies

While getting treated for pulmonary tuberculosis, it is essential for you to skip tobacco completely, in all forms. It is also advisable that you speak with your doctor before eliminating any foods from your diet.

Pulmonary tuberculosis Health tips

There are a few self-care measures that you can follow, in order to reduce your risks of contracting pulmonary tuberculosis. In order to prevent this condition, you need to –

  • Avoid taking any medication that can weaken your immune system
  • Stay away from crowded areas, where you could come into regular contact with people who are infected
  • Maintain a healthy bodyweight (being underweight could increase your risks of developing pulmonary tuberculosis)
  • Use a face mask in case you visit a patient who is already infected
  • Have access to a proper healthcare system and undergo physical exams on a regular basis
  • Get vaccinated against the condition, if possible

Additional Info

Causes of pulmonary tuberculosis

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (M. Tuberculosis) bacteria are the main cause of pulmonary tuberculosis. These bacteria can enter your body when you breathe in infected droplets from the air. This means that your risks of contracting pulmonary tuberculosis are much higher if you are in contact with an infected person. A patient who has gone through the appropriate pulmonary tuberculosis drug treatment for two weeks or more is not likely to pass on the infection to others.

Symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis

In the initial stages, pulmonary tuberculosis does not trigger off any symptoms. As the condition progresses, some of the symptoms that may occur include –

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever
  • Excessive perspiring, especially during the night
  • Coughing accompanied by mucus

If the condition is not checked and treated in time, the symptoms could worsen considerably. Some of the more severe symptoms that you may experience include –

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Pain in the chest

Do set up an appointment with your doctor as soon as you noticed any of the symptoms mentioned above.

How is pulmonary tuberculosis diagnosed?

As soon as the symptoms of tuberculosis become evident, it is important for you to visit your physician. Your doctor may advise you to undergo certain tests, for a more accurate diagnosis. Some of the tests that are conducted for diagnosing pulmonary tuberculosis include –

  • Physical exams
  • Biopsy of the affected tissue
  • Bronchoscopy
  • CT scan of the chest
  • X-ray of the chest
  • Sputum exams and cultures
  • Thoracentesis
  • Tuberculin skin test
  • Interferon gamma blood test, like the QFT Gold Test for TB infection

Treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis

Pulmonary tuberculosis treatment includes the use of drugs that can fight off the infection causing bacteria. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of four drugs, which will be continued till a lab test shows which medicines work best. The most common drugs prescribed include –

  • Ethambutol
  • Rifampin
  • Pyrazinamide
  • Isoniazid

Some of the other drugs that could also be included in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis include –

  • Streptomycin
  • Moxifloxacin
  • Amikacin
  • Para-aminosalicylic acid
  • Ethionamide

Depending upon your prescription, you may need to take different pills at different times of the day, for about 6 months, or more. Make sure that you take your medication regularly, as advised by the doctor. You may also need to be admitted to the hospital for a week or two, to avoid spreading the infection.

You should notice an improvement in the symptoms within 2 or 3 weeks, though an x-ray will not show any improvement in your condition, for a couple of months.


Submitted on January 16, 2014