Garlic and HIV
Garlic, known for its various health benefits, is essential for boosting one’s immunity and helps prevent diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes etc. As HIV tends to lower one’s immunity by attacking the T-cells, PLHIV (People living with HIV) often look for ways to boost their immunity and garlic seems to be a great dietary additive.
Studies have shown the multiple benefits of garlic mainly for cardiovascular diseases where garlic is known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. HIV antiretroviral medications have the tendency to increase the blood cholesterol levels and in such cases too, garlic comes handy. Being an anti-oxidant with antiviral and antimicrobial properties, garlic is also believed to help fight infections and promote good health. With such usefulness, garlic has been believed to be of great help for PLHIV. But there’s a flip side to this.
The breakdown of garlic in the body is similar to that of HIV antiretroviral medications and thus, taking garlic along with HIV medicines can affect the absorption of medicines thereby bringing down their levels by upto 40%. This may affect the efficacy of the treatment. Taking garlic with certain HIV medicines such as NNRTIs (non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) or Protease-inhibitors can have possible drug interactions. Specifically, for HIV drug Saquinavir, garlic supplements have been found to lower the drug levels in the blood by about 50%. However, the various studies and researches to consolidate this claim have not been too conclusive. There have been conflicting results in different studies. While there is some evidence of garlic interfering with HIV drugs, certain studies do not show any significant interference. As the researches and the reports are many years old, while the medical advancements and evolution of medicines has been continuous with new combinations of highly effective medications available these days, any definite conclusion has not been reached. Hence, the link between garlic and HIV medicines is still not clear.
Garlic or no Garlic for HIV?
Consumption of small quantities of garlic in food, seems to be good for proper nutrition and maintaining health but over usage in cooking, eating many cloves of garlic daily or taking garlic supplements in high doses may interfere with HIV treatment.
It is always advisable to consult a doctor before taking any garlic supplement as it depends on the type of medications one is taking, overall health condition, any pre-existing illnesses and so on. Some may also, experience side effects of garlic such as gastric upset, nausea, vomiting etc that may again, hamper proper nutrition to the body. The doctor will be able to judge the pros and cons of taking garlic as per the individual case and also, suggest the right dosage of garlic that could be safe for use.
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