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A Diet for Tuberculosis Patients

By Bethany Fong, R.D. ; Updated August 14, 2017

Tuberculosis, or TB, is an air-borne infectious disease that affects the lungs. TB is preventable by eating a healthy diet that supports a strong immune system. A nutritious diet is also important for people with existing TB, because malnutrition is a common complication of the disease. The healthiest diet for TB is rich in nutrient-dense foods that are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.


TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. According to, symptoms of TB include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, loss of appetite, coughing, coughing up blood and chest pain. Malnutrition and a weak immune system are risk factors for TB. Eating a healthy diet can help prevent and improve malnutrition, strengthen the immune system and prevent unintentional weight loss caused by TB.


A diet rich in fruits and vegetables to strengthen the immune system and prevent TB, advises Other nutrient-packed foods include whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. Vitamins that are particularly important for a healthy immune system include vitamins A, C, E and D. Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants that protect the body by destroying harmful oxygen molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are known to destroy cells and tissues and contribute to chronic diseases. According to the Office Of Dietary Supplements, vitamin D plays a role in regulating the immune system. Individuals who are unable to consume enough vitamins through a healthy diet may benefit from taking vitamin or multivitamin supplements.


Net Wellness, a service of the University of Cincinnati, says a balanced diet can fight TB and prevent protein and nutrient deficiencies that commonly occur with the disease. A nutritious diet adheres to federal dietary guidelines and includes 2 cups of fruit, 2 ½ cups of vegetables, 3 oz. of whole grain, 3 cups of low-fat milk or an equivalent amount of dairy products, like cheese or yogurt, and lean proteins like chicken, lean ground beef, fish, seafood, soy, beans, nuts and legumes. Fat should be limited to 20 to 35 percent of total calories and less than 300mg of cholesterol and 2,300mg of sodium should be consumed on a daily basis.


People with TB should not drink alcohol because it can damage the liver when taking TB medications like isoniazid, pyrazinamide and rifampin, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. Alcohol is also low in essential nutrients and has few health benefits.

Herbs and Supplements

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, herbs and supplements that have been used with TB include antioxidants like N-acetyl cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid and resveratrol, probiotics, beta-sitosterol, green tea, aged garlic, astragalus and rhodiola. Individuals with TB should consult a physician before taking herbs or supplements because many have not been scientifically proven to be safe or effective and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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