Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

People who are infected with HIV sometimes try dietary supplements that claim to boost the immune system or counteract side effects of anti-HIV drugs.

Supplements that may be helpful

  • Fish oil. Some anti-HIV drugs can cause increases in cholesterol levels. Studies indicate that fish oil supplements can help bring those numbers down.
  • Whey protein. Preliminary evidence indicates that whey protein, a cheese by-product, can help some people with HIV gain weight. Whey protein also appears to reduce diarrhea and increase CD4 counts.

Supplements that may be dangerous

  • St. John's wort. Commonly used to combat depression, St. John's wort can reduce the effectiveness of several types of anti-HIV drugs by more than 50 percent.
  • Garlic supplements. Although garlic may help strengthen the immune system, it also interacts with several anti-HIV drugs — reducing their effectiveness by 50 percent. Occasionally eating garlic in food appears to be safe.
Aug. 11, 2012