Living Well with HIV: A Ten-Point Plan

By Darren Main

Develop a meditation practice.
The first thing I recommend a person do when they test HIV+ is to meditate. If they don’t know how, I teach them or recommend that they learn from someone in their area. The mind can be the greatest enemy or the greatest ally in the quest for health. Learning to quiet the ego mind will help a person make more rational decisions about their health, their diet and their future, while at the same time giving the body the space it needs to find balance and wholeness. Meditation is really the foundation on which all the other steps I have listed here are built.

Eat well
Eating well is so important to good health. To keep the body healthy you need to give it the proper tools to fight off disease and repair itself. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is a double-edged sword. Not only does it lack in essential nutrients, it is also quite toxic. Because most American diets are high in fat, and loaded with pesticides, hormones, and artificial flavors and preservatives, we are actually doing great harm to our bodies when we eat that way. For many who are HIV+ a significant change in diet may be in order. This is never easy, but it is very important to good health. These changes don’t have to be overnight, but having a plan will really help. I recommend a vegetarian diet or at least one that is low in animal fats. I also recommend a lower fat diet that includes a lot of fresh organic produce. Cutting out refined sugar and dairy can be very helpful as well. I also suggest that you abstain from eating three hours before going to bed. For more information on becoming a vegetarian, please read my article on the subject.

Practice hatha yoga
Hatha yoga is one of the best forms of exercise available. It keeps the muscles strong and limber and helps to cleanse the internal organs. It also helps to raise body awareness and reduces the severity of the side effects that many people experience as a result of being on drug cocktails. Most importantly, Hatha yoga poses do wonders for the immune system.

Take supplements
Even with a good diet, it is not always easy to get the right nutrients. Taking supplements is a great way to give your body everything it needs to stay healthy. There are many supplements out there, and some you will not likely find in your diet. Herbs, for example, are something you may want to add to your diet. It is a good idea to talk with a nutritionist or an herbalist when deciding what to take, but my supplements page will help get you started.

Cleanse the body
We live in a toxic world, and many of the drugs that are given for HIV are toxic as well. Even if you are living a very clean life, it is impossible to avoid this toxicity. There are many cleansing things you can do to help clear your body. Not all of them will be right for you, but it is wise to find a system that fits your needs. Some examples are juice fasting, colonics, mono-fasting, colon cleansing and deep sweating.

Get regular bodywork
Massage is often thought of as a luxury, but it is so helpful to good health. There are many types of bodywork that range from relaxing Swedish massage to deep tissue work. There is energy work and chiropractic as well. Finding a style that feels therapeutic to you is the key. The frequency of your bodywork sessions is up to you, but I recommend at least once per month.

Go on retreat
If you have never been on a retreat, you owe it to yourself to do so. It is a time to regroup and recommit to your health and your spiritual center. By removing yourself from your day-to-day life, you have the opportunity to see things from a new and more lucid perspective. There are many types of retreats to choose from—silent meditation retreats, yoga retreats, juice fasting, and retreats to various religious centers. Look around and choose one that is good for you. My schedule of events has a listing of the retreats that I offer. I recommend you go on at least one week-long retreat and several weekend retreats per year.

Abstain from drugs and alcohol
If you like to party or start your day with a hot cup of coffee, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you let go of these habits. Drinking, drugs, caffeine and nicotine are poison to the immune system. Even their casual use can wreak havoc on the body. Letting go of these things, while difficult, is very important to living well with HIV. To some this may seem like a sacrifice, but if you think about it, it is a much bigger sacrifice to continually beat up your immune system when it is already being attacked by a virus.

Sleep well
Sleeping well is the best way to give your body what it needs to stay healthy. If you like to live on only a few hours of sleep per night, supplementing your sleep with caffeine, you are putting a lot of undue stress on your system. Try to sleep seven or eight hours every night, and take naps throughout the day if you feel tired. Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself and strengthens the immune system. Give your body all it needs.

Don’t plan your funeral
Looking at lab results and living with the side effects of HIV medications (if you choose to take them) can be quite depressing. It is easy to give up on life. Try not to let your mind go there. Clean healthy living will go a long way to keeping your body and mind healthy. If you find your mind dwelling on funeral plans and other depressing thoughts, do something good for yourself. Cook a healthy meal, take a yoga class, or sit in a hot tub. If you are in a real rut, get away for a retreat. Do whatever it takes to keep that positive attitude. It may well be the difference between a long healthy life and a life of chronic illness.

 

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