Foods for Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Pulmonary tuberculosis is an airborne infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The infection can spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or even talking. The symptoms of active disease include cough, blood in sputum, night sweating, fatigue and severe weight loss. No specific guidelines for nutrition recommendations for these patients exist. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reports the details of deficiencies in patients with tuberculosis including energy intake, decreased levels in protein, vitamins and trace minerals.

Eating food that is rich in protein and vitamins can decrease your susceptibility to tuberculosis. (Image: mikanaka/iStock/Getty Images)

Energy Intake

Being underweight renders you more susceptible to tuberculosis, according to the November 2010 issue of "International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease." A randomized trial in the August 2004 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” addresses the question how important is the energy intake during the treatment of tuberculosis. Two groups of patients had same baseline calorie intake during the treatment. One of the groups was given supplements with additional 600 to 900 kilocalories above the baseline. After six weeks of anti-tuberculosis treatment, the groups were compared. The results revealed that the patients who received the energy supplements were in better physical condition than the other group, indicating that your food needs to provide a sufficient amount of calories for your body type and activity. It also appears that enhanced calorie intake is beneficial while your immune system is responding to the infection.


The USAID reports that patients with tuberculosis often have low protein. Each day, you should consume approximately 0.8 to 1.5 g of protein per kg of your weight, depending on your age, gender and whether you are pregnant. Meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt contain all the essential amino acids. Other protein-rich food, such as legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are also very useful; however, they may lack one or more of the indispensable amino acids.


The USAID reports that deficiencies in vitamins A, B-6, C and D are common in patients with tuberculosis. Vitamin A is found in foods such as liver, carrots, spinach, sweet potato, mango, green leafy vegetables and eggs. Isoniazid, a drug that is used in main stem anti-tuberculosis protocols can cause a B-6 deficiency. Routine administration of vitamin B-6 tablets during the treatment of isoniazid-induced peripheral neuropathy can prevent deficiency. Vitamin B-6 is also found in cereals, potatoes, banana, beans or chicken. You can obtain vitamin C from citrus fruits, such as oranges or grapefruit. Good sources are also kiwifruit, strawberries, cantaloupe or vegetables, such as red and green pepper, broccoli or tomatoes. An important source of vitamin D is fish, including salmon, mackerel and catfish. You should avoid fish with a high content of histamine, such as skipjack and Sardinella Amblygaster, to prevent histamine poisoning, as noted in the November 2005 issue of “Internal Medicine. Additional sources of vitamin D include food fortified with vitamin D such as milk, cereals and juice. Other sources of vitamin D include beef liver, egg yolks and mushrooms.

Trace Elements

A small decrease in serum levels of zinc, selenium and iron are also found in patients with tuberculosis. Food rich in zinc and iron includes mollusk oysters, cereals, beans, turkey or beef. As to selenium, high levels are in Brazilian nuts. Additional common source of selenium are bread and meat.

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