Diet during malaria

diet during malaria


South-east Asia contributes 2.5 million cases to the global burden of malaria. Of this, India alone contributed 76% of the total cases. Each year at least 2 million cases of malaria are reported in India. What is more worrisome is that half of these are caused by a severe and an often fatal strain called Plasmodium Falciparum (Pf).

Although the overall prevalence has declined in the past few years, some states like Orissa, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh still show large majority of malaria cases and some other states are at risk of epidemics. It was believed that malaria is more common amongst rural population due to poor hygiene, but the incidence of malaria is on the rise in India’s urban areas as well.

Recently it has been observed that undernutrition can lead to malaria burden. The regions were malaria is rampant; the diets are deficient in zinc and vitamin A. Preventing malnutrition and supplementation of these nutrients in deficient populations can reduce risk of contracting this deadly infection.

Government strategies to prevent and control malaria include

  • Management of unhygienic environmental conditions
  • Use of larvivorous fish (feeds on mosquitoes)
  • Indoor residual spraying with better pesticide management
  • Personal protection strategies including the use of insecticide treated bed-nets


Just as observed in most fevers, a person suffering from malaria also has poor appetite. In the initial phase, patients should be encouraged to consume liquid or semi-solid foods (juices, porridge, etc) if solids are not tolerated well. There is no specific dietary restriction to be followed in malaria. Basically, a balanced nutritious diet that provides essential nutrients can help prevent infection. However, certain measures to lower the body temperature and strengthen the immunity need to be adopted.

Fluids– Maintaining good hydration status during malaria fever is very important since it can help to bring down the body temperature. Also, frequent vomiting in malarial fever causes dehydration. Fluid consumption in the form of citrus fruit juices (orange juice, lemon juice), vegetable soups, milk, etc should be encouraged. Coconut water may be particularly beneficial in reducing vomiting and replacing the loss of fluid and electrolytes. Tea and coffee may be avoided as they may cause further dehydration.

Vitamin A– Individuals having vitamin A deficiency are more likely to contract malaria. Since vitamin A helps to increase the body’s defense, it is important to incorporate rich sources of this vitamin such as liver, milk, fruits (mangoes, papaya) and vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, drumstick, amaranth, spinach, pumpkin, etc) in the daily diet.

Zinc: Zinc deficient individuals are also more likely to get malarial infection.  Foods rich in zinc are oysters, meat, poultry, beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

Some other home remedies such as use of tulsi (basil) juice, cinnamon and cloves powder, lemon juice or ginger can help provide relief from malaria symptoms.


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Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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