Hepatitis C and the Impact of Diet and Nutrition


With more than four million Americans suffering from hepatitis C, many without knowledge, the health complications and risk associated with this liver disorder are often not realized until such time as complications present and the liver condition is diagnosed. For many hepatitis C sufferers, once diagnosed, the close monitoring of diet becomes a crucial part of improving liver condition, working to reduce or reverse further liver damage and prevent life threatening complications associated with hepatitis C. As a hepatitis C patient, understanding the impact of diet and nutrition upon the liver, will work to educate the patient, and family, in the appropriate steps to improve the length and quality of life.

Hepatitis C, simply put, is a medical condition in which an individual has tested positive for the HCV virus, generally contracted through blood contact with another individual. While, in rare cases, hepatitis C can lead to life threatening liver disorder, many individuals simply suffer from the side effects of the liver complication. While there is no cure for hepatitis C, the side effects and health complications can be alleviated through proper diet and nutrition.

One key aspect of nutrition for the hepatitis C sufferer, involves the elimination of alcohol completely from the diet. While hepatitis C, generally, does not lead to a life threatening liver disorder, when mixed with alcohol consumption, the development of cirrhosis of the liver is quite common and can become fatal in the hepatitis C patient. For this reason, hepatitis C patients should avoid all consumption of alcohol.

In addition to avoiding alcohol consumption, individuals suffering with hepatitis C should comply with appropriate nutrition recommendations in an effort to control and avoid excess weight gain or weight loss. To do this, the hepatitis C patient’s diet may require a uniquely devised menu of low fat with a close monitoring of iron intake levels as an excess degree of iron intake may complicate the liver disorder further.

Additionally, the use of complex carbohydrates may be carefully associated with the hepatitis C diet so as to assist the body in the storage of additional weight, when necessary. When consulting a nutritionist regarding a specialized diet for treatment and monitoring of hepatitis C, the consumption of excess fat will be highly discouraged as this imposes an increase in triglycerides within the body, leading to high cholesterol, placing a greater stress upon the liver affected by hepatitis C.

Beyond alcohol and fat intake, the individual suffering from hepatitis C should focus dietary consumption on high quantities of protein. While patients without liver complications are highly encouraged to consume protein daily, for those suffering from hepatitis C, a significant amount of protein should be consumed daily so as to encourage repair of damaged liver cells; at present, nutritionist recommend up to 120 grams.

Of additional concern for hepatitis C patients, is the potential risk for the development of a mental confusion which may occur as a direct result of an inappropriate diet. Known as encephalopathy, hepatitis C patients commonly report disorientation and lethargy associated with liver complications. When symptoms of encephalopathy are present, in the hepatitis C patient, consultation with a healthcare professional, including consultation with a nutritionist, is highly recommended as dietary modifications will be required, even to the extent of strictly limiting food intake to that of a vegetarian diet, on a temporary basis.

As with any life threatening complication, understanding the key aspects to improving and reversing adverse health, will work to ensure an improved response to the treatment guidelines associated with the condition. In patients with hepatitis C, while generally not life threatening, diet and nutrition does play a key role in preventing further deterioration of the liver. Therefore, when diagnosed with hepatitis C, consultation with the best doctor and a certified nutritionist is a crucial piece of the life care plan to establish and improve long term health.

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