Nutrition and Diet
Chronic hepatitis appears to be a slow progressive disease that may gradually advance over 10 to 40 years. Many factors influence the rate of disease progression, and diet may play an important role in this process, as all foods and beverages pass through the liver to be metabolized.
Diet and liver disease have been discussed at length over many years, and the reality remains that there is no specific dietary approach that one can recommend which is guaranteed to alter the outcome of any particular liver disease. Be cautious of any unusual diets and their claims to cure or improve your condition.
Individuals will greatly benefit from observing their own reactions to food. Note the different foods that cause you problems. It is also a good idea to seek guidance support from a dietician or your preferred practitioner. Talking with others living with hepatitis C may also be useful, although there will be individual differences.
But good nutrition is essential for any persons with hepatitis B or C. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful.
General dietary guidelines for individuals infected with hepatitis:
- Eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet.
- Eat regular meals.
- Eat more whole grains.
- Increase consumption of vegetables and fiber.
- Include adequate protein.
- Drink lots of water.
- Eat under restful conditions and chew food properly.
- Include some essential fats in the diet each day.
- Avoid alcohol, excessive sugar, hydrogenated fat and raw shellfish.
Total avoidance of all alcohol is strongly recommended.
The liver plays an important role in the metabolism of iron since it is the primary organ in the body that stores this metal. Patients with chronic HCV sometimes have an increase in the iron concentration in the liver. Excess iron can be very damaging to the liver and studies suggest that high iron levels reduce the response rate of patients to interferon.
Patients with chronic HCV whose serum iron level is elevated, or who have cirrhosis, should avoid taking iron supplements. In addition, these patients should restrict their intake of iron-rich foods, such as red meats and liver, and avoiding cooking with iron-coated cookware.
Hydrogenated vegetable oils (margarine) are processed fats that cannot be used effectively by the body; but are stored as body fat, raise cholesterol levels and have many other detrimental health effects. They possibly hinder the immune system and they should be avoided wherever possible.
Micronutrients are involved in immune functioning: vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
- Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which stimulates the healing process and is essential for healthy immune function. It is involved in antibody production and white blood cell function and activity as well as the production of natural interferon.
- Vitamin E helps combat fatigue and supports the immune system. It is particularly important in protecting the immune system from damage from chronic viral illness and acts as an anti-oxidant.
- Calcium and Magnesium are the most needed minerals for maintaining a healthy body.
- Zinc is an essential trace mineral which is involved in multiple enzyme reactions in the body, including the detoxification of alcohol. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for the immune system.
Some nutritionists believe the macrobiotic diet, consisting primarily of cooked whole grains and vegetables, can benefit people with hepatitis. The philosophy is that the liver can heal itself through proper nutrition and finding balance.
Foods that nutritionists might recommend for those with hepatitis would include: beets, cabbage family, kelp, whey protein, apples, aduki beans, barley, carrot, celery, cucumber, millet, orange, rice, squash and watermelon.
Things to be avoided:
Things that doctors and nutritionists would suggest be avoided by a person with hepatitis might include: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), niacin, iron supplements, shellfish, alcohol and excess vitamin A