Diagnosed with hepatitis C? Wondering what you should eat? We list 5 foods that help ward off liver damage. The secret, it seems, is to keep it simple…
Your liver metabolises everything you eat. So when it’s attacked by a virus such as hepatitis C, it can suffer severe damage if not treated correctly.
Patients receiving treatment for hepatitis C often ask their healthcare practitioners what the best diet for hepatitis is, says RN Lucinda Porter, a medical educator, dietician and author of two books about hepatitis C. ‘There is no simple answer,’ she says, ‘and no single nutrition plan works for everyone. Also, there are quite a few opinions about what we should and shouldn’t eat, and treading on those opinions is risky.’
Porter’s advice is to keep it simple: drink lots of water to help your body flush out or eliminate impurities and include the following 5 foods to help ward off liver damage. Furthermore, as hepatitis C can leave you feeling fatigued and with no desire to do anything but sleep and hang about, a fuel-rich diet is just the thing to give your body as much energy as possible.
5 Foods to eat if you have hepatitis C
Vegetables. Eat lots of them in every colour you can find. Include beetroot: it stimulates bile flow, helping your liver to break down toxic wastes and excrete them from the body faster. Beetroot also helps the other detoxification organs to work better, and is rich in fibre and vitamin C, which cleanse the digestive system.
Whole grains – in moderate amounts. Complex carbohydrates (the unprocessed kind: whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, barley, quinoa) fuel the body. Simple carbs (rice, potatoes, pasta) contain lots of glucose, a simple sugar. That’s not what you’re looking for. The fuel provided by simple carbs is poor compared to that found in complex carbs.
Proteins. Your body needs protein to repair and replace damaged tissue. Choose plant-based or lean protein choices such as egg whites, yoghurt (plain, Bulgarian or Greek), nuts, seeds, beans, fish and poultry.
Healthy fats such as olive oil. Try to avoid saturated (animal products such as beef, lamb, pork, poultry skin, cheese, butter, whole milk, cream, lard and palm oil) and trans fats, found in many manufactured foods.
Dietary pitfalls if you have hepatitis C
Love a boerie roll? High-sodium foods such as processed, fast and other ‘junk’ foods – pies, chips and yes, boerie rolls. Extra sodium is a no-no for people with liver disease. Why? When the organ is so damaged that it fails to produce enough proteins in the blood, it releases more fluid into the tissues to try to even out the imbalance. Eating sodium-high foods worsens the effect. Too much sodium causes you to retain fluids to reduce its concentration.
Fructose is the carb to skip. Fructose is sugar. Fructose is largely broken down in the liver, and excess fructose can raise triglycerides, create insulin resistance and may cause fatty liver disease. The exception is fresh fruit: although fruit contains fructose, it also has fibre and other nutrients that are metabolised more slowly by the liver.
You may think that the food you’re buying is sugar-free, but check labels carefully. Other names used for sugar are agave, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses and maple syrup.
Wild mushrooms. Certain wild mushrooms contain toxins that can damage the healthiest of livers. Don’t eat foraged mushrooms unless you are 100 percent sure that they are safe.
Skip sushi and oyster bars at restaurants to avoid potential food-borne illnesses. In fact, be careful about all raw seafood, because developing a parasitic or bacterial infection from raw seafood can worsen your hepatitis C.
Alcohol. Avoid alcohol until the virus has been eradicated.
Don’t pig out.. ‘A serving of anything is healthy; a plateful is not,’ says Lucinda Porter. Indulge by all means, but don’t overdo it. Have just a mouthful and Really Enjoy it.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your diet. Since many liver doctors may not necessarily have expertise in this area, a registered dietician may also be a good source of information. Ask your consultant to recommend a dietician who is qualified to give advice tailored to someone with hepatitis C.