What you eat (and don’t eat) plays a great role in treating hepatitis C infection and alleviating its symptoms. Consuming a healthy diet not only helps you experience relief from the pain that this illness causes, but also:1
• Helps promote liver health by giving your body nutrients it needs to generate new liver cells
• Gives you energy to perform everyday activities
• Boosts your immunity
• Helps you maintain a healthy normal weight
• Reduces your risk of other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer
What Are the Best Foods for Hepatitis C Patients?
According to Lucinda Porter,2 a nurse who has been diagnosed with hepatitis C, although there is a wide variation on nutrition advice when it comes to eating for this illness, there are certain guidelines that health experts and physicians agree on:
• Eat fresh, raw and organic vegetables in as many colors as possible. One good piece of advice is to shop the “colors of the rainbow.” This will help you see which items you are missing. Green is the easiest choice, since there’s a wide variety to choose from.
Ideally, make sure you get both light green and dark green veggies. However, aside from rainbow colors, don’t forget to include white produce like onions and cauliflower.3
• Consume plant-based or lean protein choices in moderation. Pastured eggs, beans and nuts, lean grass-fed meats, fish such as wild Alaskan salmon and poultry are great choices.
Protein is a building block that is essential for repairing and building new tissues,4 which you need if you have sustained liver damage. However, avoid excessive protein intake as well, as too much of it will lead to fluid retention and cause excess toxins to enter your bloodstream.5
• Fruits should be consumed in moderate amounts. This is because fruits contain fructose, which is harmful when consumed in excess. In fact, fructose can damage your liver and body in the same way that alcohol does.
Since your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for fructose,6 consuming it in excessive amounts can put significant stress on the organ, leading to more damage.
• Choose healthy fats, like coconut oil and olive oil. Avoid trans fats, as they can impact the body as a whole and can produce additional stress on the liver. Some of the protein-rich foods mentioned above are also a good source of healthy omega-3 fats, particularly wild Alaskan salmon and pastured eggs.
• Get enough fiber. Fiber is nature’s broom to help eliminate toxins from the body.7 Organic psyllium is one good source of fiber, but make sure to consult your physician before adding it to your diet.
• Increase your fluid intake.8 You should aim to drink at least six to eight glasses of water every day. Use your urine color to gauge how much water you should be getting (it should be a pale yellow color).
Aside from plain water, other healthy fluids include herbal teas and coffee. A 2014 report from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine found that drinking coffee every day may help prevent liver scarring in hepatitis C.9 However, make sure you consume coffee black and organic, without any sweeteners or creamers. Coffee may also cause you to pass more urine and lead to dehydration, so consult your doctor to determine how much coffee is safe for you.
Avoid These Foods Like the Plague
Knowing what to avoid is equally important to help you recuperate from this illness. Keep in mind to keep these foods out of your shopping cart:
• Alcohol — There is no safe level for alcohol if you have hepatitis C. Excessive alcohol can damage your liver and cause cirrhosis. Avoid all types of alcohol, including red wine, if you have this illness.10
• Salty foods — Salt helps keep fluids in your blood vessels, which can cause an added burden to your liver since fluid retention is a common side effect of liver damage. Avoid all processed foods, canned foods and junk foods, as they are typically high in salt.11
• Wheat and gluten — Gluten is highly inflammatory since the human body is not really designed to digest it. Following a gluten-free diet may be beneficial to your liver.12
• Hydrogenated vegetable oils — Any type of refined oil, including canola, soy and corn oil is hard for your liver to process.
• Sugar and artificial sweeteners — Sugar, particularly fructose, not only stresses the digestive processes and burdens the liver and pancreas, but it also feeds the hepatitis C virus. Artificial sweeteners, meanwhile, not only contribute to a host of health problems, but are also extremely difficult for the liver to process.
Make sure you avoid whole grains (which convert to sugar into your body) and processed fruit juices as well. Commercial fruit juices are high in concentrated sugar — both fructose and artificial sweeteners.
In addition, make sure that you avoid drinking fluoridated tap water. Most tap water today is contaminated not only with this toxin, but with inorganic chemicals — heavy metals, chlorine and other compounds — that your liver cannot process.13