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Hepatitis C diet: Foods to eat and what to avoid

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Hepatitis C diet: Foods to eat and what to avoid

Story at-a-glance -

  • Although there is a wide variation on nutrition advice when it comes to eating for this illness, there are certain guidelines that most health experts and physicians agree on
  • There is no safe level for alcohol if you have hepatitis C. Even if consumed in small amounts, alcohol can damage your liver and cause cirrhosis, and even increase your risk of liver cancer

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 will help keep your liver healthy and reduce your risk for damage, but may also boost your immunity, so your body can better fight off the infection.1

What are the best foods for hepatitis C patients?

Lucinda Porter,2 a nurse who has been diagnosed with hepatitis C and has become an advocate of this disease,3 says that there is no single diet that works for all HCV patients. She notes that although there is a wide variation on nutrition advice when it comes to eating for this illness, there are certain guidelines that most health experts and physicians agree on. These include:

Eat fresh, raw, 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.4

Consume plant-based or lean protein choices in moderation — Protein is a building block — your body needs it in order to repair and build new tissues,5 which you need if you have sustained liver damage. Pastured eggs, beans and nuts, lean grass fed meats, fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon, and poultry are great choices.

However, avoid excessive protein intake, as this will cause protein breakdown and byproducts to build up in your blood. An excessive buildup can lead to encephalopathy, which can hinder proper mental function and lead to brain fog.6

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,7 consuming it in excessive amounts can put significant stress on the organ, leading to more damage.

Choose healthy fats — While Porter recommends canola oil in the mentioned article, I believe coconut oil is the better choice because of its array of benefits. Olive oil is also acceptable, as long as it’s used cold, drizzled over salads.

Avoid trans fats, as they can impact the body as a whole and can produce additional stress on the liver, potentially leading to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).8 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 helps eliminate toxins from the body.9 One study notes that dietary fiber can “protect key organs such as the liver and kidney from metabolic insults.”10 Organic psyllium is one good source of fiber, but make sure to consult your physician before adding it to your diet.

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Foods to avoid if you have hepatitis C

Knowing what to avoid is equally important to help you recuperate from this illness. It’s better to keep these foods out of your shopping cart:

  • Alcohol There is no safe level for alcohol if you have hepatitis C. Even if consumed in small amounts, alcohol can damage your liver and cause cirrhosis, and even increase your risk of liver cancer.11
  • Salty foods — Salt helps keep fluids in your blood vessels, which can cause an added burden to your liver since fluid retention in the abdomen, called ascites, is a common side effect of liver damage.12 Avoid all processed foods, canned foods and junk foods, as they are typically high in salt.
  • Wheat and gluten — Gluten can significantly trigger inflammation and lead to leaky gut syndrome. In turn, leaky gut is linked to a different form of hepatitis called autoimmune hepatitis, which also destroys your liver.13
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils — Any type of refined oil, including canola, soy and corn oil is difficult for your liver to process. One animal study found that partially hydrogenated vegetable oil led to a higher accumulation of triacylglycerols and cholesterol in the liver compared to saturated fats, which affected the severity of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.14
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners — One study notes that there’s a “two-way association” between hepatitis C and diabetes,15 which is why you must limit your consumption of these sweeteners. Make sure you avoid grains (which convert to sugar into your body) and processed fruit juices and sodas as well.

In addition, avoid drinking fluoridated tap water. One study found that drinking fluoridated water caused damage in the liver and kidney function of children,16 and if you have hepatitis C, this may further worsen your liver’s deterioration.

MORE ABOUT HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C: Introduction

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C in Pregnancy

How Do You Get Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C Duration

Is Hepatitis C Contagious?

Hepatitis C Causes

Hepatitis C Types

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C Prevention

Hepatitis C Diet

Hepatitis C FAQ

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