8 Tips for Living Well with Hepatitis C
- A Liver-Friendly LifestyleHepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. If it lasts long-term—and it usually does—getting appropriate medical care helps prevent serious complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Beyond that, making healthy lifestyle choices helps protect your liver and boost your well-being. Read on to learn what you can do.
- 1. Eat a Healthy DietWhen you have hepatitis C, eating a nutritious, balanced diet helps your liver work better and reduces your risk of developing cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. Choose a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and dairy products, and healthy protein foods such as fish, lean meats, and dried beans.
- 2. Manage Appetite KillersSome medications used to treat hepatitis C can cause side effects that make it harder to eat healthfully. To reduce nausea, eat smaller, more frequent meals and avoid spicy, greasy or acidic foods. To counter a metallic taste in your mouth, use plastic utensils, and eat a little yogurt a half-hour before mealtimes.
- 3. Avoid Drinking AlcoholHepatitis C reduces the liver's ability to break down alcohol and remove its toxic byproducts. Consequently, alcohol can harm the liver and speed up cirrhosis. Doctors advise not drinking if you have hepatitis C. Remove temptation at home, and practice saying no in social situations. Find more tips here.
- 4. Stay Physically ActiveWhen you have hepatitis C, regular exercise helps improve your total health and manage drug side effects such as fatigue and depression. The ideal choice is often a low-impact activity such as walking or swimming, done at a comfortable pace. Talk with your doctor about the best exercise plan for you.
- 5. Shed Excess PoundsBeing overweight can cause fatty deposits on the liver and worsen complications of hepatitis C. Fortunately, losing weight can reverse some of those effects. A good starting goal is to slowly lose 10 percent of your body weight. Avoid extreme diets and rapid weight loss, which put a strain on your liver.
- 6. Fight Fever and AchesSometimes the medications used to treat hepatitis C can cause flu-like side effects. To soothe a fever, drink extra fluids and take a lukewarm sponge bath. To ease achy muscles, try a warm, moist compress or a gentle massage. Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter pain relievers.
- 7. Take Care With SupplementsCertain vitamins and herbal products can be dangerous for people with hepatitis C. Avoid taking comfrey, kava, pennyroyal, skullcap, valerian, and megadoses of vitamins A, D, E and K. If your iron levels are high—a problem for some people with cirrhosis—skip multivitamins with iron and large doses of vitamin C.
- 8. Reduce Your StressLiving with a chronic illness such as hepatitis C can be stressful. When you're feeling tense, try going for a short walk, taking a few deep breaths, or doing some gentle yoga. Make sure to get plenty of rest. Share your worries with a family member or friend, and consider joining a support group.