Hepatitis C is the leading cause of severe liver disease and liver cancer, both of which can be fatal. So, what are some of the ways you can protect your liver when you’re living with hepatitis C?
To keep your liver healthy when living with hepatitis C, the most important thing to do is to follow a hepatitis C treatment plan outlined by your hepatitis specialist, which is usually not your primary care doctor, but a board certified doctor with additional training to treat infectious diseases, liver diseases, or gastroenterologist disorders, among a few others. There are a number of treatment options available to slow or even stop damage to the liver and dramatically reduce your risk for hepatitis C-related complications.
In addition to a treatment plan described by your immunology specialist, these eight simple steps can help keep the liver healthy in the battle against hepatitis C:
1. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol is toxic to the liver, and drinking alcohol is associated with a faster progression of liver disease. For patients with hepatitis C, there is no safe amount of alcohol. There is no measure of how much alcohol is harmful; therefore the best recommendation is not to drink any.
2. Minimize Acetaminophen Use
Acetaminophen (commonly found in over-the-counter pain relievers such as Sudafed) can cause damage on its own, so if the liver is already compromised, the chances of liver damage are higher. Limiting the use of pain medications containing acetaminophen to less than 2,000 milligrams a day can lower the chances of damaging the liver further.
3. Discuss All Medications or Supplements with Your Doctor
Drugs that are metabolized by the liver may cause further harm when the liver is already damaged. Even “natural” supplements can interfere with liver function and cause severe side effects. It’s best to inform your doctor in on all the medications being taken.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight Through Diet and Exercise
The fat built up in the liver when you’re overweight can contribute to insulin resistance and liver damage from fibrosis, or scarring, of the liver. Exercising regularly and making other lifestyle changes like eating healthy foods and watching your calorie intake can help to protect the liver.
5. Don’t Give Up Coffee
According to preliminary research in a study of 766 participants conducted by the National Institutes of Health, patients who drank three or more cups of coffee per day had a 50 percent lower risk of disease progression.
6. Get Vaccinated
It’s best to be proactive and get tested for other viruses that affect the liver, like hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and get vaccinated against them to reduce the risk for further liver damage.
7. Talk About Sex
It’s not uncommon to have a normal sex life in a monogamous relationship where one partner has chronic hepatitis C. The transmission of hepatitis C through sex is low, and the couple always has the decision to use barrier protection. Using barrier protection is recommended for people having sex with multiple partners to help protect others from hepatitis C and protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, which can accelerate liver damage.
8. Keeping Appointments for Regular Checkups
For chronic hepatitis C, most patients will see their doctor every three to six months, depending on the severity of the illness and the type of treatment being performed. Don’t skip these appointments. Use them as opportunities to evaluate the best care steps as well as overall condition.
To schedule an appointment with one of our board certified specialists call (407) 647-3960 or click here to request an appointment.