While living with hepatitis C isn’t easy, there are ways to manage the virus and live a happy, productive life.
From keeping your liver healthy to dieting to dealing with stress, here are some steps you can take to manage your hepatitis C.
Preventing Complications from Hepatitis C
Liver damage is a major concern for people with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can cause inflammation or swelling of the liver.
This inflammation can eventually lead to liver damage called cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition where scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue. A liver with too much scar tissue won’t work properly.
Here are some things you can do to keep your liver healthy:
- Don’t drink alcohol and avoid using recreational drugs.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise most days.
- Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet full of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit trans fats and saturated fats.
- Avoid eating raw shellfish, including oysters, clams, lobsters, shrimp, and mussels.
- Talk with your doctor before taking vitamins or other supplements.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
You may not think that your weight has anything to do with the health of your liver, but being overweight is actually linked to a buildup of fat in the liver. This is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Having a “fatty liver” when you already have hepatitis C may increase your risk of getting cirrhosis. Certain medications used to treat hepatitis C may also not be as effective if you’re overweight.
If you’re overweight, following a healthy eating plan and exercising regularly can help you lose weight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults should do some moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes at least five days of the week.
Some examples of moderate-intensity activities include:
- walking briskly
- mowing the lawn
Diet and Nutrition Tips for Hepatitis C
There are no hard and fast diet and nutrition rules for people with hepatitis C. But eating a good, well-balanced diet can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of hepatitis C complications.
Here are some general guidelines for eating well with hepatitis C:
- Choose whole-grain cereals, breads, and grains.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors.
- Avoid processed foods containing trans fats.
- Go easy on fatty, sugary, or salty foods.
- Resist fad diets, and opt for a food plan that you can live with and follow for the long term.
- Stop eating when you’re about 80 percent full. You may actually be more full than you think you are.
- Boost your energy by eating small meals or snacks every three to four hours.
Hepatitis C and Alcohol
Alcohol can damage cells in the liver. This damage can worsen the effects of hepatitis C on the liver.
Studies have shown that heavy alcohol use in people with hepatitis C can increase your risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Experts are not sure how much alcohol is too much for people with hepatitis C, or whether any level of alcohol consumption is safe. Some studies have found that even light to moderate drinking can increase the risk of liver damage.
For this reason, many doctors recommend that people with hepatitis C don’t drink any alcohol.
Coping with Fatigue
Fatigue or extreme tiredness is one of the most common symptoms of hepatitis C.
If you’re feeling fatigued, try these methods:
- Take short naps during the day.
- Don’t plan too many activities for one day. Try to space strenuous activities out over the week.
- If your workday is tiring, ask about flexible hours or telecommuting options.
Coping with Stress
Getting diagnosed with hepatitis C can be stressful. It’s normal to feel anxious, irritable, or even angry. Managing stress is an important part of managing hepatitis C. Everyone deals with stress a little differently, so it’s important to find what works for you.
If you’re feeling stressed, try these methods:
- Exercise for at least 15 minutes daily. Try walking, running, dancing, biking, golfing, swimming, gardening, or yoga.
- Take a stress management class. Your employer, medical provider, health insurance company, or community center may offer classes to help you learn techniques for dealing with stress.
- Set limits to your schedule and remember that it’s OK to say “no.”
- Cut back on your to-do list. If something doesn’t really need to be done, take it off the list or save it for another day.
- Avoid other people who increase your stress.
- Ask others for help with daily chores or tasks.
By managing your hepatitis C, you’re also taking control of your health and own well-being.