Hepatitis C may lead to liver complications. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes liver inflammation that can advance to permanent scarring, or cirrhosis.

Despite these risks, you can make concrete changes now to help protect your liver. Taking care of your liver can prevent further damage while also increasing your overall quality of life.

Due to advances in antiviral treatments, hepatitis C has a better outlook compared to previous years. Still, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes in addition to standard medications.

Consider the following steps you can take to protect the health of your liver.

Hepatitis C can cause initial weight loss as your body tries to fight off the virus. But the disease can present long-term implications for weight gain.

It’s possible for your weight to fluctuate as you start gaining your appetite back after experiencing symptoms like nausea and an inability to keep food down.

Gaining weight may not be a concern for you. But people with overweight or obesity may be at higher risk of liver damage. Having hepatitis C is thought to be more damaging to your liver if you have excess body weight.

Long-term weight management can go a long way in protecting your liver. Losing weight may also help prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

If you’re having difficulty maintaining your weight, ask your doctor for helpful resources. They can also help you set attainable weight goals that are appropriate for your age, height, and overall health.

Beyond managing your weight if needed, you may also want to reconsider the foods you’re consuming for overall liver health.

A liver-friendly diet is one that focuses on fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and complex carbs derived from whole grains. Reduced portions of all foods — especially fatty ones — can also help you protect your liver.

Here are some other dietary tips that can help you protect your liver while achieving your weight goals:

  • Avoid added sugars.
  • Choose plant-based oils, such as olive oil, over butter.
  • Snack on nuts and seeds.
  • Choose low fat dairy products.
  • Avoid saturated fats found in sour cream, packaged meats, and boxed foods.
  • Reduce your sodium intake.
  • Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day unless your doctor has advised you to limit fluid intake.

Drinking alcohol can negatively affect an already damaged liver. It’s important to decrease the amount of alcohol you consume on a regular basis. Your doctor may even recommend that you refrain from alcohol altogether.

Your liver is the primary organ responsible for metabolizing nutrients and other substances you ingest. If there’s too much alcohol in your system, your liver enzymes may be ill-equipped to process it. In turn, the excess alcohol circulates through the rest of your body.

As a rule of thumb, it’s important to drink in moderation. This equates to two drinks a day for men, and one a day for women.

Still, moderate alcohol consumption can be dangerous when you’re living with hepatitis C. Ask your doctor for specific recommendations.

If your doctor recommends weight loss to improve the health of your liver, exercise is one method to do that. But the benefits of exercise extend beyond weight loss and weight management.

Aside from reducing overall body fat, exercise can help decrease fat around your liver. Regular exercise can also boost your mood, as well as your energy levels.

For best results, aim for 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week plus strength training. Start out gradually, and focus on activities you enjoy. For example, include a combination of running or walking, group exercise classes or team sports, and machines at the gym.

Your liver plays a critical role in processing medications, herbs, and supplements. It’s important to take extra precautions with these when your liver is weakened due to hepatitis C. This includes over-the-counter medication such as allergy drugs and pain relievers, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies.

Talk to your doctor before using any new medications or supplements. Also, avoid alcohol while you’re taking any medications. This can inadvertently increase liver damage.

Protecting your overall liver health when you have hepatitis C can go a long way in preventing complications. This is crucial because if your liver reaches a state of cirrhosis, it causes irreversible scarring. Severe liver damage from hepatitis C may eventually require a liver transplant.

Although antiviral treatments can clear the hepatitis C virus from your body, it’s still possible have lingering liver damage. You’re also at a higher risk of cirrhosis if you have chronic untreated hepatitis C.

Protecting your liver is important for anyone, but it’s especially vital if you have a condition that affects your liver like hepatitis C.