First things first: Ditch the alcohol.
Sticking to your medication regimen is crucial for protecting your liver when you’re diagnosed with hepatitis C, but it’s not the only thing you should do for a healthy liver. Medication for hepatitis C will be far more effective if you supplement it with healthy lifestyle habits.
Here are the habits that can protect the liver and help prevent long-term liver damage, according to internist Paul Knoepflmacher, MD.
Sober up: Alcohol is toxic to the liver, whether or not you have hepatitis C. Excessive drinking can lead to cirrhosis and advanced liver disease, according to the American Liver Foundation. “Honestly, if you have hepatitis,” says Dr. Knoepflmacher, “it’s best to just avoid alcohol completely.”
Vaccinate: If you have hepatitis C, getting another liver infection such as hepatitis A or B can take a toll on your already-taxed liver. Check with your doctor about getting vaccinated for hepatitis A or B, or make sure you’ve already been vaccinated.
Check your medications: Some medications and herbal supplements can be toxic to your liver. Whatever pills you are taking, you should bring them to your doctor or pharmacist to get the OK.
Be cautious with painkillers: Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, can cause liver damage if you exceed the recommended dosage—even in healthy people. “You might want to avoid it or take less if you have hepatitis C,” says Dr. Knoepflmacher. (Learn more about common OTC painkillers here.)
Lose weight: Yep, your weight can impact your liver. Fatty liver disease, a buildup of fat in the liver, can scar the liver. This commonly occurs in those who are overweight or who have an insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. The American Liver Foundation recommends a standard combination of calorie reduction and physical activity.
- Quit smoking: Cigarettes introduce toxins to the liver and increase the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer in those with hepatitis C. If you currently smoke—regardless of your hep C status—seek help to quit. (Here are strategies to help quit smoking.)
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.
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Treating hepatitis C isn't
just about adhering to
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your medication, although that's critical.
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There are healthy lifestyle habits that
I emphasize because they can have a big
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impact on your health too.
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The first, no alcohol.
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Alcohol is toxic to your liver,
even in people without hepatitis C.
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Drinking too much can cause cirrhosis and
advanced disease by itself, and
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can be more damaging to
those with hepatitis.
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When you have hepatitis C, getting
a second type of viral hepatitis can
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be very serious because your
liver is already under attack.
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So you should ask your doctor about
getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and
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Or check to see if you're already immune.
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Many different medications and herbal
supplements can be toxic to the liver.
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So it's a good idea to bring
everything you take to the doctor or
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the pharmacist to make
sure it's still safe.
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One very common over the counter drug
you should be sure to ask out is
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01:09.350 --> 01:10.540
Even in healthy people,
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it can cause liver damage if you
exceed the recommended dosage.
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You might want to avoid it or
take less if you have hepatitis C.
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If you're overweight, losing weight
can be very healthy for your liver.
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Because being overweight and having
insulin resistance or type two diabetes
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can cause fat to build up in the liver,
a condition called fatty liver.
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And this can contribute to
the scaring of the liver.
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Finally, if you smoke, get help to quit.
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The toxins in cigarettes
smoke hurt the liver.
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And study show that people with hepatitis
who smoke have higher risks of developing
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cirrhosis and liver cancer.
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After you've been treated for
hepatitis C, it's so
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important to stick with these
healthy habits to protect
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your liver function and
to prevent further damage.
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Immunizations for patients with chronic liver disease. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. (Accessed on October 3, 2017 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/immunizations-for-patients-with-chronic-liver-disease/.)Managing your health while on treatment. New York, NY: American Liver Foundation, 2020. (Accessed on December 29, 2020 at http://hepc.liverfoundation.org/treatment/while-on-treatment/managing-your-health-while-on-treatment/.)