Living with Hepatitis C: 6 Lifestyle Habits to Protect Your Liver

First things first: Ditch the alcohol.

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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.)