Eating better when you have hepatitis
25 Jul 2019
Hepatitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the liver. However, this organ plays an essential role in digestion. When it is infected with a virus, it should be protected by adapting your diet. Read our tips for improving your meals!
The liver, a vital organ for intaking nutritions
The liver is an essential organ essential for living. It is involved in a large number of the body's activities directly related to nutrition. This organ has a strong influence on nutritional health through its role in the intermediate metabolism of nutrients and bile salts - metabolism is the set of chemical and biological transformations that take place in the body. It is involved in the transformation of food into substances necessary for survival (nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc.).
It is also responsible for the elimination of substances toxic to the body (alcohol, drug residue, elimination of toxins that are produced by the degradation of certain proteins in the body). Proper nutrition can help the liver function better and prevent it from working too hard.
Hepatitis, a liver disease that can have serious consequences
A sick liver disrupts the digestion, absorption, storage and metabolism of nutrients, which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as protein and calorie malnutrition.
Hepatitis is an inflammatory disease caused by viruses (A, B, C, C, D or E) or toxic chemicals, such as alcohol or drugs. Hepatitis depending on its origin can be acute (most frequent) or chronic (when inflammation persists for at least 6 months). It is therefore evident that diets are necessary to avoid overuse of the liver in the event of liver disease.
A balanced diet
In agreement with your doctor, it is important to define a caloric intake adapted to your weight, height, activity, energy expenditure, and to spread it over the whole day. It is also important to ensure that you have an adequate supply of liquids (about 1.5 to 2 litres per day): water, milk, fruit juices, hot broths or nutritious drinks (soya milk, vegetable soup).
Foods to choose from
- Eat protein-rich foods to fight infections and regenerate the liver, such as fish.
- Eat plenty of easily digestible fruits, vegetables and cereals. Vegetables can be eaten in soup, gratin or raw (washing and peeling).
- Foods cooked with steam or in the oven wrapped in foil are strongly recommended. Thanks to these gentle cooking processes, all nutrients are preserved and there is no need to add fat.
- Contrary to popular belief, chocolate consumption does not pose a particular risk for patients with hepatitis.
Grapefruit, a false friend or an ally?
Grapefruit is an ally for the liver because it promotes liver detoxification and the elimination of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). One of its compounds, naringenin, a flavonoid with strong antioxidant properties, reduces LDL cholesterol levels by about 17%. Some studies have also shown that naringenin has activity against the hepatitis C virus.
However, we must be careful! The consumption of grapefruit may limit the effectiveness of some hepatitis treatments. Indeed, grapefruit blocks the functioning of certain enzymes, cytochromes P450, powerful agents of drug metabolism. Talk to your doctor to avoid any interaction with your treatments.
What to avoid
- Alcohol consumption should be avoided for at least 6 months, as long as jaundice (i.e. the yellow colouring of the skin) persists and especially during treatment. Alcohol is toxic to the liver, therefore, it must be protected and given time to regenerate.
- Limit foods high in animal fat. Since the liver is unable to produce enough bile to eliminate them, dairy products must be consumed in moderation (pasteurised products) and high-fat meats replaced by vegetables and fish.
Have you changed your diet? Which products do you prefer? Give us your advice and ask your questions!