Your liver is like your body’s chemical processing plant. One of its many jobs is to filter or break down anything you take into your body. If you have hepatitis C, though, it may not work as well as usual. Things may stay in your system too long and affect you more strongly, or they may injure the organ.
To avoid problems, you might need to change what you eat and drink and the kinds of supplements and drugs you take.
Alcohol, Illegal Drugs, and Cigarettes
Don’t drink any alcohol unless your doctor says it’s OK. It can speed up damage to your liver cells.
Street drugs in general are no good for your liver. For example, marijuana leads to faster liver scarring. And using a needle to inject substances can raise your risk of getting re-infected with hepatitis C.
If you’re a smoker, you need to quit. It can raise the risk of liver cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to break the habit.
Medications and Liver Care
If you have cirrhosis (liver scarring) from hepatitis C, you need to be very careful about the medications you take.
Here are some things to avoid:
Acetaminophen.It can kill liver cells if you combine it with alcohol. It can also lower the number of platelets you have. Those are blood cells that help stop bleeding.
- Sleeping pills or tranquilizers
Whatever stage of hepatitis C you have, follow these guidelines to avoid causing damage to your liver from medications:
- Share a list of all your prescription and over-the-counter drugs with all your doctors.
- Make sure all your doctors know you have hep C.
- Take as few medications as possible.
- Carefully read the ingredient list of over-the-counter drugs. Acetaminophen is in many cold and flu medications and in most painkillers labeled “non-aspirin.”
- Never take more of a medication, or for a longer period of time, than your doctor recommends.
- Supplements, Herbs, and Liver Care
Talk to you doctor before taking any supplements if you have hepatitis C. Some of them may cause severe liver injury.
It’s also important to keep in mind that supplements and herbs aren’t regulated by the FDA in the same way as medications. They don’t go through the same tough testing to see if they’re safe and effective.
Some common natural products that can be risky for your liver are:
- Comfrey, mate, and Gordolobo yerba teas
- Pennyroyal (squaw mint oil)
- Margosa oil
Weight loss products can also harm your liver. So can large doses of vitamin and mineral supplements. These include iron and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Foods and Liver Care
In general, good nutrition may help your liver form new cells. But if you have hepatitis C, there are some foods to avoid or eat less of.
If you have cirrhosis, your doctor will let you know how much protein you need. When you’re in the late stages of this condition, protein can be hard for your liver to process. Then toxins can build up and interfere with how your brain works.
Also, avoid foods like these:
- Raw oysters or shellfish, which can have bacteria that give you serious infections that are more severe if you have hep C
- Fatty, sugary foods, which can stress your liver or lead to fat deposits in it
- Salty foods if you have fluid buildup in your belly or legs
Please read about How not to Wreck your liver here.