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Viral Hepatitis Treatment: Diet

Overview

The following dietary guidelines1 are recommended for people with chronic hepatitis:

  • Consume more cruciferous vegetables: In addition to containing many vitamins and minerals, these vegetables have phytochemicals that assist the body in its detoxification processes. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, and turnips, among many others. Eat them raw or lightly cooked to maintain their health properties.
  • Consume more fruit: Like cruciferous vegetables, many fruits contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that help the liver detoxify. Focus especially on nutrient-dense berries (blueberries, cranberries, etc.), citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.) as well as melons, mangoes and peaches. As with vegetables, fruits lose some of their health properties in cooking, so aim for more fresh or lightly cooked fruits.
  • Avoid or limit consumption of foods that contain substances that block detoxification: These foods include grapefruit (naringenin), hot peppers (capsaicin), onions (quercetin), and clove oil (eugenol).
  • Eat enough protein: The body's immune and detoxification systems need enough protein in order to work properly. People with compromised livers need more protein.
  • Limit fat intake, and eat the right fats: A high-fat diet might increase the risk of cirrhosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Reduce trans fats (hydrogenated oils) and omega-6 fats (safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil) and emphasize monounsaturated fats (olive oil, peanut oil) and omega-3 fats.
  • Increase fiber: Fiber helps remove toxins from the gut, relieving some of the burden on the liver. Get more fiber by increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and possibly supplement with soluble fiber such as psyllium or chia.

In managing hepatitis, it is important to alleviate the toxic load on the liver. In addition to the above, you can also1:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Consume more high-quality, organic foods, as minimally processed as possible
  • Avoid non-essential drugs and supplements
  • Reduce your exposure to toxins in the environment (such as pesticides) and your workplace (such as chemicals and fumes)

Some supplements may be helpful treatments for hepatitis:

Note: Even natural products have the potential to harm the liver. Consult with your doctor before beginning treatment with any new herb or supplement.

Treatments

Effect of SAM-E on Viral Hepatitis

SAMe may improve liver-related symptoms in hepatitis patients with cholestasis (backup of bile in the liver).

Read more about Viral Hepatitis and SAM-E.

Supplements to Use Only With Caution

Many natural products have the capacity to harm the liver. Furthermore, due to the generally inadequate regulation of dietary supplements that exists at the time of this writing, there are real risks that herbal products, at least, may contain liver-toxic contaminants even if the actual herbs listed on the label are safe. For this reason, we recommend that people with liver disease do not use any medicinal herbs except under the supervision of a physician. Here, we list some specific information to aid in your decision-making process.

All forms of vitamin B3 may damage the liver when taken in high doses, including niacin, niacinamide (nicotinamide), and inositol hexaniacinate. (Nutritional supplementation at the standard daily requirement level should not cause a problem.)

Some supplements have known or suspected liver-toxic properties, including germanium (a mineral) and minerals used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Blue-green algae species such as spirulina may at times be contaminated with liver-toxic substances called microcystins, for which no highest safe level is known.

References

  1. Rakel, D. (2007). Integrative Medicine (2nd Ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier.

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