Hepatitis C: Living with hepatitis C

Nutrition

No special diet is necessary if liver function is not yet restricted. A well-balanced and healthy diet is recommended. People should avoid becoming overweight; and abstinence from alcohol and nicotine is important in order not to cause the liver additional stress.

Coffee seems to have a positive effect on the liver. Studies have shown that long-term harmful effects, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, occur more rarely or later in people with hepatitis C who drink coffee. In contrast to coffee, green tea has no influence of the progression of hepatitis C.

It may be necessary to restrict intake of certain foods if complications of cirrhosis develop, for example, restricting salt and fluid intake in cases of ascites.

Glossary

ascites

An accumulation of fluid in the abdomen; may be caused by liver damage, especially cirrhosis. 

cirrhosis

Scarring of the liver – the structure of the liver is altered. See also ‘fibrosis’, which is moderate scarring. See also ‘compensated cirrhosis’ and ‘decompensated cirrhosis’.

Changes in diet to manage complications of cirrhosis should be discussed on an individual basis with a doctor or nutritionist. A low-protein diet is only recommended very rarely these days, as this increases muscle loss and often makes the progression of the disease worse.1 People with cirrhosis, however, can often tolerate protein from plant sources, e.g. from vegetables, better than animal protein from meat products.

This information was originally adapted from Hepatitis C: Understanding a silent killer, published by the European Liver Patients Association. It was updated in 2016.

References

  1. Plauth M et al. ESPEN guidelines for nutrition in liver disease and transplantation. Clin Nutr 16: 43-55, 1997