Your liver works tirelessly to eliminate toxins and other harmful substances that can make you sick. Start showing your liver some love by heeding these rules.
- Eat a balanced, healthful diet. Focus on whole grains, vegetables, lean protein, fish and fruit.
- Lose weight, if necessary. "Hepatitis C progresses more quickly in overweight folks than in skinny ones," says Michael E. Cox, MD, assistant chief of gastroenterology at the Melissa Posner Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease in Baltimore, MD. Use whatever weight-management plan works well for you. "Any type of diet that allows you to lose weight is the ideal diet," says Dr. Cox.
- Choose water, juice or club soda over wine or beer. If you have hepatitis C, even one alcoholic drink a day can increase your chances of developing liver disease. If you think you might have a drinking problem, talk to your doctor. Alcoholics Anonymous has helped many people stop drinking.
- Drink enough water. Aim for eight glasses a day. This is especially important if you are undergoing treatment with interferon for hepatitis C. "Water helps to minimize interferon's side effects," says Dr. Cox.
- Monitor the amount of acetaminophen you take. "You can take up to four regular-strength (325 mg) tabs or capsules a day," says Dr. Cox. More than that, he cautions, can tax your liver.
- Breathe in toxic fumes from cleaning products, paint or solvents because this can damage the liver. If you want to paint walls, for example, open windows, turn on fans and wear a mask. Always use gentle cleaning products.
- Obsess about avoiding foods that contain sugar, salt, fat and preservatives. It's only necessary to scrupulously avoid these ingredients if you have severe liver disease from hepatitis C. Bottom line? Unless your doctor advises otherwise, eat what you like—in moderation.
- Drink lots of caffeinated drinks, such as cola, coffee and tea. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, increasing urine output and contributing to dehydration.
- Take supplements without first discussing them with your doctor. "Vitamin E, for example, can increase the risk of heart problems," says Dr. Cox. "I also tell patients not to take milk thistle because the data on these supplements is not good enough to recommend it." Some hepatitis C patients also have high levels of iron in their blood, so using an iron supplement may be unwise.