Aside from getting treated, there are lots of things you can do to manage your hepatitis and look after your liver.
Here you’ll find heaps of info to help you with things like diet, sleep, exercise, alcohol and other drugs.
If you’re living with hepatitis then the amount of alcohol that you drink can have a serious impact on your liver health.
If you drink alcohol regularly your risk of developing liver damage is higher than that of someone who doesn’t drink. This is especially true if you regularly drink more than the amount listed in the Australian Alcohol Guidelines . These Guidelines state that for people who do not have a liver problem like hepatitis, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury (a standard drink is one schooner of light beer, one middy of full strength beer, one standard glass of wine or one nip of spirits).
If you have hepatitis it’s a good idea to have no more than two drinks a day and if possible less than this, because your liver needs more care in order to keep your liver functioning as well as possible.
Here are some ideas that you can use to reduce the impact of alcohol on your liver:
• Set limits for yourself and stick to them
• Start with non-alcoholic drinks and alternate with alcoholic drinks
• Drink slowly
• Try drinks with a lower alcohol content
• Eat before or whilst you are drinking
• If you participate in rounds of drinks try to include some non-alcoholic drinks
• Try to have at least 3 days a week on which you don’t drink any alcohol.
Controlling alcohol intake is an important first step to reducing the risk of serious liver damage.
If you do drink alcohol regularly (more than once or twice a week) then try to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B in your diet, as alcohol reduces the amount of vitamin B in your system. You can get B vitamins from whole unprocessed foods. You need B vitamins to help maintain good mental and physical health.
There are simple changes you can make to your diet and eating habits to ensure you’re looking after your liver.
Here are some things you can do:
Try to eat smaller meals that are easier for you to digest.
Avoid eating food that is hard for your liver to process. This includes food that is high in saturated fat like fast food, fried foods and food that has a lot of salt in it. Tinned and frozen vegetables and meals can be a good way of saving time, energy and money, but because most processed food like tinned vegetables or soups have lots of salt, look for the low-salt and no added salt options.
Eat bitter foods like rocket lettuce before main meals to improve digestion, or use lemon juice on salad leaves to start your meal. Bitter and sour foods help prompt your system to release digestive juices that help you digest food.
For the first 30 minutes after eating try to remain upright – either by sitting or walking around. Lying down can make it harder for your body to digest food and increases the chance that you’ll feel nauseous.
Like anyone else try to eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day – these foods will help keep your liver as healthy as possible. Check out Go for 2 & 5 website for information on serving sizes.
Eating a wide variety of foods in the right balance will help improve your health. Dieticians suggest avoiding restrictive or cleansing diets as there is little clinical or biological basis to support them.
Exercise is an important part of living well with hepatitis. Maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding diabetes are both going to mean you are giving your liver the best chance at staying healthy.
Try to take some moderate exercise early in the day. This can give you an energy boost and it helps your system to process your food. Find something that you enjoy doing so that exercise isn’t a chore: walk a dog (even your neighbour’s), use a bicycle rather than catching the bus, or get off the bus a stop or two before your destination and walk the rest of the way.
Avoid exercising just before bedtime as this energy boost might make it difficult to get to sleep.
Different drugs have different effects on your health. If you are living with hepatitis then it’s a good idea to find out what you’re taking and how it might affect your liver.
Some recent research shows that marijuana (pot, weed, gunja, hash) can damage your liver in a similar way to alcohol. If you smoke marijuana regularly, then reducing the amount you smoke or stopping smoking will improve your liver health.
Other drugs such as ice (aka crystal, methamphetamine, meth, tina) have a big effect on your immune system. If you use ice occasionally or regularly try to make sure you are also doing things to help look after your immune system. Things like eating some fresh fruit and vegetables every day, drinking plenty of water and doing some light exercise for twenty minutes a few times a week will all help.
If you use heroin or other opioids (like oxycodone) then keep in mind that over time these drugs can damage your liver and kidneys, so look into ways that you can look after your liver and kidneys (drinking plenty of water is a good start).
For more information around drug use check out NUAA – www.nuaa.org.au
This page was last updated 23 May 2016.