Salt Intake and Ascites: What to Know With Hepatitis C
Last updated: July 2023
If you have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and already have some liver damage, your doctor may restrict your sodium to 2,000 mg or less per day. It can be very frustrating at first. This is especially true if you have always eaten what you wanted. I had so many restrictions after my diagnosis with hepatitis C and cirrhosis that I was not sure what to eat. It was hard work to come up with a diet makeover. However, I quickly learned that the benefits of a low salt diet far outweigh the inconveniences of managing both ascites and hepatitis C.
Your body and salt
Any time your body has imbalanced levels of sodium, it places a burden on your liver. Your doctor will try to relieve the burden using several different methods. They may remove the fluid using a paracentesis. They may also place you on a diuretic to help remove sodium from your body. The first line of action usually includes a low sodium diet.
Ascites: how I found out about my hepatitis C
My story of ascites began on a summer day in 2010 when I went for a bike ride. The next day, my feet began swelling. When I woke up the following morning, my stomach was protruding way out. I went to the doctor and ended up in the emergency room. Within 24 hours I had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C. I had a big case of ascites. My liver was failing.
They drained 2 liters of fluid using a tap or paracentesis and told me that my salt intake was the culprit. My experience was a bit extreme, but many of you have also had the procedure and know that high sodium can be dangerous. The swelling was a result of low levels of protein albumin and also portal hypertension. It is also connected to high sodium that your kidney cannot process easily.
Cutting down on salt intake and ascites
Taking diuretics can help with the swelling and your doctor may prescribe them at first. I was concerned for my kidney, since I only have one. I wanted to try and reduce my dependence on diuretics. That is when I got serious about a low sodium diet. Within a few months of reduced salt, I was able to cut the Lasix and Spironolactone in half. Soon I was off of medication completely. I controlled my swelling with good low sodium food!
By lowering your salt intake, you can lower the risk of swelling too. Many times you will lose a lot of water weight quickly! No matter what treatment your doctor offers for ascites, let them know you are going to work hard on eating a low sodium diet. Your medical team is always glad to see you helping them take care of your body. Eating a low sodium diet can have more benefits than you know. Who knows? It is so easy to cut back on the salt – and you may not even miss it.