Low Fat Diet for Liver Health for Hepatitis C Patients
Last updated: June 2023
This article presents an overview of what the liver does and how hepatitis C can impact its function. Read on to learn about how dietary changes, including a switch to a low-fat diet, can improve liver health and help mitigate the effects of hepatitis C.
What does the liver do?
Although the liver interacts with many of the organs in the abdomen, the liver has three main jobs. The first job is that the liver cleans the blood. It takes any waste or unneeded/excess nutrients and filters them out so that the blood that goes through the body only has what it needs in it. The parts that are filtered out are sent to be processed and eliminated during toileting. Second, the liver helps to turn carbohydrates into energy. This allows the body to digest the carbohydrates and turn it into something useful, which enables the body to both maintain the body functions needed to exist (such as breathing, blinking, and the like) as well as giving the body the ability to move, to play sports, and to feel energetic.
Lastly, the liver processes fats. The liver turns consumed fat into fatty acids, which become long-term fat, which is stored for the body as body fat. These fats become fatty tissues as well, once they join with cholesterol and travel throughout the body through the bloodstream.
What does the liver have to do with fatty foods?
When a person consumes any food containing fats, the liver processes that fat in order for the body to use as much of it as possible as body fat or fatty tissues. When a person regularly consumes fatty foods, there is more fat being brought into the body than it needs to complete its required tasks. This means that, in addition to the liver processing the necessary fats, there is extra fat too. On a visual level, some people see themselves gaining weight, some are able to pinch a layer of fat around their midsection or other areas of the body, and others discover the excess fat when they are told by a physician that they have high cholesterol.
A person with too much fat coming into their body means that person’s liver is working extra hard to process that fat. This can cause the liver itself to become fat, when it is unable to send all of the fat cells elsewhere in the body. This layer of fat can make it difficult for the liver to do its job, leading it to either need to work extra hard or causing the liver to be unable to do its job, which can lead to systemic problems in the body.
What do the liver and fatty foods have to do with Hepatitis C?
A person with hepatitis C may carry the virus for a prolonged period of time before receiving a positive test result or treatment to be rid of the virus. During this time, the virus can cause damage to the liver. Sometimes that damage is minimal, but other times, it can be quite extensive.
In either case, a person with hepatitis C will likely be given liver tests in order to assess how much damage was done to the liver as well as a treatment plan both to heal the liver damage (if possible) and to prevent further damage. As the body works with the treatment plan to fight the hepatitis C virus and battle the liver damage it has caused, the liver is already overworked and possibly very damaged. When a person consumes fatty foods in their regular diet, they further tax the liver. This makes it that much harder for the liver to heal as well as for the liver to function in all of the ways the body needs it to.
I have hepatitis C. How can I best protect my liver?
If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, your doctor has likely discussed the ways in which your liver has been impacted by your strain of the virus. You may have even completed liver tests once or multiple times throughout the treatment process. As part of the treatment plan, many doctors provide dietary recommendations to their patients. This is so that the patient is best able to understand how their diet impacts their liver and so that the patient has all of the information possible to make healthy choices when purchasing and consuming food on a daily basis.
If your doctor has recommended dietary changes based on your hepatitis C, you will want to take that advice very seriously. In some cases, your doctor may simply ask you to cut down on fatty foods. In other cases, your doctor may provide a list of recommended foods or contact information for a local dietician to help you revamp your eating habits. In either case, you can find guidance for choosing low fat or non-fat items using the doctor’s resources, by speaking with a dietician, and by talking with your local grocery clerk. These people can help you to gain an initial insight into how to alter your diet.
In addition, you can work to increase your knowledge of healthy eating and to change your eating habits by being aware of food labels, both which contain more fat than you wish to consume and which offer healthy alternatives to the foods you most enjoy.1-4