Sodium and Hepatitis C: How Salt Affects Your Liver
Last updated: June 2023
The liver's primary purpose is to clean the blood. Blood needs to be cleaned both because the body naturally produces some toxins and because some of the food consumed has more nutrients than the body needs. These toxins and extra nutrients are not useful to the body, and a combination of sodium and the liver helps to flush that waste out so that it does not contaminate the blood. In addition, the liver produces bile, which helps the body to absorb the fats found in foods. The body needs these fats, and bile allows the body to break down the fats into a useable substance. Essentially, the liver helps the body both to turn nutrients and fats into a format that the body can properly use and it helps the body to remove the excess or waste by redirecting it to be eliminated.
How does sodium impact the liver?
Sodium helps the body to maintain blood pressure and to keep a normal fluid level within the body. When a person does not consume enough sodium, their blood pressure can become too low or it may be tough for their body to keep enough fluid in the body. For most people, however, the concern is the opposite; Most people consume more sodium than they should. This is because sodium is found in so many foods and beverages. Sodium is often known as salt, but sodium is also found in sweeteners and preservatives. When too much sodium is consumed, it makes it difficult for the body to maintain a proper blood pressure or to keep the right balance of fluids.
How hepatitis C impacts the liver
Those with hepatitis C are already likely to be dealing with liver damage. This means that the liver is already overworked by trying to do its job while unhealthy, or it means that the liver is becoming less effective due to cirrhosis. When a person consumes too much sodium, their liver has to work extra hard to try to maintain a healthy blood pressure. When this cannot be maintained, the person will test with high blood pressure, and this can lead to numerous problems in the body, including everything from needing medication to control this problem to heart or kidney problems to having a stroke.
In addition, an imbalance of fluid can mean the liver has to work overtime to process the extra fluid. When the liver cannot keep up, the body may show signs of edema, which is when fluid collects where it shouldn’t, causing both cosmetic concerns and risks of further damage to the liver.
What foods should I avoid to help my liver?
If you have hepatitis C, your doctor is likely already monitoring your liver. This may mean that your doctor has already discussed your liver function with you. Throughout your hep C treatment, you may be asked to have further tests to monitor or reassess your liver. Each test will help your doctors to understand what damage has been caused by your hepatitis C and whether any of the medications you are taking are either causing further damage or helping your liver to heal. In most cases, doctors recommend that patients with hepatitis C do all they are able to help their livers.
To help your liver, you may want to begin by assessing what you may be doing that is taxing your liver. As you consider your drinking and smoking habits, your doctor may also ask you to consider your eating habits. This is because many people are consuming far too much sodium and, because your liver is already working extra hard due to the damage and/or treatment associated with hepatitis C, too much sodium for your liver may be even more stressful on your liver than on a person without hepatitis C.
What should I eat?
One of the quickest ways to revamp your eating habits to reduce sodium intake is to try to replace as many canned items with fresh items. For example, rather than eating corn from a can which may be filled with salt and preservatives to add both flavor and shelf-stability, buy fresh corn from your grocer’s produce section. Canned fruit are also filled with sodium, often because canned food of any sort is filled with preservatives. Most items found in the freezer section as well as most canned soups and stews have a great deal of salt in them.
Diet and Nutrition: A Guide to Eating Well
Whenever possible, try to make or buy the item fresh in order to enjoy the food you love without adding the sodium that your liver may struggle with. Also, keep an eye on the food labels; When you choose foods low in fat or low in sugar, some manufacturers add extra salt to distract consumers from noticing the missing fats and sugars. As a general rule for keeping sodium intake within your doctor’s recommended amount, stick with fresh whenever possible and always check food labels before making your purchases and when you are eating.1-6