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GI Trouble and Hep C

Last updated: April 2023

Hepatitis C wreaks havoc on the body. It doesn’t seem like there are any organs or areas exempt from potential harm from the virus.

Gastrointestinal-related concerns are one of the more common symptoms and side effects of living with hepatitis c. These symptoms are common in many liver diseases as the organ is a fundamental part of the digestive system.

Having irritable bowel syndrome

My personal experience reflects the above. For as long as I have been alive, I have had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome.) Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease that affects a wide variety of people and has a large prevalence in the global population.

The physiological symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, and stool irregularities.1

However, there are other symptoms to consider with IBS. The psychiatric and social costs of having a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome are important to bring up.

Missing out on social events, having to plan meticulously to be around bathrooms, not feeling comfortable doing certain activities, and the physical drain the pain from the disease causes all weigh heavily on a person. I’m not currently in an active flare-up of my IBS, but I can remember two summers ago having to base the campsites my family reserved for our summer camping trips around the proximity to a bathroom.

This may seem silly to some of you, and that’s okay. At that time, though, it was an immense source of anxiety for me. I can remember that year booking sites, in general, was like a shootout in the Wild West.

Everyone in BC was experiencing COVID-19-induced cabin fever and we had never seen so many other tent campers that year! However exciting that was to see so many families enjoying nature and the outdoors, it did not make finding sites that could accommodate my condition easy.

That camping trip also highlighted another unfortunate and embarrassing aspect of the condition: extra-long and extra-frequent trips to the bathroom. It was exhausting having to plan my whole life around a health condition, and the toll it took on my family was evident as well.

I am grateful that I am not currently in a flare-up, but I am always waiting for the other foot to drop and the symptoms to resume. That in itself can be exhausting.

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Other gut issues for people with hep C

IBS isn’t the only gastrointestinal issue that persons with hepatitis C might encounter. Treating the virus once could introduce digestive troubles.

The treatment of hepatitis C has come a long way since the days of pegylated interferon alpha injections and ribavirin. Those days gastrointestinal symptoms were almost certain along with other symptoms like debilitating fatigue and weakness.

Fortunately, the current treatment seems to be much better tolerated. Two of the most popular direct-acting antivirals prescribed for the treatment of hepatitis C are
Harvoni (ledipasvir and sofosbuvir) and Epclusa (velpatasvir and sofosbuvir.)

Both compounds have fatigue, headache, and weakness as potential symptoms, but neither medication has listed gastrointestinal symptoms in their product warnings.2,3

It is important to note that while common gastric symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are not outwardly listed as symptoms of taking those specific DAA medications, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If you are having gastric symptoms during your hepatitis c treatment, please speak with a trusted health professional.

GI problems are a common experience for persons living with hepatitis c and can occur long after the virus has been cleared. Do you live with any gastrointestinal issues? Did hepatitis C have an impact on that? Let me know in the comments!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The HepatitisC.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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