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Diet for Hepatitis B

By Bethany Fong, R.D. ; Updated August 14, 2017

Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by a viral infection. A specific diet for hepatitis B does not exist, but adhering to federal dietary guidelines can support a healthy liver. The goal of a healthy diet for liver disease is to prevent the progression of the disease and generate new liver cells.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and can be acute or chronic. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver failure, liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney problems. The Mayo Clinic says symptoms of hepatitis B include abdominal and joint pain, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue and jaundice. The HBV virus is spread through blood, saliva, semen and vaginal secretions; it can also be transferred from a pregnant woman to her baby.

Diet

The Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI) says good nutrition can help form new liver cells that have been damaged by HBV and prevent malnutrition that often occurs with chronic liver diseases. Individuals with hepatitis B should monitor their protein intake, because too much protein can cause hepatic encephalopathy, a condition characterized by mental confusion. Encephalopathy occurs when there is more protein available than the liver can use, which leads to a buildup of toxins that interfere with brain function. The HFI says the grams of protein a person needs on a daily basis is equal to one half of their weight in pounds.

Monitoring caloric intake with hepatitis B is important because excess calories can contribute to liver malfunction and cause fatty deposits in the liver. The HFI recommends 15 calories per pound of body weight a day and says to limit fat to less than 30 percent of calories per day because it contributes to weight gain and heart disease when consumed in excess. The HFI also says sodium (salt) should be limited because high amounts can lead to fluid retention. High-sodium foods include canned foods, cold cuts, snack foods and condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup.

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) encourages eating foods that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage done by free radicals and toxins and help prevent chronic diseases. Foods that are high in antioxidants include plant foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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Alcohol

The HFI says people living with hepatitis B should avoid or severely restrict alcohol intake because alcohol can further damage the liver and prevent healing and growth of new liver cells. Alcohol can also interfere with and cause misinterpretations of liver function tests.

Supplements

According to the UMMC, supplements with antioxidant properties that may benefit the liver include vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, acetyl-L-carnitine, probiotics, N-acetyl cysteine and SAMe. The UMMC also says herbs like cordyceps, milk thistle, licorice root and reishi mushroom may improve hepatitis B. Individuals with hepatitis B should consult a physician prior to taking supplements or herbs. Supplements and herbs are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and may lack scientific research regarding safety or efficacy.

Tips

The UMMC says individuals who experience nausea or loss of appetite due to hepatitis B may find it helpful to eat small meals throughout the day instead of a few large meals. The HFI reminds people with hepatitis B to avoid sharing food that has been in their mouth because the HBV can be transmitted through bodily fluids like saliva.

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