Patients suffering from viral hepatitis often have nonspecific symptoms such as poor appetite and tiredness. Infections of the liver lead to compromised metabolism and absorption of nutrients , especially carbohydrates and fats. Emphasis needs to be on giving sufficient rest to the liver to recuperate and regain its functioning.
Treatment for all types of viral hepatitis involves
- Restriction of alcohol and fatty foods as these can exacerbate the inflammation.
- Plenty of rest and nutritious diet.
- Washing hands after using the toilet and before preparing food.
Specific nutritional guidelines to be followed in viral hepatitis
Carbohydrates: The major source of energy for the liver cells is carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates which are easily digested (corn starch, rice kanji, fruit juices, soups, etc) should be emphasized in the diet.
Proteins: Proteins from food should be given in moderate amounts to allow tissue repair and regeneration but only as much that the liver can handle. Yet again, easily digested and absorbed forms of proteins as in egg whites, split dals, buttermilk, fish, white meat chicken etc may be better tolerated than red meat, poultry or milk. Basically, plant proteins should be encouraged over animal protein sources.
Fat: Liver produces bile which emulsifies fats i.e. coats them with a layer making it easily accessible to digestive enzymes. But a damaged liver has reduced capacity to handle large amounts of fats, hence it is advisable to limit fat intake in hepatitis. The excess undigested fat may accumulate resulting in fatty liver further hindering effective functioning of the liver.
Vitamins: Hepatitis impairs ability of the liver to metabolize nutrients, especially vitamin A and vitamin D. These should not be consumed in excessive amounts through supplements to prevent toxicity.
Alcohol: Complete restriction of alcohol needs to be observed since liver is unable to metabolize alcohol. High circulating levels of alcohol in blood can further damage other organs as well.
Appropriate nutrition can be the mainstay in faster and complete recovery from hepatitis infections especially restoring immunity and strength. In the absence of timely care, management and complete cure it can get exacerbated into complicated liver diseases such as cirrhosis
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Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.