Nutrition’s Role in Rebuilding Liver Cells After Beating Hepatitis C
Recent improvements in antiviral medications are curing more people than ever of chronic Hepatitis C infection. A majority of those receiving antiviral treatment have been infected with the Hepatitis C virus for decades, giving this pathogen plenty of time to injure their liver. Studies demonstrate that elimination of the Hepatitis C virus fosters regeneration of healthy liver cells, but there are some under-recognized strategies to assist with the rebuilding process.
Because Hepatitis C infection rarely exhibits symptoms until the liver has been substantially injured, it is rare to receive a diagnosis in the early stages of disease. As such, those who learn they are infected with Hepatitis C have likely been living with the virus for many years. This puts them at risk for fibrosis (scarring of the liver), cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and even death. Thankfully, recent pharmaceutical advancements enable approximately 80 percent of those who complete treatment to eliminate Hepatitis C from their bloodstream.
Achieving Sustained Virologic Response
Successfully eradicating Hepatitis C is the goal of antiviral treatment, and it is assumed when the genetic material of the virus cannot be detected 24 weeks after therapy is completed. Called a sustained virologic response (SVR), this achievement is considered a cure and greatly improves the outlook of liver function, life expectancy and quality of life.
Achieving SVR is associated with fewer complications from cirrhosis, a lowered likelihood of hospitalization and reduced risk of death from liver disease. According to Sanjeev Arora, MD, a professor of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico Hospitals Center for Digestive Diseases, “In general, once an SVR is contained, the liver disease progression completely stops.”
However, stopping liver disease progression does not automatically undo the damage that has already been sustained. Especially if someone has advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis, achieving SVR should be viewed as a turning point that has the best outcome when paired with a commitment to rebuilding a healthy liver.
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