9 Foods to Restrain the Hepatitis C Virus
Hepatitis literally means liver inflammation. As such, it should come as no surprise that minimizing liver inflammation reduces the severity of hepatitis – including Hepatitis C. A testament to the notion that what we eat influences our health, foods that reduce inflammation are valuable to maintaining wellness in those living with the Hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis C is a disease that causes liver inflammation due to infection with the Hepatitis C virus. This illness typically progresses slowly – with symptoms often taking years or decades to surface. Liver disease progression occurs when liver cell death outpaces liver cell regeneration. Since inflammation initiates the sequence of events that kills liver cells, strategies to inhibit inflammation in the liver will slow Hepatitis C’s destruction.
Inflammation is the body’s attempt to protect itself by removing harmful stimuli and initiating the healing process. While acute inflammation serves a purpose, chronic inflammation is a self-perpetuating cycle that is counterproductive.
In general, the five signs of acute inflammation are:
- Loss of Function
These five signs are only relevant when the affected, inflamed area is on or very close to the skin. When occurring deep inside the body – such as inflammation in the liver – many of the signs are undetectable. Signs of acute liver inflammation are:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of eyes)
For those with Hepatitis C, signs of chronic liver inflammation usually don’t surface until someone has been battling the virus for many years. There may not be any obvious symptoms, but the following are the most common:
- Liver-area pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Recurrent low-grade fever
When the immune system is unable to eliminate the Hepatitis C virus, the illness becomes chronic. Without a way to stop the Hepatitis C virus from attacking liver cells, continual inflammation in the liver causes liver cell injury and death. Because inflammation in the liver perpetuates liver cell damage, curbing inflammation with Hepatitis C is crucial for avoiding the advanced stages of liver disease.
An Approach to Reduce Inflammation
One of several approaches to help reduce inflammation in the liver is choosing the right foods. In general, foods high in sugar and saturated fat hasten inflammation. According to Scott Zashin, MD, clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, sugar and saturated fat cause over-activity in the immune system. This ‘over-activity’ helps perpetuate the cycle of chronic inflammation.
Just like certain foods can fan inflammation, others can quell it. These nine foods exert an anti-inflammatory effect and can interrupt the cycle of continual inflammation in the liver:
- Fatty Fish – Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish are excellent sources of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two potent omega-3 fatty acids that douse inflammation. For those who don’t eat fish, fish-oil supplements offer a viable, anti-inflammatory alternative.
- Berries – Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries all contain large quantities of anthocyanins – antioxidants that are known anti-inflammatories. Responsible for lending a vibrant color, berry anthocyanins are one of the most recognized sources for stopping a sustained, pro-inflammatory state.
- Turmeric – An ingredient in curry, this yellow spice contains a powerful compound called curcumin. Studies have found that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects are on par with drugs such as hydrocortisone and Motrin, but without their side effects. Turmeric is believed to work by helping turn off NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation.
- Kale – This dark leafy green is rich in sulfur, which forces the liver to put it through two detox cycles instead of one. The second cycle stimulates more phase II enzymes, which helps break down toxins. This reduction in toxins can give the liver enough of a reprieve to halt a cycle of chronic inflammation.
- Green Tea – The flavonoids in green tea are potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Researchers from the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center found that regular green tea drinking enhances bone health and reduces inflammation in postmenopausal women.
- Tart Cherries – In a 2012 presentation, Oregon Health & Science University researchers suggested that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.” Tart cherries are rich in two kinds of anthocyanins which nutritionists attribute their ability to fight inflammation.
- Sweet Potato – Anthocyanin and other color-related pigments in sweet potato are valued for their anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies have repeatedly demonstrated that consumption of sweet potatoes helps reduce blood markers of inflammation.
- Kelp – Kelp (the seaweed) contains fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidative. Whenever possible, only consume organic kelp harvested from unpolluted seas.
- Olive Oil – Virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols that protect against inflammation. The polyphenols in virgin olive oil are believed to be responsible for the Mediterranean’s secret to longevity.
As long as the Hepatitis C virus lingers in someone’s bloodstream, his or her liver could be locked in a sustained inflammatory cycle. The more foods consumed that have anti-inflammatory properties, the better chance of interrupting the inflammation that can cause liver damage. In addition to cutting out sugar and saturated fat, incorporating as many of these nine inflammation-fighting foods into your regular diet will help to minimize harm from chronic Hepatitis C.
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