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.
Rebuilding Liver Cells with Nutrition
Helping the liver recover from damage previously done and rebuilding liver cells that have been lost does not involve complex medications. Instead, authorities suggest taking a nutritional approach by feeding your body the building blocks for healthy and new cellular construction. Those building blocks include:
- Protein – An adequate quantity of protein is needed for new cell production. In addition, protein can convert certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into sugar for quick energy.
- Antioxidants – Abundant in brightly colored fruit and vegetables, antioxidants protect against cellular harm. This is valuable to neutralize toxins during liver cell regeneration.
- Digestive Enzymes – Because digestive enzymes improve one’s ability to digest protein, they boost the liver’s absorption and utilization of amino acids. Digestive Enzymes contains 15 enzymes to help you better digest foods and their components, such as: proteins, carbohydrates, sugars, starches, fibers, fats; and even hard-to-digest foods such as: dairy products, grains and legumes.
- Vitamins and Minerals – Vitamins and minerals function as cofactors, assisting enzymes in many liver functions. Vitamins and minerals are invaluable during detoxification, glucose and glycogen regulation, synthesis of blood proteins, and bile and lipoprotein production.
Those building blocks do NOT include:
- Alcohol – This known liver toxin kills liver cells instead of rebuilding healthy ones. More specifically, when alcohol reaches the liver, it produces a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages liver cells and causes permanent scarring.
- Fat – Saturated fat likely leads to accumulation of fat in the liver, which causes liver inflammation. This inflammation can injure liver cells and hampers liver cell regeneration.
- Sugar – Besides inciting inflammatory reactions in the body, sugar may have a similar effect on the liver as alcohol. A 2012 paper in the journal Nature showed evidence that fructose and glucose in excess can have a toxic effect on the liver similar to the metabolism of acetaldehyde.
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