Your liver is like your body's chemical processing plant. One of its many jobs is to filter or break down anything you take into your body. If you have hepatitis C, though, your liver may not work as well as usual. Substances may stay in your system too long and affect you more strongly. Or they may injure your liver.
For this reason, you may need to avoid alcohol and certain medications, herbs, supplements, and foods.
Viral hepatitis, such as hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis A (HAV), is diagnosed by your symptoms, a physical exam, blood tests, imaging studies such as a sonogram or CAT scan, and sometimes a liver biopsy.
Hepatitis: Who's at Risk?
For hepatitis C, the CDC recommends that you have a blood test if any of the following is true:
You have been notified that you received blood from a donor who later tested positive for the disease
You have ever injected drugs, even once...
Do not drink any alcohol unless your doctor says it's OK. It can speed up damage to your liver cells.
Street drugs in general are no good for your liver. For example, marijuana leads to faster liver scarring and should be avoided. Abusing drugs that are injected into your body raises your risk of getting re-infected with hepatitis C.
Also avoid smoking. It can raise the risk of liver cancer.
Medications and Liver Care
If you have developed cirrhosis (liver scarring) from hepatitis C, you need to be very careful about the medications you take.
Avoid medications like these:
Tylenol (acetaminophen). Itcan produce a toxic byproduct that kills liver cells if you combine it with alcohol, and can lower your platelet count. Platelets are the blood cells that help stop bleeding. If your platelet count is low you can have bleeding problems.
Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen), especially if you have fluid in your abdomen.
Aleve (naproxyn),especially if you have fluid in your abdomen.
Sleeping pills or tranquilizers.
Whatever stage of hepatitis C you have, follow these guidelines to avoid causing damage to your liver from medications:
Share a list of all your prescription and non-prescription medications with all your doctors.
Make sure all your doctors know that you have hepatitis C.
Take as few medications as possible.
Carefully read labels of non-prescription medications. For example, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is present in many cold and flu medications and in most pain medications labeled "non-aspirin."
Never take more of a medication than is recommended by your doctor. Also, do not take your medication for a longer period of time than your doctor recommends.
Supplements, Herbs, and Liver Care
Some people take supplements that may help liver conditions, but talk to you doctor before taking any if you have hepatitis C. Some of these may cause severe liver injury.
It's also important to keep in mind that supplements and herbs aren't regulated by the FDA in the same way as medications. As a result, they don't undergo the same tough testing for safety and effectiveness.
These are a few common natural products that can be toxic to your liver, but it's not a complete list of risky supplements:
Comfrey, mate, and Gordolobo yerba teas
Pennyroyal (squaw mint oil)
Weight loss products can also harm your liver. So can large doses of vitamin and mineral supplements. These include iron and vitamins A, D, E, and K.