Foods and Drugs to Avoid With Hepatitis C

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 13, 2020

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, it may not work as well. Things may stay in your system too long and affect you more. They may actually injure your liver.

To avoid problems like that, you might need to change what you eat and drink and the kinds of supplements and drugs you take.

Foods

In general, good nutrition may help your liver form new cells. But if you have hepatitis C, there are some foods to avoid or eat less of.

Raw oysters or shellfish. They can have bacteria that give you serious infections that are more severe if you have hep C.

Fatty, sugary foods. They can stress your liver or lead to fat deposits in it.

Salty foods. Avoid these if you have fluid buildup in your belly or legs.

Alcohol

Alcohol may have been involved when you were infected with hep C, but the disease didn't come from it. Still, drinking could allow more of the virus to stay in your body. If you stop, or at least cut back, the level of the virus may drop.

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And because you have hep C, your liver is already weakened. So drinking, even in small amounts, can raise your chances of serious liver disease.

Alcohol can cause inflammation and fibrosis, or cirrhosis (liver scarring). If you have cirrhosis, your liver can’t work right and breaks down. If you have cirrhosis or are waiting for a liver transplant due to your hep C, you cannot drink any alcohol.

Alcohol also can raise your risk of getting liver cancer.

Hep C drugs help you clear the virus out of your liver. But alcohol can keep them from doing that as well as they should. And drinking can make it harder for you to remember to take your meds on time.

Alcohol also can worsen side effects of interferon treatments, like depression.

Illegal Drugs and Cigarettes

Recreational drugs in general are no good for your liver. For example, marijuana may lead to faster liver scarring. And using a needle to inject substances can raise your odds of getting reinfected with hep C.

If you're a smoker, you need to quit. It can make you more likely to get liver cancer. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit.

Medications

If you have cirrhosis from hepatitis C, you need to be very careful about the meds you take. The doses of some medications will need to be adjusted, and some should be avoided completely.

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Things to avoid include:

Whatever stage of hepatitis C you have, make sure to:

  • Share a list of all your prescription and over-the-counter drugs with your medical team.
  • Make sure all your doctors know you have hep C.
  • Take as few medications as you can.
  • Carefully read the ingredient list of your over-the-counter drugs. Acetaminophen is in many cold and flu medications. It's also in most painkillers labeled "non-aspirin."
  • Always take your meds exactly as your doctor recommends.

Supplements and Herbs

Talk to your doctor before taking any of these if you have hepatitis C. Some of them may cause severe liver injury.

It's also important to keep in mind that supplements and herbs aren't regulated by the FDA the way medications are. They don't go through the same tough testing to see if they're safe and effective.

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Some common natural products that can be risky for your liver are:

  • Chaparral
  • Jin Bu Huan
  • Germander
  • Comfrey, mate, and Gordolobo yerba teas
  • Mistletoe
  • Skullcap
  • Pennyroyal (squaw mint oil)
  • Margosa oil
  • Kava
  • Yohimbe

Weight loss products can also harm your liver. So can large doses of vitamin and mineral supplements, including:

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Project Inform: "Towards a healthy liver."

CDC: "Hepatitis C: Living with Chronic Hepatitis C."

American College of Gastroenterology: "Medications and the Liver."

HCRC VA Hepatitis C Resource Centers: "Cirrhosis: A Patient's Guide."

Hepatitis Foundation International: "Caution! Herbs and Nutritional Supplements."

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "What I need to know about cirrhosis."

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Alcohol and Hepatitis C."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Viral Hepatitis."

American Liver Foundation.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Cirrhosis."

Hepatitis C Trust, UK: "Alcohol."

University Hospital Southampton: "Your Hepatitis C Treatment."

U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Appendix 9: Alcohol."

International Alliance for Responsible Drinking.

Virginia Mason Medical Center: "Frequently Asked Questions About Hepatitis C."

HCVAdvocate.org: "HCV Negative: A Guide to Healthy Living Without Hepatitis C."

CDC: "Hepatitis C FAQs for Health Professionals."

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