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People’s lives have changed dramatically in recent weeks due to the outbreak of COVID-19, however it is important not to ignore your general health, particularly if you have a chronic health condition.

The Department of Health has advised it is OK to make an appointment with your health clinic. Healthcare workers have been given information about COVID-19 and guidance on how to deal with possible cases. If you are worried you may have contracted COVID-19 or have symptoms, follow the guidance on the healthdirect website. 

Some people may be able to access telephone consults with their GP. You can read more information on the Department of Health website.

To help people living with hepatitis C during this time, this factsheet provides information on looking after yourself and protecting your liver.  

Getting cured

Direct‑acting antivirals (DAAs) are the latest treatment for hepatitis C (HCV) and they have been available on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) since March 2016. These DAAs are very safe and effective and can cure hepatitis C more than 95% of the time with few side-effects.

The DAA treatments are tablets taken orally with most medicines only requiring one tablet a day for 8 to 12 weeks in most cases. You can now get hepatitis C medicines from most GPs in Australia. To find out more about hepatitis C treatment and medicines currently available in Australia, you can view our information on curing hepatitis C.

When to start treatment?

Where possible, it is best to start hepatitis C treatment as soon as possible,1 especially if you have signs of liver damage or have developed cirrhosis. Getting treated for hep C means it can’t keep damaging your liver and you cannot transmit it to anyone else.

However, if you are unable to seek treatment at this time, the following information is designed to assist until you start your hepatitis C treatment. If you have already started treatment, you should continue to take it as directed by your doctor.

How your liver works

The liver is a large organ in your upper right belly, usually protected by the ribs. Its functions include:

  • producing bile to help digest fats
  • making proteins for the blood
  • turning excess glucose into glycogen for energy storage and later release
  • regulating blood clotting
  • working as part of the immune system
  • breaking down toxins and drugs

Over many years, the hepatitis C virus can cause irreversible damage to your liver. Other things like poor diet, alcohol and drugs can also damage your liver.2 This is why it is important to look after your health if you have hepatitis C.

Food that is good for your liver

In general, food that is good for your liver is a healthy and balanced diet.3 People with hepatitis C are more susceptible to liver disease and other diseases such as coronary heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure). By eating healthy food, you will be giving your body the opportunity to function at its best; and enjoying a healthy diet can help to:

  • relieve some of the symptoms related to hepatitis C infection and treatment, such as nausea
  • boost your immune system
  • give your body the nutrients necessary to maintain liver health.

Consuming the right amount of kilojoules to maintain a healthy weight, having lots of fibre to keep your digestive tract healthy, reducing cholesterol levels and eating only a small amount of fat are all part of a healthy and balanced diet.4 To find out more about what food is good for your health, please visit Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.5

Food and medications to avoid for people with hepatitis C

One of your liver’s many jobs is to filter or break down anything you take into your body, although it may not be able to work as well if you have hepatitis C. Food and/or medications may stay in your system too long and affect you more, which in turn can actually injure your liver. To avoid damaging your liver further, there are some food and medications that are best to avoid.5

What to avoid

Why

Raw or undercooked shellfish

A high risk of contamination from a variety of organisms that can cause gastroenteritis or hepatitis A

Raw eggs

Risk of contamination from a variety of organisms

Fats and oils

An excessive intake can increase your risk of developing diet-related cardiovascular disease and becoming overweight

Medications and supplements

Some medications have been found to cause harmful reactions and liver problems for people with hepatitis C. always check with your doctor before taking any medications or supplements.

 

Please note that some people with hepatitis C who have developed cirrhosis may have specific dietary requirements for protein, salt and fluid intake. Speak to a doctor or dietician, when possible, for further guidance.

Alcohol and hepatitis C

Alcohol is a toxin. It is broken down by the liver, but it can cause build-up of fat in the liver that can eventually lead to cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver). There is a significantly higher risk of developing cirrhosis if you have hepatitis C and drink alcohol, so it is wise to avoid alcohol altogether. However, if you do choose to drink, limit yourself to moderate amounts.7

Water

Water is important for maintaining a healthy liver. Australian Guidelines recommend that adults drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and more if engaging in physical activity and in hot weather.8

Exercising

Exercise has many benefits and is part of maintaining a healthy body, which is needed for good liver health.

Although group exercising and most sports are not permitted under the government's COVID-19 social distancing rules, other exercising activities are still available (for example, walking or jogging around your suburb or apartment block, gardening or yoga). Your local gym club may also be offering digital membership that grants you access to work-out programs available on their fitness app or social media platform, while their physical facilities are closed.

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Last updated 23 April 2020

References

  1. 25 March 2019. 5 Reasons Not to Delay Your Hep C Treatment. Available at: www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/why-early-treatment  [Accessed 2 April 2020]
  2. Better Health Channel. August 2014. Liver. Available at: betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/liver Accessed 1 April 2020]
  3. American Liver Foundation. 2017. A Healthy Diet, a Healthier Liver, a Healthier You. Available at: org/for-patients/about-the-liver/health-wellness/nutrition/. [Accessed 2 April 2020]
  4. Dietitians Association of Australia. 2020. Healthy Eating. Available at: asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/healthy-eating/ [Accessed 1 April 2020]
  5. National Health and Medical Research Council. 1 May 2017. Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Available at: eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating [Accessed 1 April 2020]
  6. 2020. Foods and Drugs to Avoid With Hepatitis C. Available at: www.webmd.com/hepatitis/hep-c-foods-drugs-avoid#2 [Accessed 30 March 2020].
  7. 8 November 2017. Dangerous Cocktail: Alcohol & Hepatitis C. Available at: www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-hepatitis-c#alcohol-and-liver-disease. [Accessed 2 April 2020]
  8. May 2019. Drinking Water and your Health. Available at: www.healthdirect.gov.au/drinking-water-and-your-health [Accessed 1 April 2020]