When it comes to hepatitis, I often find a lack of education on the subject. If you’re like me, you probably thought hepatitis was only a sexually transmitted disease that could be avoided with proper protection.
You may even be surprised to learn that there are five major types of hepatitis.
Thanks to some careful research into different diets, I was able to learn more about how hepatitis affects our livers and what we can do to prevent it.
Today’s article will explain the different types of hepatitis, how to prevent catching the virus, and what foods should be included in your diet if you’re dealing with liver troubles.
Let’s jump in!
What Is Hepatitis?
According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis in its basic form is essentially an inflammation of the liver.
The problem is, our livers are extremely important to our health. As the largest internal organ in our bodies, the liver is responsible for several important bodily functions such as:
- Converting nutrients from our food into useable sources
- Storing nutrients that are converted for later use
- Supplying cells with stored nutrients as needed
- Converting toxic substances into harmless ones, or
- Eliminating toxins from the body altogether
- And synthesizing proteins
Unfortunately, hepatitis attacks your liver in a similar way. The word itself even breaks down as ‘hepa’ stemming from hepar, meaning liver, and inflammation, or ‘itis’.
Hepatitis can easily be remembered as damage or injury to the liver.
Initially, hepatitis sufferers experience inflammation in the liver. If the problem continues, it can lead to harmful scarring. Eventually more serious conditions such as cirrhosis and liver cancer may develop.
One thing to keep in mind is that both hepatitis sufferers and the rest of us have to keep our livers healthy.
Types Of Hepatitis
With all that said, it’s time to learn more about the different faces of hepatitis.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), hepatitis A is a virus, or infection, that attacks the liver.
You can get hepatitis A from:
- Drinking contaminated water
- Eating contaminated food
- Sexual intercourse with someone who has hepatitis A
As mentioned by the NIDDKD, those who travel to underdeveloped countries, use illegal drugs, or have unprotected sex with an infected person, are all at risk for contracting hepatitis A.
Most of us are familiar with hepatitis B, however we tend to call it hepatitis and generalize all five types to this one. So let’s clear up any confusion.
Hepatitis B is sexually transmitted.
As the Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains: “Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected”.
The CDC also says: “This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment, or from mother to baby at birth”.
As the CDC notes, hepatitis B starts out as acute and can either remain in this state or fester into worse conditions such as cancer or cirrhosis.
If there’s any good news here, it’s the fact that contracting hepatitis B is preventable. Always practice safe sex.
You can also protect yourself even further with the hepatitis B vaccine.
Most hepatitis C is contracted through blood transfers. Although it can also be transferred sexually if your partner currently has an infection.
But before you go running off in a panic about the safety of blood transfusions, you should know that hepatitis C is often transferred through sharing needles and unprotected sex.
Therefore, if you don’t fall into these categories you should generally be safe.
However, if you do share needles, and I’m not only talking about illegal drugs here – botox and insulin injections both count – you could be putting yourself at risk. And the same goes for unprotected sex.
Unlike hepatitis B, hepatitis C does not always present symptoms early on. But that doesn’t mean the disease is not wreaking havoc on your system.
According to WebMD, “about 75% to 85% of people who have [hepatitis C] develop a long-term infection called chronic hepatitis C”.
This chronic condition can also lead to cirrhosis and cancer.
Hepatitis D, or delta hepatitis, is a bit different from the first three forms. That’s because this version of hepatitis can only be contracted if you’ve already contracted hepatitis B.
The CDC tells us that hepatitis D is an incomplete form of the virus that requires the hepatitis B virus in order to cause damage to someone’s liver.
This version is also transferred via mucus or infected blood from someone who already has hepatitis B, or it can be the result of a growing hepatitis B infection.
The CDC also points out that hepatitis D is “uncommon in the United States”.
Our last major type of hepatitis is hepatitis E. Similar to hepatitis D, hepatitis E is also a bit unusual.
For starters, WebMD tells us that hepatitis E can be contracted from contaminated water or food that’s been exposed to the feces (or stool) of someone who has been infected with this specific form. It tends to be more common in countries that lack proper sanitation and water treatment procedures.
WebMD also cautions that this version can be contracted from meat that is undercooked or has been exposed to an infected pig.
But, it’s not all bad news with hepatitis E.
Hepatitis E does not lead to any long term issues or severe liver damage and many people who receive treatment early on tend to get better within a matter of months.
As WebMD points out, we haven’t seen any research to support the fact that hepatitis E can be transmitted via sexual intercourse or through blood transfers.
Symptoms Of Hepatitis
In the early stages of hepatitis, an infected person may see symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Because these symptoms can be common, some people think it’s the flu and delay treatment in the hope it will go away.
That’s why it’s important to assess your lifestyle to see if you are at risk for contracting any forms of hepatitis.
Like I mentioned earlier, unprotected sex, sharing needles, drinking unclean water, or eating contaminated food can increase your risk of contracting the illness.
Unfortunately, these symptoms will become much uglier if left untreated.
As hepatitis develops over time, more serious complications plague the body such as:
- Dark colored urine
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- Light colored stools
- Cirrhosis in 20-30% of people with hepatitis
Now that we can distinguish the difference between each version of hepatitis and we know the types of symptoms to look out for, it’s time to talk about a diet plan for hepatitis sufferers.
I think it’s critical to also take a look at what food and drink choices should be avoided when dealing with liver issues such as hepatitis.
Diet Choices For Hepatitis Sufferers
Get Plenty Of Protein
It’s a good idea to fuel your body with good energy sources such as the complex carbs and lean sources of protein.
You want to give your body the energy it needs to fight off the virus and one way to do this is to increase your protein intake.
Some of my favorite protein sources include:
Focus On Superfoods
It’s also a good idea to equip your body with tools that can help combat the infection as well. My favorite line of defense is adding in antioxidants.
Some of the best antioxidants can be found in these popular superfoods:
- Vegetables of all colors, but especially green ones like spinach, kale, and even avocados (which are technically a fruit, although most of us think of it as a veggie)
- Healthy oils
Drink Plenty Of Water
I encourage you to drink at least eight, 8 oz glasses of water, or half of your body weight in ounces every day.
For the most part, hepatitis infections can be prevented. Between vaccines and choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, to watching out for contaminated water, you don’t have to put yourself at risk for contracting this potentially deadly virus.
What’s your take on preventing and dealing with hepatitis? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!