Lifestyle crucial to patients with chronic hepatitis B infection

Chronic hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver, and is transmitted through body fluids from an infected person.
Dr. Joseph Kamugisha
Dr. Joseph Kamugisha

Chronic hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver, and is transmitted through body fluids from an infected person.

Early stages of hepatitis B are always asymptomatic, simply because the virus is very slow at replication under normal body circumstances. In the body, it only attacks the liver and no other organ.

Massive sensitisation and vaccination against hepatitis B has greatly slowed down the infection rate of the virus known for high contagiousity. However, the campaign against virus especially in African health set-ups has come of recent.

In the past, some people who worked in healthcare set-ups in 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s before vaccinations to the virus was availed were infected and majority who had a poor lifestyle died.

However, with a good lifestyle and regular medical check-up, it is possible to limit the dangers of the virus and its progression in the body.

People with active hepatitis will present with problems such as generalized body weakness as seen in majority of patients with high viral loads but with minimal liver damage, persistent right upper quadrant.

It is advisable to avoid stress, get enough rest every after work or even at intervals during work. Regular exercise is also recommended to strengthen your body cells and help the immune system carry out its other duties.

Symptoms that occur when the disease has progressed or when there is active hepatitis include persistent right sided abdominal pain. This shows there is moderate to severe damage to the liver tissues.

Usually generalised body weakness and right sided abdominal pain are predominant in first active phases of the disease. At this stage, you need to check regularly the viral load for hepatitis B, abdominal imaging and tests for liver function tests are paramount to investigate the extent of the liver damage.

When the disease is at an advanced stage with or without cirrhosis, patients will experience symptoms such as nausea and vomiting coupled with loss of weight due to limited feeding.

In case of the liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma caused by hepatitis B, nausea and vomiting are symptoms present in metastasis stage of the disease. Liver cancer usually metastasizes to the stomach or intestines, and therefore nausea and vomiting becomes predominant as gastro-intestinal tract symptoms.

Besides, people with a good lifestyle and regular medical check-ups will usually limit disease progression to the advanced stages of liver damage.

Drinking alcohol and smoking should be avoided. Alcohol itself contains toxins that can damage the liver and wherever there is a weakness or disease on the liver organ, facilitates viral attack or invasion that further damage liver tissues.

 A person with hepatitis B does not require a special diet with restrictions of any food group. However emphasis on a healthy diet that comprise of whole grains, cereals, lean proteins, lots of fresh fruits, vegetables among others is always helpful because it contains all required body nutrients that will supplement action or strengthen immune cells.

It is advisable to avoid high fat diet as fats deposit on the liver slows down its activity and facilitates liver disease. Fat metabolism in the liver is always more complex than other foods and increased accumulation of fat would inflict more problems.

It is important to choose foods that can be easily digested and should not put extra load on the liver. Some people with advanced or progressed disease will be advised to feed on simple dietary meals like soups, chicken broths, or baked potato among others.

Fresh lime juice, up to at least thrice a day can be very useful. Sometimes the food along with the treatment can cause nausea. The lime juice can solve the problem of nausea. It is also advised that hepatitis B patients do not put on additional weight or become overweight. It is advisable that hepatitis B patients eat to reduce body fat or else they can develop complications like diabetes and liver cirrhosis due to fast progression of the disease.

Hepatitis B does not include a specific diet in its treatment. The emphasis is that hepatitis B patients try and eat healthy food as often as possible. A balanced diet comprising vegetables that are lightly cooked, whole grains and healthy proteins in the form of lean meat or even lentils, legumes can prove very beneficial as said earlier.

There has been a trial on the protein and that can minimize hepatitis B invasion to the liver. This protein contains biological components such as alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, immunoglobulins  ald lactoferrin that have been seen to boost the immune system.

Dr Joseph Kamugisha is a resident oncologist in Jerusalem, Israel

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