Taking on Vitamin Deficiencies in Hepatitis C

Foods and Supplements to Restore Your Levels

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Hepatitis C is a dangerous infection of the liver; while it’s often asymptomatic in its early course, its symptoms include fatigue, nausea, yellowing of eyes and skin, and loss of appetite. If untreated, this condition can lead to liver cirrhosis, cancer, and failure, all of which are potentially fatal. But this disease also has a cascade of other effects, and matters become even more complicated when medications to treat the condition are added into the mix.

One of the more pressing issues hepatitis C sufferers face is deficiency of important vitamins. This can be detrimental not only in its own right, but also because it can hinder the efficacy of the drugs taking on the condition. Due to a variety of factors, chronic patients often lack adequate levels of vitamins A, D, B1 (thiamine), and B12, among others. Since the consequences of such deficits can be so severe, it’s essential that patients try and supplement these.

Vitamin Function & Deficiencies

Vitamin D

It’s well-established in the medical community that vitamin D is essential for health; it helps regulate magnesium and calcium levels in the bloodstream, which is important for bone health. A lack of this vitamin allows too much calcium to escape the body. The issue is that there are few dietary sources of this vitamin, and most humans actually get it from sun exposure. This is, of course, a problem for those who work indoors during the day, which is why milk is often supplemented with it.

Since the liver is heavily involved in processing what we consume, damage to it can severely impact vitamin D levels. In chronic cases of hepatitis C, inflammation and scarring called liver cirrhosis starts to occur, hindering this organ’s ability to function properly and process medicines. The worse the liver gets, the more there’s a chance of deficiency, and the worse the deficiency, the worse the health of the organ overall. Not only that, studies have shown that increased levels of this vitamin can significantly boost the efficacy of pharmaceutical drugs to combat the condition.

Vitamin A

This vitamin plays an essential role in ensuring healthy vision (especially night vision), helping the immune system and other organs function properly while being key in embryonic development. As with vitamin D, it’s widely understood that deficiencies here can hinder the efficacy of pharmaceutical treatment for hepatitis C.  Furthermore, damage to the liver as a result of this disease affects the body’s ability to synthesize this vitamin, making matters worse.

Vitamin B1

Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 plays a number of important roles within the body. Notably, this vitamin helps with brain function, and studies have found damage to structures in the brain due to deficiencies of this vitamin as a result of liver cirrhosis. Again, the damage wrought to the liver by hepatitis C can further affect these levels, leading to dangerous progression of the disease.

Vitamin B12

This vitamin has a pervasive influence on body function because it’s involved in the process of metabolism, which is how every cell in the body gets its nutrients. As such, vitamin B12 plays a key role in red blood cell development, DNA functioning, and healthy development of fetuses. Deficiencies here can lead to chronic fatigue, heart palpitations, problems breathing, pale skin, constipation and other digestive issues, nerve problems, as well as vision loss.

While more often associated with liver damage due to excessive drinking, hepatitis C can also impact B12 absorption and function. In addition, researchers have noted that ensuring adequate levels of this vitamin can also help antiviral medications do their job.

Boosting Vitamin Levels in Hepatitis C

Clearly, the damage wrought by hepatitis C to the liver leads to deficiencies in vitamin levels, and, in some cases, these deficiencies can get in the way of antiviral drugs taken for the condition. So what can you do to help boost levels of this vitamin? What are some sources for these vitamins? Here’s a breakdown:

Fatty Fish

Consumption of fatty fish is a great way to boost both vitamin D and A levels. A serving of salmon, for instance, provides between roughly 40 and 70 percent of the recommended daily amount of D, and is an excellent source of A, with wild-caught varieties containing more than farmed ones. Tuna, halibut, and mackerel are also excellent sources of both of these vitamins.

Smaller Fish, Oysters, and Shrimp

These are loaded with vitamin D, and herring, with a serving containing well more the recommended daily amount, is particularly rich in it. Oysters are also a good source as a serving provides more than half the daily amount, and shrimp are an excellent low-fat, versatile dietary option as well.

Cod-Liver Oil

This is a supplement derived from cod. It has very high levels of vitamins A and D. A serving will have 75 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, and a solid 150 percent of vitamin D. This can be taken in a liquid or capsule form and is an excellent way to boost liver health and help hepatitis C combatting drugs do their work.

Eggs

These breakfast items are an excellent option for those that don’t like seafood because they have a great deal of vitamins A and D. Levels can vary with eggs, with free-range chickens able to produce much more vitamin D than those raised in a cage. Some eggs are raised from chickens treated to boost vitamin levels.

Milk & Fortified Foods

Foods such as cow’s milk sold in the U.S. often have boosted levels of vitamins A and D. For vegans or those that don’t drink milk, many alternatives such as soy or almond milk will come fortified with higher levels of this vitamin.

Vitamin Supplements

Supplements in pill form can be another means of boosting vitamin levels and are especially effective at delivering vitamins B1 and B12. Talk to your doctor about what you should take because there is a risk of taking in too much of vitamins A and D.

Liver

Liver that comes from beef or lamb contains very high levels of vitamins A, B1, and B12. Notably, beef liver has up to nine times the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, while also contributing a great deal of the others. You can almost consider this organ meat a kind of superfood for all of its benefits.

Orange and Yellow Vegetables and Fruits

Oranges, lemons, bell peppers, and others are known to be excellent sources of vitamin A and can help if emphasized in the diet. Citrus fruits contain plenty of B vitamins as well.

Beans and Lentils

These are especially important to eat for vegetarians and vegans, who may often suffer from vitamin deficiencies. In addition to being a healthy source of protein, these foods are considered an excellent source of vitamins B1 and 12.

Green Vegetables

Leafy greens and green veggies such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, among many others, are known to be exceptional sources of vitamin A. Not only that, these foods help increase fiber levels and should be a staple of a healthy diet.

Whole Grains

Grains like brown rice, barley, or millet are often enriched and fortified with B vitamins, so eating them is an excellent way to further boost health and combat hepatitis C.

Seeds and Nuts

Sunflower seeds, almonds, and other nuts are known to have elevated levels of B vitamins, while also containing a great deal of protein. These are easy to snack and can easily be incorporated into smoothies or salads.

Vitamin Supplements

In pill form, vitamin supplements can be another means of boosting all vitamin levels and may be recommended to aid in treatment. Before starting with these, though, talk to your doctor about what you should take because there’s a risk of taking in too much of some vitamins. That said, and in a pinch, a supplement can certainly help.

A Word From Verywell

If you are living with hepatitis C, the key is to do as much as you can to help your body—and your meds—fight against the condition. Ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients is particularly important in chronic cases that are starting to damage the liver. The two-fold effect of seeing vitamin levels plummet due to these problems, as well as the reduced efficacy that results from deficiency can be hazardous. However, be smart and careful; talk to your doctor about what you need to be consuming and keep lines of communication open. The more proactive you are in your health, the better off you’ll be.

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Article Sources

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