From a nutritional standpoint being diagnosed with Hepatitis C can be mind-boggling. One of the first things that most doctors will tell you is that your diet must be changed. Information on the web can be confusing. Lack of eating nourishing food is one of the complications of Hepatitis C and liver disease in general. After being diagnosed with Hepatitis C and End Stage Liver Disease, I had to eat cautiously because my liver was decompensated. I began to research and spend time at the grocery store reading labels. I learned to eat healthy protein sources. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend approximately 60 grams of protein daily. For sodium, the FDA suggests 2,300 mg to maintain liver health. Your doctor will tell you what is right for you. Let’s look at some areas where can make those changes easily. These include getting protein with low sodium at home, when eating out, and on the go.
Your quickly learn it is always easier to eat at home. It was true for me when I was first diagnosed and is still true today as I live virus free, but with cirrhosis. Finding good sources of protein with low sodium is practically impossible on most dinner tables even when eating with your friends and family. Do not be afraid to hurt their feelings. My loved ones have learned the sodium content of most items and try to cook for me. I usually take something from home and enjoy a small portion of what they serve. Keeping your refrigerator and freezer stocked with chicken, yogurt, low sodium bread and chips is easily done. If you are cooking for others ask them to help with a recipe that reduces sodium. It is best to have a shelf where you keep low sodium catsup, mustard, yogurt, cereal, and snacks. That way you can always grab a high protein snack when you feel low on energy. When shopping, we all know how important it is to read the label. It’s simple to look for the highest protein with the lowest sodium. Many ready to eat cereals and protein bars are available. Find the items that fit in your budget and stock up!
When eating out, you can always opt for the salad. If you want chicken on it, do not be shy about asking the waitress if the meat is pre-seasoned. If not, you can ask for no sodium and eat to your hearts (and livers) content. You may have to watch the salad dressings. A vinaigrette dressing is usually a good option. I still nibble on almonds or other snacks even when eating out. When you consider that a cheeseburger at most restaurants contains more sodium than your daily allowance, you quickly learn to order fries with no salt or catsup.
Eating high protein and low sodium is essential when on the go. If you have to work or run errands, keep a protein source stashed in a lunch bag or at your desk. Drink a protein shake when you feel sluggish. You can go with others to eat out without drawing a lot of attention to your diet. Simply master the art of pushing food around on a plate without eating much. A warning: you will gain the reputation for being a health nut! I learned not to make too many excuses. Our healthy eating may cause others to be uncomfortable and they will invite you to eat a desert or fat laden foods with them. Just smile and say, “No thanks, but it looks delicious”.
The bottom line is that we have to eat a healthy high protein, low sodium diet. If we do, our liver will not become burdened with trying to metabolize food. We can be more mentally alert and receive all the nutrients our body needs to get stronger and to heal. By paying attention to the grams of protein you consume, and eating small portions throughout the day, you can accomplish both. By reducing sodium, you will not have to rely on diuretics to keep from developing ascites. Once you begin to experience all the benefits gained from eating a liver loving diet, processed foods may not even sound appealing. You will gain a healthy energy that comes from a healthy liver. It is worth it!