Hepatitis and help for it

Studies so far have made us aware that there are 5 types of hepatitis. Type A,B,C,D, and E. Studies have also shown that ypes B,C, and D are the ones that cause long term effects. They can cause liver failure, liver scarring (cirrhosis), and liver cancer.

The following world statistics reveal further that;
150m people suffer from chronic hepatitis C infection and between 350000 and 500000 people die of hepatitis C per year.

There are 1.4m cases of hepatitis A per year.

240m people suffer from chronic hepatitis B

78000 people die of hepatitis B per year

20m people contract hepatitis E infections per year

3m acute cases of hepatitis E are discovered

56000 people die from hepatitis E

Today(World Hepatitis Day) looks to raise awareness, strengthen prevention measures, increase hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integrate the vaccine into national immunization programs as well as to coordinate a global response to viral hepatitis.

We have been able to source out notable tips and facts to know how best hepatitis can be managed effectively. Read on…

A patient suffering from acute infectious hepatitis will experience severe loss of appetite or anorexia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, taste changes, fever and jaundice. All these symptoms complicate food intake and make it difficult to ensure that the patient is well nourished at a time when it is essential to provide the patient with a highly nutritious diet to prevent liver damage.

Diet for Acute Hepatitis

The diet used during acute hepatitis infection must provide the following:-

1. Appetite stimulation and boost

Appetite stimulation to overcome anorexia – this is probably one of the most difficult challenges facing anyone who is trying to assist a hepatitis patient who may feel so ill and debilitated that they flatly refuse to eat.

Offer the patient his or her favourite fat-free or low-fat foods (see below for tips on selecting a low-fat diet), for example, fruit juices, energy drinks (Lucozade, Power Horse, Bullet – not the alcoholic variety, diluted with cold water), fat-free milk drinks (make from fresh or canned fruit, fat-free milk or yoghurt to which you can add flavouring, honey and fat-free milk powder to boost the protein and energy content), custard made with fat-free milk, low-fat ice cream, clear soups (chill overnight and remove the fat that coagulates on top of the soup), dry crackers, bland porridges with fat-free milk and sugar to boost energy intake, hard or boiled sweets, and any other food that the patient is prepared to eat.

Tips to improve food intake:

Serve the above mentioned foods and beverages chilled as this helps to overcome nausea. Let the patient eat a dry biscuit before eating other foods as this can assist with food aversion. Add slightly more flavouring to milk shakes, yorghurts and custard to overcome loss of taste sensation. Serve patient with small quantities more often so that they don’t get discouraged if they are only able to drink or eat small portions at a time.

2. Use of liquid meal replacements

Nowadays there are many high-energy, high-protein meal replacement products available from your pharmacy, for example, cereals like Golden Morn, Cornflakes Discuss the use of such liquid meal replacement products with your pharmacist or phone the company’s Consumer Service for additional advice.

3. Foods to exclude

Avoid giving the patient the following foods:

  • By all means, alcohol must be thoroughly avoided (it’s a no-brainer!)
  • Full-cream milk, yoghurt, cream, cream cheese and fatty cheeses
  • Biscuits, cakes, pies, tarts, etc with a high-fat content
  • Chocolate
  • Not more than three eggs a week
  • Fatty salad dressings, mayonnaise, sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Fatty, fried meats, fatty fish, poultry skin, all processed meats and sausages, bacon, fatty gravies, fish canned in oil (buy tuna or pilchards canned in water or tomato sauce)
  • Nuts, peanut butter, nut spreads
  • Potato chips, vegetables smothered in butter or white/cheese sauces
  • Fatty snacks or very spicy snacks
  • All food preparation that increases the amount of fat contained in meals, such as frying in butter, margarine or oil. Rather boil, poach, grill, cook in a nonstick pan with Spray and Cook, and cook stews and soups the day before, chill and skim off all the coagulated fat before serving.
4. Vitamin, mineral and electrolyte supplements

Discuss what types of vitamin and mineral supplements you can give to the patient with his/her treating doctor. The doctor may prescribe supplements that protect liver function such as Essentiale or Pro-Hep which contain B vitamins and other factors such as choline that assist liver function.

Patients suffering from dehydration because of repeated vomiting need to drink an electrolyte mixture. In serious cases, the patient may have to be put on a drip to replenish body water and electrolytes. Monitor the patients liquid intake and if you suspect dehydration, contact his/her doctor immediately.

Dietary treatment of chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis

Serious long-term effects of hepatitis infection which can become chronic, should always be treated by a clinical dietician. Find a dietician by contacting us sing the contact form or ask the treating physician to refer you to a dietician in your area. Patients with chronic hepatitis and liver damage require special diets that need to be worked out for the individual patient so that further liver damage and long-term malnutrition can be prevented.

So if you have to look after a patient with acute hepatitis infection you should be able to manage with the diet tips given above, but any serious complication or drawn-out illness involving the liver, needs the special attention of a clinical dietician.

(Reference: Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy (2000). Edited by Mahan & Escott-Stump, Chapter 32, pp 695-717. WB Saunders Co, Philadelphia, USA)

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