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- The 28th of July has been dedicated for World Hepatitis Day (WHD).
- Most of the signs are often ignored due to their common occurrence in everyday life.
- Vitamins can be used to prevent the development and progression of hepatitis in high risk individuals.
- Food items rich in these vitamins or supplements can be recommended to prevent the development and progression of hepatitis.
- Unsafe sexual contact, transfusions, infected mothers, no vaccination and contaminated food and water put people at high risk of getting hepatitis.
Know More about Hepatitis
Do you know that there are 350 million people around the world suffering from hepatitis?
Moreover, there are 3 million people who develop early stages of the disease every year but remain unaware of it until the disease becomes severe.
This has been a widespread health issue for a large number of people especially that many are also at high risk of getting this disease.
To raise awareness on this issue, the 28th of July has been dedicated for World Hepatitis Day (WHD).
Hepatitis prevention and treatment is placed on limelight during this time to educate the general public and mainly, so that, incidences of hepatitis can be reduced.
In this article, we will discuss the risk factors and symptoms of hepatitis, and how we can help prevent this disease through nutritional and therapeutic means.
What Is Hepatitis?
The word Hepatitis has a greek origin. Hepar meaning “liver” and itis meaning “inflammation”. As the name indicates, hepatitis means inflammation of the liver tissue.
These inflammations can be the result of a virus infection (viral hepatitis) but can also be caused by drugs, alcohol and toxins.
Certain diseases can also lead to inflammation of the liver such as autoimmune diseases.
Inflammation of the liver can be mild at times but very serious at others. In very serious cases the liver can get damaged and a liver failure can occur.
Prevention and medications do exist. Some types of the disease are self-limting, some can be treated with medications while others can be prevented by using vaccinations.
Who Are at A Higher Risk of Getting Hepatitis?
5 Types of Hepatitis
There are 5 viruses that are primarily involved in causing Hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E.
Both Hepatitis A and E are acute and short termed, and people get them when they come in contact with food and water contaminated with these viruses.
Hepatitis B and C cause chronic infections, and can lead to severe liver damage and hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).
Both B and C viruses are transmitted through body fluids.
Infections can spread during sexual contact, blood transfusion, or from mother to child during birth.
Hepatitis D has a similar course but it only occurs if the person is already infected with HBV (Hepatitis B Virus).
It requires HBV particles to replicate and infect the liver tissue.
5 Groups Who Are at High Risk
Keeping that in mind, the following are considered to be the five risk groups that are more likely to develop hepatitis:
1- Eating contaminated food or drinking untreated water
2- Engaging in unsafe sexual intercourse
3- Sharing needles or unprotected blood transfusions
4- Being born to an infected mother
5- Not being vaccinated (specifically against HAV, HBV)
5 Typical Signs of Early Stage Hepatitis
As the above statistics indicated; many people develop early stages of hepatitis but remain unaware of it.
Most of the signs are often ignored due to their common occurrence in everyday life.
For this reason, many often neglect the need for medical assistance.
So here are five typical signs which can help characterize the early stages of hepatitis.
1- Nausea and vomiting
2- Abdominal pain
3- Fever with body ache
yellow skin, yellowing of the white part of the eyes and yellow mucus membranes. It can be part of hepatitis, tumor and gallstones.
5- Pale colored stool while the urine is dark yellow
Studies also proved that these 5 are the early signs which may indicate that you have developed hepatitis.
Vomiting and Abdominal Pain in Numbers
A research was conducted on a sample of 427 patients who were younger than 18 years old and suffered from acute hepatitis A virus.
Hospital data was collected regarding the patients affected with viral hepatitis.
It was found that more than 50% of the patients presented gave complaints of vomiting.
Abdominal pain was the second most common reason for hospitalization in their findings.
The Jaundice Outbreak in Uttarakhand, Northern India
Another research study was conducted back in 2014 to investigate the underlying cause of the jaundice outbreak in Uttarakhand.
Results have shown that most of the patients were positive for acute hepatic infection.
HEV (Hepatitis E Virus) was the major contributing agent of the outbreak.
It was transmitted through drinking fecal matter contaminated water.
How to Effectively Prevent Hepatitis in high Risk Groups?
There is no exact therapeutic drug that can be prescribed by doctors to prevent hepatitis.
Vaccines for hepatitis A and B only, are being used successfully for that purpose.
However, vitamins can be used to prevent hepatitis. Vitamins A, C, E, and D in particular, are effective when it comes to preventative aspects.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Supplementation
A study was done in 2016, which described that apart from the classical functions of vitamin D in bone homeostasis, it also acts as an immune modulator that regulates the body’s innate and adaptive immune response against invading microbes.
Research demonstrated that its deficiency was associated with the development of hepatitis B infection.
The study concluded that Vitamin D supplementation might be a supportive option when dealing with a chronic HBV or liver diseases in general.
Vitamin A, C and E Deficiency and Supplementation
A similar study was conducted to analyze the effects of Vitamin A.
It described vitamin A as having an anti-oxidative properties which protect the body against oxidative stresses caused by pathogens.
It was demonstrated that hepatitis C produces oxidative stresses in the body, and it was associated with Vitamin A deficiency.
Similar anti-oxidative properties are also possessed by Vitamin C and E, therefore, we can say that vitamins can be used to prevent the development and progression of hepatitis in high risk individuals.
What Should You Eat and What Should You Avoid to Prevent The Development and Progression of Hepatitis?
Nutritionists say that a good healthy diet is the best diet for hepatitis patients.
However, from the above discussion on the importance of vitamins in diet, foods rich in these vitamins or supplements can be recommended to prevent the development and progression of hepatitis.
The following are good examples of food items that one can incorporate into their daily meals:
1- Citrus fruits and vegetables
2- Lean protein like fish, chicken, eggs whites, etc.
3- Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, barley, etc.
4- Low/non-fat dairy foods
5- Olive oil
6- Drink plenty of water
Another research study have found that orange juice is good for the Hepatitis C patients.
This is because it contains various nutrients and compounds which have anti-oxidant properties such as vitamin C and carotenoids.
These anti-oxidants prevent the liver from the damage associated with Hepatitis C virus.
Foods to avoid to prevent Hepatitis
1- Improperly Cooked Seafood, Particularly Shellfish.
A study has shown that shellfish serves as a good source to produce an outbreak of viral hepatitis because HAV is transmitted through the consumption of improperly cooked shellfish, obtained from contaminated sources.
2- Diets High in Fats: fat begins to store in the liver. This might promote the development of scarring of the liver.
3- High Calorie/ Sugary Food Items Such As Cakes and Sugary Beverages.
4- Heavily Salted Food Items
5- Alcoholic Beverages
Help Increase Awareness
To summarize the above discussion, we can say that hepatitis is one of the major health problems around the world.
Unsafe sexual contact, fluid transfusions, infected mothers, no vaccination and contaminated food and water put people at a high risk of getting hepatitis.
There are simple typical signs associated with the early stages of this viral infection.
Vitamins can be used to prevent it.
Therefore, food sources rich in vitamins are recommended when dealing with a hepatitis or for preventative reasons.
Above all else, it is important to consult your physician if you feel any of those symptoms and if you are part of the high risk group.
Let’s keep it in mind that increasing awareness means decreasing the likelihood of having this disease.