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Living Well with Hepatitis B 

Living with a long term illness like chronic hepatitis B can be challenging. There may be appointments with doctors and specialists to manage, medication you need to take, lifestyle changes you have to make, and sometimes there are big decisions with lots of pros and cons to be weighed up.

For most people with hepatitis B, dealing with their condition is just an addition to the usual ‘stuff of life’ – work, family, home, money, holidays, pets... the list is endless! Understandably hepatitis B often gets put to the end of the list, or can feel too overwhelming to deal with at times.

The good news is that we know more than ever about the things that you can do to improve your chances of living a long and healthy life with your chronic hepatitis B. Eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, and abstaining or minimising intake of alcohol are all things that can have a positive impact on the health of your liver.

It is also important that people with hepatitis B have regular contact with a liver specialist. The hepatitis B virus goes through different stages as your body recognises and reacts to the virus. Treatment is only needed (and will only work) during some of these stages. The only way to tell when treatment will be effective is through regular (usually 6 monthly) monitoring of blood and liver tests with a liver specialist. It can be frustrating to have to see a specialist regularly and not receive treatment, but this is the only way to access treatment when the time is right for you, and ensure your liver stays healthy. If you have any questions about hepatitis B treatment, please contact the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 703 003. 

We also recommend that people with chronic hepatitis B have a vaccination for hepatitis A – just to avoid having any additional liver problems on top of your hepatitis B.

Getting more information about hepatitis B

We have a range of resources about hepatitis B. You can find these at our Resource Directory.

You may also wish to call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 703 003 to get information, support or referral.

We also recommend the Hep Forum for support and information from other people with hepatitis B around the world.

For general information on what impact drugs, herbal compounds, and dietary supplements may have on your liver, check out the LiverTox website.

Healthy eating

Having a well balanced diet is important for everybody, but especially so for people with a chronic illness like viral hepatitis. Choosing fresh, nutritious foods will help your body and particularly your liver to function at its best. Foods are usually classified into five groups: grains, fruit and vegetables, fats and oils, dairy, and protein. Knowing how much of each group to eat is the important thing. We need a lot of fruit and vegetables, and a small amount of fat and oil.

For more information, you can order our resources on diet and good health from our Resource Directory or go to Love Your Liver for recipes and diet tips for a healthy liver.

The traffic light guide to healthy eating

Diet plays an important role in maintaining liver health. Carrying excess abdominal fat (fat around your tummy, a beer gut) can increase your risk of an unhealthy liver as well as other serious long term conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Fatty liver and diabetes can also increase liver damage and decrease treatment success in people with viral hepatitis.

Using a ‘traffic light’ system can help you choose foods which are better for you – lower in fat (especially saturated or animal fats), lower in sugar and lower in salt. Have a look at our food lists, and also see how the fat, sugar and salt in your packaged food rates using the Traffic Light Food Tracker Widget.

Green food and drinks are the healthiest choices. They are great sources of nutrients needed for health and wellbeing, and are low in saturated fats, low in added sugar and salt, and are lower in kilojoule (energy) density. They can be eaten at every meal.

Plain or whole grain breads and cereals; vegetables and salads; fruit; low fat milk and dairy products (cheeses, yoghurts etc); lean meats; fish and poultry; eggs; nuts; legumes (beans, lentils etc).

Orange food and drinks have some nutritional value, but contain moderate levels of saturated fat, sugar, and salt. In large serving sizes they can contribute to excess kilojoule (energy) intake. They should be carefully selected and eaten in moderation. They are mainly processed/packaged foods. You may want to try out the Traffic Light Food Tracker Widget below to see how the fat, salt and sugar in your food rates. 

Full fat milk and dairy products; some breakfast and cereal bars; some un-iced, plain, reduced-fat cakes and muffins; some reduced fat and salt processed meats; plant-based margarine spreads; breakfast cereals with no added sugar or fat.

Red food and drinks are high in kilojoules (energy) and low in nutrients. They have high saturated fat, sugar and/or salt. They can contribute to excess kilojoule (energy) intake if eaten in large amounts or on a frequent basis. They are ‘sometimes foods’ and should only be eaten occasionally. You may want to try out the Traffic Light Food Tracker Widget below to see how the fat, salt and sugar in your food rates. 

Fried foods; savoury commercial products such as pies and sausage rolls;snack bars; sweet biscuits; cakes and pastries; confectionary; chips; sweetened drinks (soft drinks, juices, sweetened milk drinks); most processed meats (ham, salami, luncheon meat).

References:

  1. Healthy Options WA: Food and Nutrition Policy. Traffic Light Criteria 
  2. Obesity Policy Coalition

Reducing or stopping smoking

Smoking can impact the health of the liver, and stopping smoking reduces the chance of progressing to serious liver disease if you have hepatitis B. If you would like to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke or you would like to quit smoking check out Quit line.

Seeing a psychologist for assistance with mental health problems

On 1 November 2006, the Australian Government introduced new Medicare items for psychological treatment by registered psychologists. This service provides considerable assistance to people living with mental health problems, allowing them greater access to psychologists and providing more affordable mental healthcare.

Read more on this topic here.http://www.psychology.org.au/public/cost

Managing depression

If you would like to learn cognitive behaviour therapy skills for preventing and coping with depression check out this online program:

Read more on this topic here.

Managing diabetes

Find out more about managing Diabetes here!