Meal Planning for Hepatitis C


Gina Garippo

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If you’re undergoing treatment for hepatitis C, you’re probably experiencing your fair share of side effects. These may include nausea, fever and chills, and changes in bathroom habits. But you can minimize many treatment side effects and improve your quality of life. How? By rethinking how you eat. Take a look at these meal-planning tips and tricks that can do more than just fill your stomach.

Drink Up

If you have hepatitis C, it may be time to rethink your drink. Put down your coffee or cola and opt for decaffeinated drinks, particularly water. Try to down six to eight cups a day.

Drinking water is a powerful way to counteract many side effects of treatment. It can reduce flulike symptoms and diarrhea. It can help calm a cough, ease fatigue, and prevent dry mouth. Plus, avoiding caffeinated beverages can help you sleep better.

Eat Mini-Meals

Not hungry? Poor appetite is a common side effect of hepatitis C treatment. But don’t force yourself to stay on your old eating schedule. Instead, try eating smaller, more frequent meals (think four to six) throughout the day.

Mini-meals can help give you the energy you need. Plus, they can reduce nausea and vomiting. To get the most out of what you do eat, make sure to include high-protein foods in your meals, such as cheese, peanut butter, eggs, or protein drinks like Ensure.

Choose Wisely

In addition to changing  when you eat, watching  what you eat can also minimize side effects like nausea. Try to avoid spicy, greasy, sweet or acidic foods—which all have the potential to make you queasy. Instead, calm your stomach by drinking ginger ale or ginger tea. If your nausea occurs in the morning, nibbling dry crackers or toast can help you feel better.  

Counteract Metallic Taste

Many people who are treated for hepatitis C develop a metallic taste in their mouth. To help, try eating with plastic utensils and snacking on a little yogurt or dark chocolate about a half hour before meals. Drinking lemonade, water with fresh lemon, or cranberry juice or sucking on sugar-free lemon drops can also help reduce the metallic taste.

Get Regular

Does diarrhea occasionally keep you in the bathroom? Reducing spicy and acidic foods as well as eating more soluble fiber will help. When meal planning, incorporate foods from the “BRAT” diet, which includes foods high in soluble fiber like  Bananas, white  Rice,  Applesauce, and white  Toast. Also, try to avoid dairy products for a few days after your diarrhea resolves.

Remember, there are many ways you can help reduce your side effects and feel better each day. Using your diet as a tool will put you on the right track.

Key Takeaways

  • Opt for decaffeinated beverages. Drinking water can help counteract many side effects of treatment.

  • If your appetite is poor, swap three big meals for four to six smaller meals throughout the day.

  • Try to avoid spicy, greasy, sweet or acidic foods. Calm your stomach by drinking ginger ale or eating dry crackers.

  • To combat a metallic taste in your mouth, snack on yogurt or dark chocolate before meals. Lemonade or sugar-free lemon drops can also help.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 21, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Managing side effects of treatment. American Liver Foundation. Accessed August 21, 2014.
  2. Tips to lessen common side effects of hepatitis C treatment. American College of Gastroenterology.
  3. Hepatitis C treatment side effects management chart. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Accessed August 21, 2014.

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