Hep B Blog

Category Archives: Liver Health

What is the Difference Between hepatitis B and Fatty Liver Disease?

Many people have trouble understanding the relationship between chronic hepatitis B (HBV) infection and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). While research studies are ongoing and the association between hepatitis B and NAFLD is indeed complex, a chronic hepatitis B infection does not cause NAFLD. It is important to understand both diseases independently of one another before studying the correlation between the two.  

Hepatitis B and fatty liver disease both can damage the liver. This is why it is important to understand the role of the liver in maintaining overall health and well-being. The liver is an essential organ in your body and is responsible for supporting digestion and regulating nutrients. It plays a crucial role in removing toxic substances from your body.  

Worldwide, almost 300 million people are living with hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood, unprotected sex with an infected individual, use of contaminated medical or injection equipment, and most commonly, from an infected mother to her newborn during childbirth. A chronic (lasting longer than six months) hepatitis B infection can damage the liver and may progress to more serious conditions like cirrhosis, fibrosis, and even liver cancer. While hepatitis B is a major public health problem, it can be prevented through a safe and effective vaccine. And even though hepatitis B is a serious disease, most people live healthy and productive lives with effective management and treatment.  

NAFLD is caused by the excess accumulation of fat in the liver not related to  alcohol use. Over time, this may lead to inflammation or swelling and liver damage. There are two types of NAFLD: 1). Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver (NAFL) or Simple Fatty Liver and 2) Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). Someone who has NAFL has fat buildup in their liver. Someone who has NASH also has liver damage and liver inflammation, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and may even result in the need for a liver transplant. Type II Diabetes and obesity puts an individual at a higher risk for contracting NAFLD. In the United States, around 20% to 40% of individuals are living with NAFLD. The good news is that NAFLD can be reversed with changes in diet, physical activity patterns, and seeing a doctor regularly.  

It is possible to have both NAFLD and hepatitis B. If you are living with both, the impact of the virus on an already inflamed and compromised liver can lead to liver damage. With excess fat stored in liver cells, the virus can easily replicate without the protection from healthy liver cells and progress to a more severe form of liver disease like cirrhosis, fibrosis, or cancer at a much faster rate.   

Like hepatitis B, NAFLD should not be taken lightly as it can lead to serious health problems. It is important to consult with your doctor to find any concerns with your liver. 

For more information, please visit the National Institute of Digestive Disease and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) or the Fatty Liver Foundation.

 

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fatty-liver-disease-what-it-is-and-what-to-do-about-it-2019011015746 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/nash-fibrosis#causes 

Your Environment and Your Liver

October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month! This month let’s celebrate your liver for all it does for your body! This blog post will talk about how your environment, where you live, work, and play, affect your liver.

A healthy functioning liver (no advanced fibrosis/cirrhosis) is busy and effectively manages toxins daily. If your body was an automobile, your liver would be considered the engine. It does hundreds of vital things to make sure everything runs smoothly. Some of the most important functions of the liver include:

  • Stores vitamins, sugar, and iron to help give your body energy.
  • Controls the production and removal of cholesterol.
  • Clears your blood of waste products, drugs, and other poisonous substances.
  • Makes clotting factors to stop excessive bleeding after cuts or injuries.
  • Makes immune factors and removes bacteria from the blood to fight infection.
  • Releases a substance called “bile” to help digest food and absorb nutrients

How Does Lifestyle Affect My Liver?

Eating healthy for your liver is so important! The Hepatitis B Foundation encourages all people living with hepatitis B to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and incorporate healthy habits in their day-to-day life. Some suggestions include:

Diet Changes

  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking since both will hurt your liver, which is already being injured by the hepatitis B virus.
  • Eat a healthy diet of fruit, whole grains, fish and lean meats, and a lot of vegetables. “Cruciferous vegetables” in particular — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower — have been shown to help protect the liver against environmental chemicals.
  • Limit foods and drinks with added sugars including sodas, fruit juices, desserts, packaged snacks, and other foods that contain added sugar. Limit foods containing saturated fats including fatty cuts of meat and foods fried in oil.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish (e.g. clams, mussels, oysters, scallops) because they could be contaminated with a bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus, which is very toxic to the liver and could cause a lot of damage.
  • Check for signs of mold on nuts, maize, corn, groundnut, sorghum, and millet before using these foods. Mold is more likely to be a problem if food is stored in damp conditions and not properly sealed. If there is mold, then the food could be contaminated by “aflatoxins,” which are a known risk factor for liver cancer.

Household Changes

  • Avoid inhaling fumes from paint, paint thinners, glue, household cleaning products, nail polish removers, and other potentially toxic chemicals that could damage your liver.

Personal Care Changes

  • Wearing makeup is sometimes part of our everyday life or used on occasion. We can absorb products through our skin and into the liver. Sometimes makeup products that are applied to the facial area (high absorption area) contain harmful chemicals to your liver. People living with hepatitis B should look on labels for these 4 ingredients which are toxic to your liver.
  1. Phthalates including di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) and di(2-ehtylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
  2. Lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
  3. Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), amonoethanolamine (MEA)
  4. Propylene / butylene glycol (PG)

Ultimately, making healthy decisions about your liver is up to you. There will always be risks associated with different things you put in or on your body; it is your choice to outweigh these risks vs. benefits for yourself.

References:

 

Author: Evangeline Wang

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

The Importance of Liver Surveillance

October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month! This blog will discuss the importance of liver surveillance if you are living with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B as a Major Risk Factor for Liver Cancer

Although liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, it is the second most common cause of cancer deaths. Many people do not realize that chronic hepatitis B is the primary global risk factor for developing liver cancer. Certain viruses, including hepatitis B, can cause hepatitis, which translates to “inflammation of liver.” The virus attacks the liver and weakens its ability to perform important tasks like filtering toxins from your blood and maintaining the level of sugar in your blood. Chronic (long-term) infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C viruses can lead to liver cancer. Worldwide, hepatitis B is very widespread, making it a priority when it comes to the prevention of liver cancer. Approximately 292 million people around the world are living with hepatitis B.

Why Should I be Screened?

 Early detection of liver cancer can save lives! Regular screening for liver cancer and early detection are the most effective ways to improve treatment success and survival rates. Early detection of liver cancer results in more treatment options, which greatly improves the chances of survival after initial diagnosis. For patients in whom liver cancer is detected at an early stage and before symptoms occur – while the tumor is small and can be surgically removed – the 5-year survival rate can sometimes be more than 50%. This is why regular liver cancer screening is so important.

If you have cirrhosis or other known risk factors for liver cancer, make sure your health care provider screens you for liver cancer during your medical visits. Finding the cancer early may increase the chance of successful treatment. Your health care provider may refer you to a hepatologist, a doctor who specializes in liver diseases. Hepatologists have the most experience in managing chronic hepatitis B and C infections, including regular screening for liver cancer.

How Often Should I be Screened?

Liver cancer screening can be done as part of your regular visit to the health care provider who manages your hepatitis B. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) recommends that liver cancer screening include ultrasound of the liver every 6 months. If you are living with hepatitis B and are not getting screened every 6 months for liver cancer, you should ask your healthcare provider to start!

Listen and Learn!

The Hepatitis B Foundation’s podcast B Heppy has an episode out: Liver Cancer and Hepatitis B. In this episode, they chat with Dr. Kenneth Rothstein of University of Pennsylvania about the relationship between liver cancer and hepatitis B. He gives insight into herbal medicines, treatment options, liver surveillance, and important questions patients should ask their healthcare provider. Listen for more: https://bheppy.buzzsprout.com

 

 

Author: Evangeline Wang

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

Liver Cancer Among Men

June is Men’s Health Month. This month we bring awareness to preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. In 2020, The World Health Organization found that liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths with 830,000 deaths.1 Liver cancer occurs more often in men than in women with it being the 5th most commonly occurring cancer in men and the 9th most commonly occurring cancer in women.2

There are two main types of liver cancers, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) which accounts for about 75% of liver cancer cases, and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma which accounts for 12-15% of cases. Liver cancer especially impacts Asian countries like Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and China. Hepatitis B is the leading cause of HCC globally. Of the 300 million individuals living with a chronic hepatitis B diagnosis, about 25% will develop HCC.3

Risk Factors

HCC affects men with an incidence 2x-4x higher than women due to differences in behavioral risk factors and biological factors.3 Research has found men were less likely to undergo HCC screening and more likely to smoke.  Additionally, studies have shown alcohol is a major risk factor for HCC. In the United States, HCC associated with alcohol is higher among men than in women at 27.8% and 15.4% respectively.3

Biologically, there is evidence estrogen (a female hormone) decreases IL-6 mediated hepatic inflammation and viral production.3 Studies have demonstrated IL-6 may promote virus survival and/or exacerbation of the disease.4 In the context of hepatitis B, men are at an increased risk for HCC as they do not produce estrogen which would help decrease the risk of IL-6, in turn, promoting viral survival.

Prevention

The great news is that HCC can be prevented by preventing hepatitis B. There is a safe and effective vaccine that can be completed in either 2 or 3 doses over a span of 3 months. Ask your healthcare provider for the hepatitis B vaccine series.

If you are unsure of your hepatitis B status, you can get tested! Ask your healthcare provider for the “Hepatitis B Panel” – it should include 3 parts. The panel is super simple and only requires one sample of blood.  If you are of Asian descent and male, it is especially important for you to get tested as liver cancer disproportionately impacts individuals from Asian countries and men.

If you have chronic hepatitis B, make sure your doctor screens you regularly for liver cancer. Typically done with a combination of blood tests and imaging, liver cancer screening can help detect HCC early when it is still curable.

As we wrap up June and Men’s Health Month, you are encouraged to get vaccinated and tested for hepatitis B. Take control of your health, and don’t wait!

References

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer
  2. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/liver-cancer-statistics/
  3. Wu EM, Wong LL, Hernandez BY, et al. Gender differences in hepatocellular cancer: disparities in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease/steatohepatitis and liver transplantation. Hepatoma Res. 2018;4:66. doi:10.20517/2394-5079.2018.87
  4. Velazquez-Salinas L, Verdugo-Rodriguez A, Rodriguez LL, Borca MV. The Role of Interleukin 6 During Viral Infections. Front Microbiol. 2019;10:1057. Published 2019 May 10. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2019.01057

 

Author: Evangeline Wang

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

 

Holidays and Hepatitis B: Treat Your Liver Right

 

 

The holiday season is here! November and December are full with holidays like Diwali, Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the New Year just to name a few. This time is often filled with love, happiness, and delicious food. If you or a family member is living with hepatitis B, it is important to eat mindfully during this festive time. Eating healthy is not always a possible option – not with delicious smells filling your kitchen, but you can make healthier choices! Here is a list of action items you can do to help maintain a healthy liver during the holidays:

  1. You can contribute a healthy dish – something filled with lean meats, hearty vegetables,  and is low in sodium.
  2. Try your best to avoid alcohol and go for drinks with lower amounts of added sugar.
    • Coffee has been associated with improvement in liver enzymes!
    • You can bring your own non-alcoholic beverage like a sparkling flavored drink.
  3. Choose fiber-rich foods like beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and beans – your plate should look colorful!
    • Click on the veggies for some delicious and healthy recipes!
  4. Stay active – take a walk with your family/someone in your COVID social circle or do a free online exercise video.

Most importantly, do not feel guilty. Try your best to make healthy choices and not over-indulge, but do not beat yourself up if you do – your next meal can be healthier!

Remember that everything you consume is filtered through your liver; your liver never gets a break! The lifestyle tips listed above may seem simple, but they can have a large, positive impact on your health. Sticking to a regular healthy routine even during the holiday season will make it easier to continue those habits all year long! You can also check out our healthy liver tips to see what other actions can be taken to protect your liver.

Author: Evangeline Wang, Program Coordinator

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

Announcing the New Current Patient Opportunities Page on the HBF Website

A new page has been created on the Hepatitis B Foundation’s website that contains a compilation of various opportunities available for people living with hepatitis B. These opportunities can be for clinical trials, other types of research, or toolkits with information and resources for those living with hepatitis B and their loved ones and community members. All of these postings are produced or organized by entities external to HBF, but all are related to improved quality of life and liver health. The first two of these opportunities are listed below.

New Tool from CME Outfitters

A new HBV Patient Education Hub has been compiled by continuing medical education company CME Outfitters. The hub includes a great deal of valuable information, such as an overview of hepatitis B, a list of questions to ask your healthcare provider, a patient guide, information about hepatitis B co-infection, doctors’ advice on what to expect from treatment, and many other resources. All information is in an engaging and accessible format. Check it out today!

New Study Opportunity Available for People Living with Itching (Cholestatic Pruritus) Due to Liver Disease or Injury

A new paid opportunity has become available for those experiencing itching caused by hepatitis B, hepatitis C, drug-induced liver injury, auto-immune hepatitis, or primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). If you live in Canada or the US and have this condition, you may be eligible to participate in an interview to help researchers better understand your lived experience. The new research study is seeking participants ages 12-80 living in the US and Canada who are living with this itch. This is an opportunity to be involved in research and help advance scientific understanding! Contact the research coordinator for more information and to check if you are eligible. 

Please note that this study does not include treatment and pruritus must be at an intensity level of 4 on a scale of 1-10 for at least the past 8 weeks in order to participate. Patients cannot be pregnant or breastfeeding or have a diagnosis of primary biliary cholangitis. 

We are very excited to unveil this new section of our website and hope it will be a useful resource for many going forward! Please check back often, as more opportunities will be posted as they arise.

Your Liver and Hepatitis B

 

Your Liver and Hepatitis B

 Happy Liver Cancer Awareness Month! Your liver is an important organ for digesting food and breaking down toxins. Its main functions include: filtering blood from the digestive tract and transporting it back to the rest of the body, removing toxins from the blood, and storing important nutrients that keep the body healthy.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of your liver that can cause serious damage over time. Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) can ultimately lead to scarring, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Liver cancer is the 3rd deadliest cancer worldwide, with 5-year survival rates of only 19%. There are few effective treatments for liver cancer, and we, therefore, must rely on prevention and early detection in order to save lives. Chronic hepatitis B infection causes approximately 78% of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or primary liver cancer. The key to saving lives is ensuring that individuals infected with HBV are diagnosed and linked with appropriate care, including regular screening for liver cancer.

In the U.S., liver cancer incidence and death rates are increasing at a faster rate than any other cancer and are projected to continue to rise through at least 2030. Up to 2.2 million people are chronically infected by HBV in the U.S. and the majority is unaware of their infection. Identifying, managing and treating those with HBV infection can help prevent liver cancer in many people. Additionally, regularly screening people with chronic hepatitis B  for liver cancer can aid with early detection and treatment of liver cancer. If diagnosed early, liver cancer can be treated and even cured.

Below are some practices you can easily incorporate into your daily life and routine to keep your liver healthy while living with hepatitis B.

Healthy Liver Tips

  1. Reduce alcohol intake: Alcoholic beverages can damage or destroy liver cells and create additional health problems.
  2. Eat a healthy diet: Increase the amount of whole foods in your diet like fruits and vegetables while decreasing the amount of refined carbohydrates (pastas, white rice, white bread), processed sugar, and saturated fats which can create a healthy environment for your liver.
  3. Daily exercise: It is recommended for adults to exercise at least 60 minutes per day. Not only does this have many other health benefits, but it can reduce the fat surrounding your liver which can decrease your risk of liver cancer.
  4. Avoid the use of illicit drugs: Drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, inhalants, or hallucinogens put stress on your liver and reduce its functioning capability.
  5. Wash produce and read labels on household chemicals: Pesticides and other chemicals can contain toxins which are harmful to your liver.

Incorporating these healthy practices does not have to be difficult. Choose one of the five tips that is most convenient with your current lifestyle and use it as a starting point for a healthier routine. By gradually incorporating each healthy liver tip into your lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of a negative liver outcome creating a healthier you!

Resources for Liver Cancer and Hepatitis B

Please join Hepatitis B Foundation, Hep B United and Hep B United Philadelphia’s webinar on October 20th at 3PM ET to learn more about hepatitis B and liver cancer. Dr. Kenneth Rothestein, Director of Regional Outreach and Regional Hepatology from Penn Medicine will be highlighting the importance of liver cancer screening for prevention. Register here!

To promote and ultimately prevent liver cancer this October we are pleased to share the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Know Hepatitis B (KHB) Campaign Product of the Month – the Infographic: “Get Tested for Hepatitis B.”

The CDC’s Know Hepatitis B Campaign’s infographic, “Get Tested for Hepatitis B” encourages Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to get tested for hepatitis B. This 2-page downloadable document is available in English, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean languages and answers commonly asked questions about hepatitis B.

For more information about the Know Hepatitis B Campaign, visit the campaign website.

 

Author: Evangeline Wang, Program Coordinator, Hepatitis B Foundation

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

I had a Liver Transplant Because of Hep B: Here’s What You Should Know

April is Donate Life Month in the United States. Donate Life Month is primarily known as a time to acknowledge those who have saved the lives of others by donating an organ, but it is also a chance to highlight the incredible journeys of those who have required organ transplants. 

Two years ago, Peter V. had a seven-hour emergency liver transplant after a chronic hepatitis B infection led to rapid liver failure. Peter sat down with us and shared an in-depth look into why he needed a liver transplant and how it changed his life. 

  1. Why did you need a liver transplant? 

I had acute liver failure.  About 1 and ½ years before my liver failure, I was taken off the hepatitis B medication (Viread) by my gastroenterologist and to maintain blood work monitoring about every 6 months.  From the span of June of 2017 to January of 2018 immediately before my liver failed, my hepatitis B DNA went from 1,000 IU/L to 169 million IU/L and my ALT went from 24 IU/L to 4,419 IU/L.  By this time, my liver had completely been destroyed through cirrhosis. Without the hepatitis B medication, the virus can flare up at any time and reaction to it once this happens could be too late as in my case.

2. What did a liver transplant mean to you previously? Did you realize how serious the procedure was? 

I never thought about a liver transplant, or any transplant for that matter. I never thought I would need one. Before, life with hepatitis B was normal and routine. Hepatitis B was simply part of my life; I took my medications and had no side effects from them, so the liver transplant was a surprise to me. 

I didn’t understand how serious a transplant was. My condition deteriorated rapidly when my liver began to fail. I couldn’t even do basic functions like unlocking my phone. It got to the point where my situation was so severe that I was in and out of consciousness; I didn’t even know that they were taking me into surgery. Upon recovery, when my cognitive function came back, my wife informed me that my situation had been extremely critical. 

3. What kind of treatment and follow-up did the transplant involve? 

I was bed-ridden and unconscious for over two weeks after the transplant. I needed physical therapy to regain my strength –  to sit up or to get out of bed. For two weeks, I had therapy three or four times a day to regain my ability to speak and cognitive thinking. 

Blood work is also a big part of follow-up. In the beginning, I had to have my blood taken daily before it lessened to once a week, then once every two weeks, and eventually to once a month. All of the blood tests are to make sure that your body does not reject the new organ. I’m on anti-rejection medications, but there is always the risk that your body can reject it. About a year ago, my ALT number rose to high levels, which raised immediate concern. My post-transplant team took a sample of my liver and found that my body was rejecting the new liver. They increased my anti-rejection medications and my body was able to adapt. 

I also developed diabetes after my transplant and had to be placed on insulin, however, I was able to stop taking it by changing my diet and monitoring my blood sugar through my eating habits. 

4. How has the liver transplant changed your life? Are you still able to carry out daily activities the same way you did previously?

I don’t drink alcohol at all anymore and I take much better care of my body. Before my transplant, I didn’t take hepatitis B seriously. I was still drinking alcohol and wasn’t eating a healthy diet. The transplant made me realize how serious hepatitis B could be if you don’t take care of your liver. 

The anti-rejection pills suppress my immune system, which means I have to be very careful about what I eat and how it is prepared. Eating out at restaurants is a risk because you have to trust that the restaurants are properly cleaning their food and that it is cooked properly.  Because of the immunosuppressants, improperly cleaned food can be dangerous. One time I developed a fever and had to be hospitalized because of cross-contamination between foods at a restaurant. You really have to be aware of what you are eating. 

The reminders for COVID-19 to wash your hands thoroughly and not touch your face have been my life since the transplant. Eventually, these actions become a habit. I am still able to work and do physical activities like yard work and exercise, but it is not as vigorous as before. I still get fatigued throughout the day, but it doesn’t stop me from living my day-to-day life. 

I don’t know how I would do this without support. I don’t know how I would do this by myself. I still do physical therapy to regain my strength and my family helps while I go through this journey. Family support is key. I also have a post-transplant team that will help monitor my health for at least 3 years after my transplant.

Most importantly, my family support has been abundant and going through an experience like this makes me much more appreciative of the love and care from having family support that should not be taken for granted. Now, the time spent together regardless of the activities are much more precious.

5. Is there anything that you wish you could have changed about your experience? 

I wish I didn’t have to go through the transplant. I wish I knew more about how serious hepatitis B was. I still drank alcohol and ate the same foods that I ate before my diagnosis. I neglected my liver health. I wasn’t serious about it before the transplant; hepatitis B was invisible to me. It shouldn’t have taken a liver transplant for me to become aware of it. 

6. What have you learned since your journey? Do you have any advice for those living with hepatitis B who think that a liver transplant is the best, or only, option for them?

I don’t think that a liver transplant is an “option”. For me, it was life-or-death. Because I was in critical condition, I was able to get it immediately. For others, getting a transplant is a long and difficult journey. 

A liver transplant is not going to get rid of chronic hepatitis B. You will still live with it. Hepatitis B is still a part of my life every day. The difference is that I now have an understanding of what it can do to my liver. 

Having chronic hepatitis B is not life-ending. It’s not even life-changing as long as you take your medication and take care of your liver. I put my friends and family through a scary experience. If you have chronic hepatitis B, take your medications and keep your liver healthy. Take your diagnosis seriously. 

About Liver Transplants for Those Living with Hepatitis B:

A liver transplant is a very serious surgery that removes a diseased or injured liver and replaces it with a healthy one. People living with hepatitis B can need a liver transplant if their liver begins to fail. This typically occurs if the infection is not being monitored properly, or if significant liver damage has been occurring. Regular monitoring by a knowledgeable provider, a healthy lifestyle, and taking medications, if needed, as prescribed, can help prevent the need for a liver transplant.

 Thank you, Peter, for providing a look into your experience! 

Love Your Liver This Valentine’s Day

For most people, Valentine’s Day is a day full of love, but for those living with hepatitis B, it can be filled with dread and anticipation. Perhaps you haven’t told your significant other that you have been diagnosed with hepatitis B, or maybe you are spending this year alone because you are scared to begin a relationship. This year, instead of focusing on others, take Valentine’s Day to love yourself – and your liver! 

Taking Care of Your Liver 

Find a Knowledgeable Provider (and be sure to see them regularly!): 

Most people who are diagnosed with hepatitis B lead long, healthy lives. The key is proper care and monitoring by a trained healthcare provider. If you do not yet have a healthcare provider who is regularly monitoring your diagnosis, you can search our physician directory to find one near you. You can also search the World Hepatitis Alliance’s member list to find local resources and organizations who can help you identify a provider in your area.  

It is always a good idea to conduct your own research as well! Look into what your provider specializes in, as some may be more knowledgeable about the infection than others. Ideally, it would be best to regularly see a hepatologist – someone who specializes directly in diseases of the liver. However, due to finances and other constraints, this may not be an option for everyone. Seeing any doctor is extremely important, but if you only have access to a provider who is not as experienced in hepatitis B, make sure that they are performing the correct tests to monitor the health of your liver. At each follow-up appointment, your doctor should: check your liver enzymes (ALT, AST), perform a physical exam of the liver, and any other blood tests they might feel is needed to determine the stage of the infection and the health of the liver. Sometimes, the doctor will also perform an ultrasound of the liver to get a better picture of what is going on. You can find some questions that are important to ask your doctor here. 

Watch What You Consume: 

When people are first diagnosed with hepatitis B, they may feel fine and may not consider making small changes in their daily lives. The truth is that your diet plays a large role in the health of your liver! Everything that enters your body is filtered through your liver. This makes adopting healthy habits essential to keeping the liver in good shape. A standard rule of liver disease is to avoid alcohol – even small amounts – and maintain a steady diet of fruits and vegetables. Foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar content can lead to weight gain, which puts a strain on your liver. Beware of what you are drinking as well! Drinks like juices and sodas might seem like healthier options, but often contain high amounts of sugar. Diet sodas may lack sugar but have other additives which may have other health implications. Opt for flavored water or seltzer to satisfy a sweet craving instead! If healthier beverage options are not readily available, see if any coffee is available. Studies have shown that drinking coffee can lower one’s risk of developing liver damage and liver cancer – just be sure to watch how much sugar and creamer you put in it! Other diseases of the liver, such as fatty liver, can also increase your risk of liver damage and liver cancer, so it is extremely important to be aware of the risks and what you are consuming. 

Those living with hepatitis B should also be aware of aflatoxins. Aflatoxins – which can cause liver cancer – are natural toxins that are produced by a mold that grows on crops like corn, peanuts, and tree nuts. Aflatoxins are more common in warm, humid parts of the world, such as African countries and areas with tropical climates. Before eating any grains and nuts, check for any signs of mold. If the food appears to be moldy, do not consume it. The World Health Organization also recommends buying grains and nuts as fresh as possible to minimize the risk of aflatoxin exposure. The fresher the food is, the less time it has been in storage, which is where aflatoxins commonly grow. 

Be Mindful of Your Stress Levels: 

Living with hepatitis B can be a big stressor, especially for those who may face stigma and discrimination. Research shows that stress can negatively impact liver health. Take some time to find ways that might relieve your stress, such as meditation, listening to music. Being social can also be a stress reliever for some, so try spending more time with your trusted friends and family members. Exercise is also a great stress reliever and it has the benefit of helping you maintain a healthy weight! 

If you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with your partner or if you are in a new relationship, remember that hepatitis B is preventable and cannot be transmitted casually! Holding hands, kissing, or sharing utensils or food made by someone who is living with hepatitis B will not spread the infection. Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease so make sure that they have completed their hep B vaccine series. If they are not protected from hepatitis B, be sure to practice safe sex (use a condom) to prevent transmission.

Liver Health & The Holidays: How to Stay Healthy with Hep B

The holiday season is here once again! It’s often a time filled with love and happiness, but for those living with chronic illnesses like hepatitis B, this time of year can be uncomfortable and stressful. The most important thing to remember is that your health – physical and mental – should come first. 

Alcohol is usually present at holiday gatherings and can be difficult to avoid. However, it is also extremely damaging to the liver – especially if you are living with a liver disease like hepatitis B. It may be tempting, but avoiding all alcohol, including small amounts, is best for the health of your liver. Focus on the conversation and catching up with your coworkers or friends instead of the drinks!  If you feel pressured, you can carry around a cup of another beverage, such as sparkling water or juice, to bypass any questions about why you are choosing not to drink. 

The holidays are also filled with sugary treats and foods that are high in unhealthy fats. Too many sugary, processed, and fatty foods (and drinks) are harmful and can contribute to liver diseases such as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver. When combined with hepatitis B, liver diseases can make your risk of liver damage and liver cancer even greater, so it is extremely important to maintain a balance of healthy foods and exercise. A few treats here and there will not harm you, but moderation is key! Try eating smaller portions of dessert and keep holiday sweets out of your house to avoid temptation. If you were gifted a delicious, but unhealthy snack, share it with friends and family!  

If you are preparing a meal or a dish for your celebrations, make it a healthy one! The American Liver Foundation has a great fact sheet on how to read the nutrition label on food packing. This will help you make better choices while you are food shopping. Try using healthier alternatives to ingredients, such as butter, that may be high in cholesterol or fats, and experiment with using more spices instead of salt to add flavor to the meal. 

Be sure to stay active during the holidays! Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of liver cancer. Grab a friend and take a walk or head to the gym. This is a great way to keep your fitness routine, encourage your friends to stay healthy, and catch up with those you haven’t seen in a while! If you don’t want to leave the comfort of your home or if you prefer to work out alone, you can also stay active by following along to exercise videos on Youtube. 

Remember that everything that you consume is filtered through your liver; your liver never gets a break! The lifestyle tips listed above may seem simple, but they have a large, positive impact on your health. Sticking to a regular healthy routine even during the holiday season will make it easier to continue those habits all year long! You can also check out our healthy liver tips to see what other actions can be taken to protect your liver.