Diet in viral hepatitis: Myths vs facts
Acute viral hepatitis (AVH) is very common in India, most cases caused by Hepatitis A and hepatitis E viruses. The primary manifestation of AVH is jaundice. The mainstay of treatment for AVH is supportive care, as most cases are self-limited.
Adequate nutritional support helps in the recovery of damaged liver cells.
Common myths/ perceptions of diet in AVH:
- There is a traditional belief that patients with jaundice need to be on a low calorie and low fat diet as the digestion is weakened during the period of jaundice.
- Food items like ghee, oil, roti/ chapatti etc are cut down.
- Also, these patients take in sugarcane juice/ glucose powder as these are believed to be helpful in the recovery from jaundice.
- Apart from these traditional beliefs, patients also are undernourished during jaundice due to nausea, vomiting and anorexia.
Facts about diet in AVH:
- There are no specific dietary restrictions recommended in AVH.
- Fever and infection will increase the nutrient requirements and hence a well-balanced diet is required during the illness.
- Low fat diets are associated with extended and complicated illness.
- Recommended diet
- Frequent meals
- High calorie liquids and semi-solids in-between regular meals of solid food
- High protein (1–1.2 g/kg actual body weight)
- High carbohydrate (55% of total calories)
- Moderate fat (25–30% of the total calories)
Study from Hyderabad (Asian Institute of Gastroenterology, 2009)
- Patients taking a low calorie diet had a longer hospital stay as compared to those taking high/ adequate calories.
- A majority of patients could be convinced of shifting to a balanced diet by counselling.