HEPATITIS B – The Silent Killer
The liver is a vital organ for our survival since it mediates a myriad of biochemical reactions that produce energy, detoxify the body, and synthesize important compounds.
Unfortunately, these same functions make the liver especially susceptible to dysfunction due to obesity, infectious diseases (e.g., hepatitis B, C), gallbladder pathologies, and autoimmune diseases.
According to the British Liver Trust, 63% of UK adults are obese or overweight, with 1 in 3 people having early-stage non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Hepatitis B is a common viral infection caused by HBV, which gets transmitted through body fluids (e.g., blood). This virus progressively wreaks havoc on the liver until it reaches a final stage known as cirrhosis, where the liver can no longer function properly.
In this article, we will briefly cover liver disease caused by hepatitis B.
Liver disease boils down to multiple phases that gradually increase in severity:
(Note that these phases are not specific to hepatitis B)
The presymptomatic phase
The first phase is generally asymptomatic (i.e., no present symptoms), and it’s usually characterized by fat accumulation in the liver tissue, which is also referred to as steatohepatitis.
If the etiology is infectious or biliary, this phase is usually absent.
Acute liver failure
Acute liver failure refers to the abrupt loss of liver cell function, which can occur over the course of a few weeks.
Unlike the first phase, patients with acute liver failure are quite symptomatic once the damage reaches 80-90% of the liver tissue.
The most common cause of this condition is acetaminophen (i.e., paracetamol) toxicity. Other causes include alcohol-induced hepatitis, fatty-liver disease, and infectious hepatitis (e.g., hepatitis B, C).
If the underlying disturbance that’s triggering acute liver failure is not promptly corrected, the patient could develop a more severe form known as cirrhosis.
End-stage liver disease (cirrhosis)
Cirrhosis is the final stage of liver disease characterized by near-absent liver function due to the replacement of hepatocytes (i.e., liver cells) with scar tissue.
Unfortunately, there is no curative treatment for these patients, and the only available therapeutic option is liver transplantation, which involves a complex process of finding a donor and transplanting the healthy liver to the patient.
How nutrition helps with liver disease
For decades, researchers have been trying to identify the food elements that can optimize the function of hepatocytes and reduce the toll on patients with liver disease.
According to studies, drinking moderate amounts of coffee can decrease the risk of liver cancer and slow down the progress of some types of liver disease.
Additionally, scientists recommend weight loss as an effective remedy to reduce body fat percentage, which is a major precipitating factor that triggers steatohepatitis.
While it might seem like a reasonable step to start taking vitamins and supplements as a way to compensate for the defective metabolic cascades, some compounds (e.g., vitamin A, Kava, conjugated linoleic acid, noni juice) can exacerbate the situation by damaging the functional hepatocytes.
For this reason, you must consult with your doctor or nutritionist for professional advice before starting a new diet.
Hepatitis B is a prevalent infection that affects people from all backgrounds.
The treatment of this infection includes a long course of antiviral medications that specifically target the multiplication mechanism of hepatitis B.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the damage caused by hepatitis B and the role of nutrition in liver function.