Hepatitis C (hep C) can be a scary diagnosis at first, especially if you don’t know much about it. If you’re living with hep C, an infection impacting the liver that develops from the hepatitis C virus (HCV), there are treatment options and lots of ways to take care of yourself.
Self-care is super important, especially if you’re dealing with stigma, symptoms, treatment costs, side effects, and more. You deserve some TLC — and it’s not indulgent, it’s for your health.
Unsure how to get started? Look at the science.
Here are some science-backed ways to help you feel better with hep C:
Research suggests that people with the HCV are more likely to develop depression. When compared to healthy controls, people with hep C had higher scores of sleep disturbances and fatigue.
A hep C diagnosis can come with tension about treatment, symptoms, relationships, or finances for healthcare. So, developing depression and sleep struggles as a reaction to the diagnosis is common.
Some good news: Other research shows that meditation can help with symptoms of depression and insomnia. Better outcomes have been reported for people with anxiety and depression who practice meditation compared to those who don’t.
There are tons of ways to get started practicing meditation, from free apps and videos to online classes and in-person sessions. The best part? Once you get the hang of it, you can do it on your subway commute, in bed, on your chair at work — anywhere you have a safe minute to focus on yourself.
Alcohol can have negative effects on the liver. According to the NIH, people with hep C who drink heavily are at a risk for more serious liver damage, which can lead to liver disease or cancer.
The research isn’t definite on stats for those who drink casually but suggests that even lower levels of drinking can have a bad effect on your liver.
Beyond the risks alcohol can have on your liver, other studies suggest that alcohol can negatively impact mental health. Believe it or not, alcohol has a depressive effect on the brain.
If you’re worried that cutting out alcohol will mess with your social life or habits, don’t fret. Mocktails are rising in popularity. It’s all the fun of a cocktail, without the risk! You can still enjoy time with friends, or a relaxing drink with dinner.
Yes, really! While you definitely want to avoid alcohol, coffee actually has evidence-based benefits for those with liver diseases. Coffee can help your body respond to antiviral therapy.
In chronic hepatitis C and liver disease patients, coffee was associated with improved virologic responses to antiviral therapy. That means it can help keep the virus out of your body and maintain the effectiveness of your treatment.
Coffee was also shown to decrease the chances of progressing to cirrhosis. What is cirrhosis, you ask? Cirrhosis is chronic liver damage that can eventually lead to liver failure.
Of course, if you’re dealing with fatigue related to your hep C diagnosis, coffee will also provide a pick-me-up. And why not make it a nice self-care moment? Head to your favorite coffee shop and get it served in a fancy cup.
You’ll also want to stay hydrated with water for your health, so fill up that reusable bottle and balance out your coffee intake with H₂O.
You don’t need an intense workout to get the benefits of exercise. Walking can help with hep C symptoms and concurrences including depression, fatigue, insomnia, decrease in appetite, digestive issues, and nausea.
Walking is energizing, gets you out into the sunlight, moves your joints, releases chemicals that make you happier, works up an appetite, gives you a sense of accomplishment, helps you sleep better at night, and has more seemingly endless benefits.
If you’re losing weight with hep C, exercise like walking will help build muscle to keep you strong. Getting into an exercise routine can make you feel much better, and walking can be a gentle introduction when you’re not feeling well.
Sure, it sounds cliché to suggest this classic self-care activity, but keep listening. It turns out that baths can do more for you than just relaxation. They can also help with the dry, itchy skin, or a mild rash that can go along with hep C therapy.
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends taking short, warm (but not too hot) baths or showers while using a moisturizing soap to help with this issue. Afterward, lather on some unscented body lotion.
A hep C diagnosis can have a hard impact on your mental and physical health. Prioritizing self-care can be important to heal you from the inside out.
Always talk with your doctor before making health-altering decisions, and decide if medication, limiting alcohol consumption, coffee, walking, and relaxing baths will be helpful on your treatment journey.