What About Drinking Alcohol with Hepatitis C
I speak from experience. Let me start off by saying that my dad was an alcoholic. He had Cirrhosis with hepatic encephalopathy, ascites, portal hypertension, and was in a hepatic coma for a month at one point. He pulled out and lived for another 25 years. I know the effects of alcohol on the liver full well. I also know that my dad managed to live for years by stopping drinking. His truck driving liver loving diet and lifestyle saved him. I never dreamed he would become my role model. We’ll get to that story one day. For this blog, What About Drinking Alcohol with Hepatitis C, I want to take a close look at how drinking beer or alcohol can affect you if you have the Hepatitis C Virus.
We know that the Hepatitis C Virus attacks the liver. It is the target for every deadly cell of HCV. If you have very little liver damage and manage to get rid of the virus with Hepatitis C treatment that is awesome! Your liver gets an instant break and NO more damage will be incurred unless you drink excessively or use drugs.
Drinking is like an attack on the liver also. It simply cannot take a double whammy and do its job. If you are at any stage of Cirrhosis and have Hepatitis C, then drinking beer, wine, or any alcohol is like throwing gasoline on a fire. This may be dreadful news to some of you. If you enjoy a nice glass of wine with a meal or after work you may have to make some changes. Dang! If you are a full blown alcoholic, this news can cut you off at the knees. But you already know that, don’t you my best friend?
A word about Cirrhosis – It can move through stages 1-4 pretty fast. No one can tell exactly how fast because each person’s body and genetics are different. I had my first taste of Boones Farm wine and a few Miller ponies in high school. I did not like it or what it had done to my family, so drinking was out of my life. Fast forward a few years to the age of 45. I got a nice bottle of wine as a Christmas gift. I loved it! I had a 3-inches-in-the-glass rule and drank occasionally with meals, while traveling, or during a GNO. Girl’s Night Out. I also liked Bailey’s with my coffee. Even then, with very little alcohol in 8 years, I fanned the Hepatitis C flames. My liver totally decompensated at age 53. Read My Story. Did those few drinks make my Cirrhosis worse? Probably so. Or maybe not. I did not know that Hep C was gnawing on my liver. If I had to do it again, I would not have drank a single drop.
What’s done is done and there is no use punishing and tormenting myself with those thoughts. You too will have to forgive yourself and LET IT GO. If you don’t, it will wear your mind out. You need a razor sharp mind to deal with the side effects of Hepatitis C treatment. Focus on what you can do TODAY.
Here are a few ways to approach drinking alcohol with Hepatitis C.
Do not drink at all until after you have completed treatment. Suck up and git ‘er done. Your life will be a mess for a while anyway. Adding one more thing may seem difficult if you drink regularly, but just don’t allow yourself to drink. You will be going through a lot of change just dealing with Hepatitis C. You may need help or support from a 12 Step Recovery Group like AA or Celebrate Recovery. I know it sucks. I was in Ala-teen as a kid. My mom was smart to take us, but it hurt like hell. You cannot do this alone. Honestly, it means changing your thoughts and your whole belief system. Does it work? Heck YES it works. I know that from personal experience.
Once you complete Hepatitis C Treatment and manage NOT TO DRINK, now you can assess your liver and your life again. If you have made it this far without drinking, why start again? Well, an addictive mind wants to go back to something that is familiar. Your thinking and lifestyle habits are strongly ingrained in your mind. Every area of your life is tuned in to wanting a drink if you are an alcoholic or use drugs. Again, get support and just don’t do it.
If your liver is in good shape, your doctor may approve an occasional drink. If you are young and do not have an addictive personality, it may be fine to indulge. You know yourself. Do what makes sense.
If your liver is a hot mess and you are struggling with ascites, varices, portal hypertension, jaundice, elevated liver enzymes and on and on… You have Cirrhossis. Don’t drink. If you can stop the wine and beer during treatment and it helps you. Stick with the program!
I read a lot of research. What a nerd. Anyway, I like to pass on what I learn. Dr. Younossi and a researcher for Duke University were interviewed by Reuters about a study they conducted over 10+ years. They compared people who had Hepatitis C and People who did not relating to alcohol consumption. Basically 1 in 5 with Hepatitis C died. 1 in 10 without Hepatitis C died.
Here is the kicker: Those who consume 5 or more drinks a day and have Hepatitis C are 5 times more likely to die than those who are not infected. Those who have 2 or more drinks a day and have Hepatitis C are 2 times more likely to die than those who are not infected. Some of those deaths did not even involve liver disease, but included all causes. The bottom line is that even moderate drinkers who averaged 2 or 3 day day were 74 times more likely to die than those with Hep C who DO NOT drink.
“A drink a day is not OK,” Younossi told Reuters Health. “Even a moderate amount of alcohol use in the setting of hepatitis C can increase the risk of death and liver-related mortality specifically.” There. That is a quote you can quote.
I like that: A Drink a Day is not OK if you have Hepatitis C or Liver Disease.
For my friends who are learning to abstain –
Maybe you are used to going to the fridge and grabbing a beer after work or on a Saturday. Put this on a sticky note on your fridge. A Drink a Day is Not OK.
Maybe you like popping the cork on a Friday night with a good meal and some friends or a special someone. Put this sticky note on your forehead. A Drink a Day is Not OK. Haha. That’s attractive.
You might pull into the convenience store to grab a cold one or even a case for the weekend. Put this sticky note in your car – A Drink a Day is Not OK.
I have not had a glass of wine or drank Bailey’s from a shoe in 3 years. I will never drink for the rest of my life. You know there are more stories. I have a strong will to live. I have watched my dad beat alcoholism. I have End Stage Cirrhosis and beat the Hepatitis C Virus. I am telling you that there is future out there. Our spirit, mind, and body has strength that we don’t even fully know the power of. Let’s tap that power. Whadduyah say?
I am your Best Friend. We’re gonna do this. Karen:)
For more topics on cirrhosis, liver disease, or diet click here!
BTW: For this study, a drink was considered 10 grams of alcohol which equals – 4 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer, or 1 oz of hard liquor
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