How to Use the Paleo Diet to Support Recovery from Hepatitis A 1

Hepatitis A is the mildest of all the common viral infections of the liver. Spread from person to person by contact with feces, hepatitis A is most common among people who travel to areas where there is no sewage treatment, nurses, childcare workers, sewer workers, and others who may come in contact with excrement. The severity of symptoms is directly proportional to the amount of virus with which one comes in contact. The disease may pass entirely unnoticed, or it may, about a month after exposure, cause yellow or orange jaundiced skin and severe fatigue that usually pass, even without treatment, after another 4 to 8 weeks.

One of the complications of coming down with hepatitis A is a later tendency to weight gain. The reason for this is that the virus disrupts two of the ways the body regulates fat. It decreases the production of a fat-regulating hormone called adiponectin, and it increases a phenomenon called insulin resistance.

Fat cells can receive both sugar and fat from the bloodstream. They are about 300 times more efficient at storing fat than they are for storing sugar. Adiponectin makes fat cells more receptive to sugar than to fat, or at least relatively more receptive to sugar than they are without it. Since fat cells also need to burn sugar for fuel, they become sugar burners rather than fat storage receptacles when they are exposed to adiponectin. Hepatitis A counteracts this process.

Fat cells, like most other cells in the body, respond to insulin by receiving sugar from the bloodstream. However, in fat, insulin also activates a hormone called hormone-sensitive lipase. This hormone keeps fat locked inside a fat cell in a form that cannot be burned as long as insulin is clearing sugar out of the bloodstream.

In hepatitis A, cells in the liver become increasingly resistant to insulin. They basically are protecting themselves from being overwhelmed with sugar while they are trying to repair damage down by the virus. The pancreas tries to force the liver to store sugar by releasing more insulin, and the liver responds by making its cells even more resistant to insulin. The result is that the fat locked inside fat cells (and to a lesser extent, in liver cells) gets locked even tighter, and people who lose weight while they have hepatitis A tend to gain it all back and more, in the form of fat, mostly on the belly and hips, when they get well.

There are at least three ways to minimize this lingering effect of hepatitis A infection. One is to follow a paleo diet. The whole and natural foods you eat on your paleo diet minimize insulin resistance, tend to be low in fat, and don't aggravate the diarrhea, burping, belching, and acid reflux you may experience as a result of hepatitis.

You can help your body become more responsive to adiponectin by consuming red wine catechins, the antioxidants found in the seeds and peels of red grapes. You could get your red wine catechins by drinking red wine, of course, but alcohol is not a good idea while you have hepatitis. Take either a red wine catechins supplement or a resveratrol supplement for 90 days during and after you recover from the infection.

And you can fight insulin resistance with a combination of three supplements, R-lipoic acid, biotin, and L-carnitine. Alpha-lipoic acid will provide R-lipoic acid in a form that helps liver function; you just need to take twice as much because alpha-lipoic acid contains only about 45% R-lipoic acid. Take 100 mg of each supplement daily (200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid if you can't find R-lipoic acid), and be especially careful to avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar as your liver recovers from hepatitis A.

About Andy Williams

Andy Williams has a Ph.D. in biology and a strong interest in health and nutrition. The Paleo Gut web site was created to explore the health benefits of the Paleo diet and see how it is changing lives. Also, get our free daily Paleo Gut newspaper delivered to your inbox. Please feel free to contact me and let me know about your Paleo experiences or favorite recipes.

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One thought on “How to Use the Paleo Diet to Support Recovery from Hepatitis A

  • jeff

    I never had a weight problem till i hep a.
    I gained 30 lbs at age 14 and now at 54 i weigh 300 and am in bad health. It was akways my opinion that my weight problem was because of this and just now read your article 40 years doctor ever told me this