Hepatitis prevention and viral defense: The gut health breakthrough you need to know
Fitness expert reveals how to fight hepatitis and viral infections with gut health
In India, the burden of viral hepatitis remains a critical public health concern, with the latest estimates revealing that approximately 40 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B and an additional 6 to 12 million individuals are affected by chronic hepatitis C. Together, hepatitis B and C contribute to a staggering 96% of hepatitis-related mortality but our gut health plays a crucial role in maintaining overall well-being and emerging research suggests that it may also have a significant impact on fighting hepatitis.
Hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver, causing inflammation and potential long-term damage. While medical treatments are essential, recent studies indicate that nurturing a healthy gut and personalised interventions may complement traditional therapies and potentially enhance the body's ability to combat hepatitis.
The Gut-Microbiome Connection
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Debojyoti Dhar, Co-Founder and Director, Leucine Rich Bio Pvt Ltd, shared, “The gut microbiome is a huge collection of microscopic organisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract. These microbes include a gamut of bacteria, viruses, fungi and others. Most of these are good for our health. The beneficial players contribute to supporting our immune system, aiding in digestion, and indulging in different metabolic processes that help in maintaining overall health. It has been reported that there is difference in the gut microbiota profile of patients infected with Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C virus. ”
He revealed, “The gut microbiota diversity has also been found to be reduced in such patients. Generally, reduced gut microbiota diversity is linked to poor health outcomes in many diseases. The interesting part here is that researchers have discovered that a balanced and diverse gut microbiome can help bolster the immune system and improve liver function, potentially assisting in the fight against hepatitis. However, factors such as poor dietary choices, stress, medications, and infections can perturb this delicate balance, leading to a less effective gut microbiome.”
Gut-Microbiome Testing for Hepatitis
Given the potential significance of the gut microbiome in hepatitis management, specialised tests have been developed to analyse and evaluate the composition of an individual's gut microbial community. Dr Debojyoti Dhar said, “Gut-microbiome testing involves collecting a stool sample, which is then analysed in a laboratory using advanced technologies like next-generation sequencing to identify the types and numbers of microorganisms present. This testing can provide valuable insights into the health of one’s gut. When utilised appropriately, the test results can help healthcare professionals design personalized interventions to enhance gut health, potentially strengthening the body's ability to combat hepatitis infection.”
How Improving Gut Health Can Help Fight Hepatitis
Asserting that a well-balanced gut microbiome can stimulate the immune system to function optimally, Dr Debojyoti Dhar said, “It can contribute to a more robust immune response against the hepatitis virus, thus helping to control the infection and decrease the likelihood of complications. Hepatitis often leads to liver inflammation, causing long-term damage and reducing the quality of life. Studies suggest that a diverse and healthy gut microbiome can help alleviate liver inflammation, promoting better liver function and faster recovery. Besides, a healthy gut is needed for proper nutrient absorption from the food we eat. Improved nutrient uptake ensures that our body receives the essential vitamins and minerals required to support liver health and repair damaged tissues. Moreover, hepatitis treatment may involve medications that can sometimes have adverse effects on the gut. A well-maintained gut microbiome can help mitigate these side effects, thereby supporting better treatment outcomes.”
Improving Gut Health is Easy
Dr Debojyoti Dhar advised, “To maintain a healthy gut, it is important to consume a balanced diet rich in fiber, colorful fruits and vegetables, and probiotic foods like yogurt, as these support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, limiting the consumption of sugary and ultra-processed foods is crucial, as they can take a toll on gut health. Prioritising stress-relieving practices such as meditation, Yoga or spending time outdoors is essential, as ongoing stress can influence the gut microbiome's makeup. Furthermore, self-medicating is a definite no for a balanced gut, especially when it comes to the use of antibiotics as their overuse can harm the friendly gut microbes.”
He concluded, “Although improving gut health is not a standalone treatment for hepatitis, emerging evidence suggests that a well-balanced and diverse gut microbiome can play a supportive role in fighting the infection. Undertaking gut-microbiome testing can offer valuable insights into one’s gut health and provide an opportunity for personalized interventions. By adopting a gut-friendly lifestyle and diet, individuals dealing with hepatitis can potentially enhance their overall well-being and augment the effectiveness of medical treatments. Moreover, it is always a good idea to consult with one’s treating doctor first before making significant changes to one’s diet, especially when undergoing treatment for hepatitis.”