Talking to Teens About Hepatitis


Education is vital to this group and can help in working towards reducing viral hepatitis.

The following is guest commentary from The Liver Health Initiative.

One thing that is missing in the current disccusion around hepatitis awareness is teen education. Schools need to consider talking about the liver and health-related ailments such as alcohol-related illness and viral hepatitis. Discussions around heart health have been ongoing, but the liver, for all its significant responsibilities, does not generate the same kind of consideration or interest in education.

In having discussions and public education around the topic, it is important to consider conversations around protecting the liver. Certainly schools raise awareness around drinking and drug use, why not encapsulate what a damaged liver looks like and the effects of the body due to excessive drinking or drug use?

Here is some messaging and information educators and the general public should know about the liver and viral hepatitis.

Specifically, alcohol and drugs contain toxins that are also processed through your liver. Cells in the liver can detoxify small amounts of alcohol or prescribed amounts of drugs. However, if you take unknown amounts of drugs and or drink more than one drink of alcohol daily the toxins overwhelm and destroy liver cells eventually causing the liver to shut down. When your liver shuts down, so do you. All this is going on silently without any pain or warning to alert you of trouble.

Tragically, most people are unaware of damage caused by hepatitis viruses, alcohol, or drugs until the damage is far advanced and the only option remaining is a liver transplant to replace their badly damaged liver. With no treatment available for many liver diseases it is up to you to take good care of your liver and its liver cells.

Like the termites that silently eat away at the foundation of your house, hepatitis viruses attack and destroy the tiny liver cells (hepatocytes) inside the liver that serve as the employees in your body's chemical refinery and detoxifier converting everything you eat, breathe and absorb through your skin into hundreds of life creating and sustaining body parts and functions that empower you to be an active human being 24/7.

The skin serves as the body's raincoat, protecting all your internal organs from germs and hepatitis viruses that can make you very sick if they invade your body.

Hepatitis viruses live in the blood of an infected person and for a short period of time on a dry surface. Don't touch any blood anywhere or allow the blood of another potentially infected person to enter your body through a tiny break in your skin or mucous membranes, the sensitive tissues in your eyes, nose, mouth, anus and genitals that serve as the lining of your body, or through contaminated needles or tattooing devices.

These liver cells process and store nutrients, vitamins and energy in fat cells in your liver for your use as needed. If you eat excessive amounts of sugar or starchy foods (potato chips, french fries, sodas, etc) and fail to exercise regularly using the stored energy, excessive fat cells will overwhelm the healthy cells and smother them turning them into scar tissue, called cirrhosis.

Your amazing hardworking liver cells depend on what you feed them in healthy amounts so they can continue to keep your body functioning all day and every day. You and your liver cells are an amazing team that have to work together.

They depend on you to feed them healthy food in appropriate amounts and avoid liver damaging activities that expose you to treacherous hepatitis viruses. Get tested for hepatitis B and C and vaccinated against hepatitis A and B to be sure your liver is safe, healthy, and not infected.

It’s critical that you make healthy choices in your diet and lifestyle behaviors that protect your miraculous life creating and sustaining hepatocytes that work non stop keeping your amazing body functioning all day every day.

Love your liver. It loves you and it is up to you to take care of it.

Thiel continues to speak with young people about liver health.

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