Hepatitis C (HCV)
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral disease. Fifty percent of those with hepatitis C virus (HCV) experience fatigue and/or right upper quadrant discomfort. Other symptoms include general malaise, intermittent nausea, jaundice, dark urine and anorexia. Currently, it is estimated that four million Americans are afflicted with this serious health problem. The disease has a latency of 10-30 years, and signs and symptoms may not appear until cirrhosis of the liver occurs and liver enzymes become irregular. Drugs such as interferon (Intron A) and ribavirin (Rebetol) have been approved by the FDA to treat chronic HCV. These drugs have been moderately successful, yet nearly 15% of patients starting them will discontinue their use due to such side-effects as early flu-like symptoms, fatigue, bone-marrow suppression, and neuropsychiatric symptoms. New studies suggest that a conservative and alternative approach may be beneficial.
The pathogenesis of chronic hepatitis C virus infection is associated with a defective host antiviral immune response and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a leading cause of inflammation and necrosis of liver cells. Date suggests that multi antioxidant treatment in chronic HCV patients is well tolerated and may have a beneficial effect on inflammatory variables. A combination of antioxidant and antiviral therapies may enhance the overall response of the patient.
RISKS & CHARACTERISTICS
Hepatitis C is a potentially serious viral infection of the liver transmitted mainly by infected blood (transfusions), infected instruments, infected needles and sexual contact. Typically, those infected with HCV remain asymptomatic from the time of infection until an average of 13 years after infection. About 15% of those infected recover and are free of the virus. Approximately 20% will have no detectable symptoms but may be infectious; another 20% will develop cirrhosis, and 10% will experience liver failure or develop liver cancer over a 5-10 year span.
Those with hepatitis should not take drugs of any kind, including prescription or over-the-counter, unless closely scrutinized by a medical doctor. All drugs have the potential to be toxic to the liver, and drugs like steroids, chemo-agents, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), aspirin, acetaminophen, and statin drugs (for lowering cholesterol) must be used with extreme caution. Additional liver toxins include chemical exposure, alcohol, nicotine and pesticides.
Proper and nutritious dietary approaches can help to preserve and rejuvenate the liver. These include a low-protein diet (one serving or less per meal); a low-fat diet; a low-toxin diet (toxins are found in processed foods); and an adequate fiber diet (fiber is found only in plant foods, e.g. oat bran, raw vegetables, fibrous fruits and whole grains). Also recommended are artichokes; alkaline and antioxidant “green” drinks (such as chlorella, blue-green algae, kamut, barley, medical mushrooms, kale and spinach) with carrot and beat juice added; and plenty of fresh, filtered water.
- MILK THISTLE (SILYMARIN)
This healing and highly safe herb protects liver functions, guards against cellular damage, and helps to regenerate damaged and injured cells by promoting protein synthesis. Milk thistle also increases intracellular antioxidant activity against free-radicals that are harmful to the integrity of the liver. Sources of free radicals include toxins, chemicals, xenobiotics, hormones, smog, drugs and radiation. Dosage: 100-600 mg/day. Milk Thistle’s effectiveness may be augmented by ARTICHOKE (lowers cholesterol, increases bile flow to the liver, and helps with digestive disturbances; dosage: 100-600 mg/day); CURCUMIN/TUMERIC (a potent anti-inflammatory that increases bile flow) and DANDELION (stimulates the production of bile).
- DETOXIFICATION OF THE LIVER
Periodic detoxification of the liver is recommended. Start with raw vegetables and fruit. Taken with a MULTIVITAMIN/MINERAL FORMULA with extra B-COMPLEX which are essential for normal liver function. Dosage: As directed on package.
- VITAMIN C and ANTIOXIDANT THERAPY
Vitamin C has a profound affect on viral infections. Vitamin C helps to fight hepatitis infections that sometimes result from blood transfusions. Data suggests that multi antioxidant treatment in chronic HCV patients is well tolerated and may have a beneficial effect on inflammatory variables. A combination of antioxidant and antiviral therapies may enhance the overall response of the patient. Dosage: VITAMIN C 1,000-3,000 mg daily; BETA CAROTENE 10-25,000 IU daily; VITAMIN E relieves oxidative stress induced liver damage 400-800 IU daily; SELENIUM 200-600 mcg daily; INOSITOL-IP6 a powerful antioxidant that protects the liver. (See a practitioner for dosage); and ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID 300-600 mg daily.
- GREEN BARLEY AND OTHER GREEN NUTRIENTS
These supplements are high in nutrients and antioxidants. They contain an array of organic greens including barley, spirulina, blue-green algae and chlorella. They are healthy nutrients for the liver. Dosage: 1-2 scoops daily in favorite juice.
- BETA 1,3-D-GLUCAN
Beta 1,3 D-Glucan acts as an excellent antioxidant in the body and stimulates the activity of macrophages, which surround and digest cellular debris. Dosage: As directed on label.
- SAMe (S-ADENOSYLMETHIONINE)
SAMe is a component of many proteins and cannot be manufactured from other dietary amino acids. It promotes the health of the liver and converts harmful homocysteine into methionine. Dosage: 200-800 mg daily.
- COENZYME Q-10
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble quinone occurring in the mitochondria of every cell. It will counteract immuno-suppression, improve energy and enhance tissue oxygenation. Dosage: 100-400mg daily.
- LICORICE (GLYCYRRHIZIN)
Licorice has been used to treat both hepatitis B and C because of its well-documented antiviral activity. It improves cellular oxygen concentration and has been used with alpha-interferon to treat therapy-resistant cases. In a retrospective study, long-term licorice administration for hepatitis c was effective in preventing hepatocellular carcinoma (in an IV form). Caution: Do not use this herb on a daily basis for more than 14 days without a few days off before resuming. High blood pressure may result.
- FREE-FORM AMINO ACID COMPLEX
Free-form amino acid complex is necessary to supply adequate protein. Since the liver breaks down proteins, it is suggested that taking free-form amino acids could help to detoxify and protect the liver. The most crucial amino acids include GLUTATHIONE, L-ARGININE, L-CYSTEINE, and L-METHIONINE. Dosage: See a qualified health practitioner.
- RAW LIVER EXTRACT
Raw liver extract promotes liver function. Caution: Use glandular therapy only under supervision of a qualified practitioner.
- ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (FISH OIL, FLAX SEED, GLA, BORAGE OIL)
Supplementing with omega 3 and omega 6 lipids may help to decrease the inflammation associated with HCV. EFAs may also help to protect the liver. Dosage: 1-3 grams daily.
- MULTI-ENZYME COMPLEX with BETAINE HCL
Enzymes help the digestion of foods and may ease the strain on the liver by enhancing improved digestion and gastric emptying. Dosage: 1-3 tablets 5-15 minutes before larger meals.
- SHIITAKE, MAITAKE, REISHI MUSHROOMS
These natural mushrooms help to boost the immune system and fight vital infections. They have anti-tumor properties and can be used in combination with interferon. Dosage: As directed on label.
- SIBERIAN GINSENG
Siberian ginseng has antioxidant properties that may help the patient’s immune system and “adapt” to environmental stress and toxins. Dosage: See a qualified practitioner.
Sho-saiko-to is a traditional Japanese Kampo formula used to treat chronic HBV and liver disease. Dosage: As directed on label.
- CALCIUM and MAGNESIUM
These essential minerals are important for blood clotting, which is a problem for people with liver disease. Dosage: Calcium 1,000-1,500 mg a day. Magnesium 400-800 mg a day.
- SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE (SOD)
SOD is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes damaging free radicals and can improve liver function. Dosage: As directed on label.
- MISTLETOE EXTRACT
A small study done in Germany reported that an aqueous extract of European mistletoe offers promising data to decrease the viral load, reduce liver inflammation, and generally improve quality of life in patients with hepatitis C. Dosage: Only under supervision of a physician.
- AYURVEDIC PRODUCTS
Liv-Select is a combination of herbals used in traditional Indian medicine to cleanse the liver and maintain vitality and health. It includes phyllantus (effective for HBV) and schizandra. Another Chinese herb Picrorhiza kurroa may be of therapeutic value in treating viral hepatitis. Studies have found it to have promising anti-hepatitis B surface antigen activity. Dosage: As directed on label.
Balch, JF, Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing- 3rd edition. Penguin Putman Inc. New York, NY. 2000.
Bland, J. Vitamin C The Future is Now. Keats Publishing Inn. New Canaan, CT. 1995.
Glycyrrhiza glabra Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review, 2005. 10(3): 230-236.
Lukaczer, D. Natural Remedies for Hepatitis C. Nutrition Science News. Oct. 2000. 5(10); 434.
Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers. S. Woodstock, CT., 1996
Melhem, A, Stern, M, Shibolet, O. Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Via Antioxidants. Alternative Medicine Review, December 2005. 10(4): P. 344.
Orlando, CW. Mistletoe Extract Shows Promise for Hepatitis C Treatment in Small Study. Herbalgram, Number 54, 2002. p. 21.
Picrorhiza kurroa. Alternative Medicine Review (Monographs), June 2001. 6(3): 319-321.
Reichert, R. Phytotherapeutic Alternatives for Chronic Active Hepatitis. Quarterly Review of Natural Medicine. Summer 1997. Pp. 103-108.
Salmond, S. Herbs and Hepatitis. Int’l Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. October 1997. 15(9,10): 24-27, 17-19.
Weil, A, Seriousness of Hepatitis C. Natural Health. March 1999. P. 26.
Up Next: Immunity