A Holistic Approach to Living with Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a mysterious virus.  Mysterious because many people who have it don’t know that they have it, and people who do know, may not know how they contracted it.  There is no known vaccine that can prevent it, and chances of eradicating it all together  from the body are slim.

Location of the liver

Hep C is an inflammation of the liver.  If it remains unchecked, it can slowly destroy the liver, turning into cirrhosis and eventually cancer of the liver.  People can die from Hepatitis C, but they can also survive with it for many years if they do the right things.  One difficulty with it, is that a person could have contracted it, but not be aware that they have, as the symptoms can take as many as 20 to 30 years to show up.  Contrary to other viruses like AIDS, Hep C is not necessarily transmitted through any body fluids, but usually is contracted through a transfer of blood, either through a blood transfusion, or today most often between those who share needles used in taking street drugs intravenously.  In fact, according to ‘The Immune System Cure’ (Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Dr. Patrick Bouic), there are an estimated 300,000 cases of Hep C in Canada, as a result of tainted blood transfusions prior to 1992.

Hep C is distinguished by a higher than normal level of enzymes in the liver.  Symptoms of Hep C include lack of energy, having a yellowish tinge to the whites of the eyes (jaundice) and pain in the joints.  A blood test will determine if a person has contracted Hep C, and once someone is aware they have this virus, they should be under the care of a liver specialist and have their enzyme levels frequently monitored.  A biopsy may also be required to determine the extent of damage to the liver.

Traditional medicine has come up with a treatment for Hep C – a drug called Interferon sometimes used in combination with Ribviran (both antiviral drugs).  While it can be successful in eradicating the virus in some cases, it doesn’t always work.  In ‘The Immune System Cure’ we are told that only about 35 percent of those treated derive any benefit from the treatment.  As with many drugs, the side effects can be devastating.  Those undertaking the treatment are told that they will not be able to work during the duration of the treatment, and that they should be prepared to feel as if they have a bad flu, and can expect hair loss and nausea.  These physically ill effects are usually accompanied by depression, for which counselling is recommended.  In addition, provincial insurance does not cover the cost of the drugs, which usually amounts to about $2000 per month.

Hepatitis C patients are advised to keep away from alcohol entirely, as it acts upon the damaged liver like gasoline on a fire, and the enzymes multiply and spread.  Traditional medicine also recommends avoiding herbal products. Alternative medicine on the other hand, takes a practical approach on managing the virus without taking drugs, and by improving overall health.  While alcohol definitely should be avoided, certain nutritional supplements are considered to be very beneficial to the liver.  The combination most recommended (and incidientally, these are recommended by local naturopath Dr Ingrid Pincott) is milk thistle (whose active ingredient is Silymarin which stimulates the production of new liver cells), Lipoic acid (a potent antioxidant),  and Selenium which slows down the replication of the virus and its attack on the liver.   According to Dr. Julian Whitaker, a well known practitioner of natural medicine, patients taking the above supplements see a drop in their enzyme levels, they regain energy and can avoid cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.

As with any illness, a holistic approach is often best, and that includes getting support from friends and family.  As it can only be contracted through the blood, a sufferer with Hep C can have normal sexual relations but should be aware that their partner doesn’t share the same toothbrush or razors.  Friends and family can help by not encouraging the sufferer to ‘have a drink’ because they think a ‘small one’ won’t hurt the person.  It does hurt, and the sufferer should not consume any alcohol at all.

In addition, those suffering with Hep C can help themselves by staying on a good diet free of ‘junk’ food (fried and processed) and instead eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, preferably organic.  Some natural health practitioners will recommend a liver cleanse as it reduces the number of toxins in the liver and leads to better overall health.  Exercise is important, as well as participating in activities that simply raise the spirits, like laughing…

For a complete story on a holistic approach to living with Hepatitis C, see http://www.liversupport.com/interview.htm

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