What is hepatitis?
Your liver looks like a blood-filled, three-pound sponge nestled between your ribs. But it acts like a biochemical customs agent, filtering dangerous toxins and bacteria out of your blood and allowing valuable nutrients in.
While it processes and stores proteins and carbohydrates until your blood can deliver them to organs in need, your liver is also creating blood clotting factors. It's your largest and uniquely regenerative organ - it can regrow itself.
However, when this amazing multitasker becomes inflamed, it may not send distress signals to get your attention. Unlike the heart which warns you with breathlessness, the liver can be dangerously inflamed but just plod on without any complaint - until it's too late.
Hepatitis is liver inflammation stimulated by:
- viral infection transmitted via foods, liquids, bodily fluids, feces, or blood transfusions
- alcohol abuse
- autoimmune conditions generated by hormone and nutrient imbalances
- toxins like heavy metals and mycotoxins
Hepatitis affects over 4.4 million Americans. Most don't even know they're infected, because each type has different hepatitis symptoms and causes.
Non-infectious hepatitis types are:
- alcoholic hepatitis: caused by excessive alcohol consumption
- autoimmune hepatitis: genetic factors and hormonal imbalances can cause an overactive immune system to attacks liver cells
Here are 5 types of hepatitis caused by viruses:
- hepatitis A (HAV): commonly spread by consuming contaminated food or water
- hepatitis B (HBV): caused by contact with infectious body fluids like blood, vaginal secretions, or semen and can be exacerbated by hormone imbalance
- hepatitis C (HCV): transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids; via drug injections, unprotected sex, or blood transfusions; and can be exacerbated by hormone imbalance
- hepatitis D (HDV or delta hepatitis): a rare and serious virus caused by direct blood contact that only occurs in conjunction with HBV
- hepatitis E (HEV): a rare waterborne virus mainly found in areas with poor sanitation
- hepatitis G (HGV or GBV-C): caused by a single-stranded RNA virus in the Flaviviridae family, this recently-discovered virus is usually asymptomatic
HCV is the most common form of viral hepatitis in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the reported number of hepatitis A and B cases have decreased over the past decade, while the number of hepatitis C cases have increased.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis?
While hepatitis is sometimes asymptomatic, common symptoms include:
- loss of appetite
- mild fever
- muscle or joint aches
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal pain
- light-colored stools
- dark urine
- weight loss
- internal bleeding
- mental changes, like dizziness or coma
How is hepatitis diagnosed?
There are numerous ways to diagnose hepatitis, such as:
- physical exam: your healthcare provider checks your abdomen for pain, tenderness or enlargement, detects jaundice, and reviews your medical history to determine your risk of infectious or non-infectious hepatitis
- liver function test: blood tests detect abnormalities even if no symptoms are present
- ultrasound: an image of your liver can show abdominal fluid, liver swelling, or tumors
- liver biopsy: a a sample of liver tissue can be tested to detect inflammation or infection
- TCM diagnosis: analysis of your tongue, eyes, wrist, and face properties can determine which meridians need to be stimulated to correct hormone and nutrient imbalances
The best way to prevent or reverse liver inflammation is to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle that excludes processed foods, toxins, and alcohol abuse. The type and severity of your hepatitis will help determine which type of treatment you try first.
Many patients choose to manage their immune system with a combination of pharmaceuticals, nutritional and supplemental therapy, intravenous nutrition therapy, detoxification, ultraviolet irradiation therapy, botanical herb treatment or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which combines acupuncture therapy with Chinese herbs.
As with any medical procedure, results of the following treatments will vary from patient to patient, depending on age, genetics, environmental conditions, and other health factors. Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting your treatment journey.
Nutritional Prevention and Treatment of Liver Inflammation
Functional nutrition addresses the root cause of illness or dysfunction rather than a list of individual symptoms. Functional nutrition operates on the understanding that the food you eat will either help or harm your body. 40% of Americans seek some form of functional treatment for their hepatitis conditions.
The American Liver Foundation warns that eating high-fat foods can stress your liver, compromise your immune system, and increase your risk of obesity. To keep your liver healthy:
- eat a diet low in saturated and no trans-fat
- avoid fried foods to prevent fat overload that can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- eat lean protein like fish to regenerate liver cells damaged by diseases like hepatitis C
- eat white chicken and skinless turkey meat, as these are high-protein but low-fat
- avoid high-sodium foods, which can cause water retention and inflammation in the abdomen, both of which can overwork your liver
- limit high-fat red meat, which is harder for your liver to break down
- eat lots of leafy green vegetables (organic if possible) to deliver vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, iron, antioxidants, and healthy fiber, which eliminate toxins from your body
- eat complex carbohydrates (whole grains and high fiber) to increase insulin sensitivity and lower your blood cholesterol
- drink 8-12 eight ounces of filtered water daily, as 73% of your liver is water
- enjoy low fat or non-fat dairy products, as these are high in whey protein that may protect your liver from further damage
Excessive alcohol and foods that raise insulin levels should be avoided. These foods include:
- bread, rice, and corn: these refined carbohydrates cause your insulin to rise and increase your risk of liver disease
- sports drinks, soda, energy drinks, and juice: the sugar in these can cause fatty liver disease
- foods high in processed sugar, saturated fat (butter, fatty meats), and salt
- hydrogenated oils, refined sugar, and convenience foods: these processed foods are filled with high fructose corn syrup, a major cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease8
The complete cessation of alcohol consumption leads to a regression of fat deposits between tissues within 4-6 weeks.4 Treatment for alcoholic hepatitis can include support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and counseling.
Diet is always the first defense, but more concentrated supplementation of vitamins and minerals may be necessary.
In which form? Healthcare providers often find that patients respond to combination treatments. However, such synergistic approaches require close monitoring to determine which foods and/or supplements may prevent or reverse inflammation based on your:
- medical history
- health issues
- toxin exposure
- stress levels
- history of antibiotic use
- condition severity
- blood work
- TCM analysis
Orally-ingested nutrients are poorly absorbed by some patients' digestive tracts. High concentrations of vitamins and minerals can be delivered directly to your liver via your bloodstream during IV therapy.
Studies have shown that oral and intravenous antioxidative therapy benefits patients with chronic HCV infection.3
The following supplements may address biochemical imbalances in the liver:
- intravenous (IV) vitamin C therapy: has been shown to have anti-tumor and anti-hepatitis effects; may hasten recovery, cutting hepatitis A sick time to two weeks and type B sick time to less than a month
- antioxidative therapy: studies show that a combination of intravenous and oral antioxidants treats chronic HCV infection in patients who don't respond to interferon.1
- N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC): replenishes glutathione, which neutralizes the toxic metabolite in acetaminophen (the most common cause of acute liver failure)
- vitamin E: a cell membrane antioxidant that reduces inflammation; shown to produce significant liver tissue improvements in biopsies
- vitamin B12: research shows that adding this vitamin to interferon treatment clears the hepatitis C virus
- alpha-lipoic acid: this powerful antioxidant has been shown to decrease the amount of hepatic fibrosis, and to enhance the effects of other antioxidants
- pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK): this mitochondrial enzyme promotes aerobic glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose molecules)
- lactose: this sugar induces bowel movements to excrete toxins like ammonia
- diuretics: decrease intracranial pressure and increase urination
- kanuma enzyme replacement: treats LAL deficiency
- intravenous (IV) glucose and electrolyte solution: helps resolve low blood sugar or dehydration
Botanical herb treatment and Detoxification
Used worldwide throughout human history, food- and plant-based detox methods have the capacity to shorten the duration and frequency of Hepatitis B and C. Clinical trials have demonstrated efficacy for some patients taking plant extracts like:
- milk thistle: regenerates liver cells4
- turmeric: inhibits infection5
- dandelion leaf water extract: reduces oxidative stress and inflammation6
- black seed oil: reduces complications and progression of fatty liver disease
- licorice root: contains the anti-inflammatory glycyrrhizin
- bupleurum: contains anti-inflammatory substances called saikosaponins
- cordyceps: antioxidant and immune stimulator
Your condition severity, duration, and genetics may necessitate combined treatments. In a Hebrew University study, for example, hepatitis C patients were successfully treated with seven antioxidative oral preparations (glycyrrhizin, Schisandra, silymarin, ascorbic acid, lipoic acid, L-glutathione, and alpha-tocopherol) combined with four intravenous preparations (glycyrrhizin, ascorbic acid, L-glutathione, B-complex).
The hepatitis vaccine is a good way to protect yourself against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Getting vaccinated for HVB also protects against HDV.
You should consider receiving the hepatitis A and B vaccine if you:
- are a healthcare worker
- work in a daycare center, school, or jail
- are traveling to an area where infections rates are high
- come into contact with infected blood or body fluids of friends or family members
- are a man having sex with other men
- have a blood-clotting issue
- use needles to inject illegal drugs
- have a long-term liver disease
There are 4 major categories pharmaceutical medications for hepatitis:
- antivirals & biological response modifiers (BRMs): stop or slow the growth of the hepatitis B virus; pegylated interferon alpha with ribavirin - the most common - has a 50% success rate and presents side effects in 80% of patients
- direct-acting antivirals (DAAs): developed to address side effects of BRMs; target RNA proteins and enzymes to prevent replication of the hepatitis virus; trials show promising results and less adverse side effects
- corticosteroids: inhibit the biochemicals that cause inflammation, decreasing your immune system's response; long-term doses can damage the liver
- immunosuppressants: suppress nucleic acid synthesis which controls DNA replication of the virus
These drugs must be taken exactly as prescribed and monitored regularly. Research shows that 20% of liver cirrhosis pharmaceutical drugs are dosed incorrectly, and almost 30% of cirrhosis patients suffer adverse drug reactions.6
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment
Acupuncture is rooted in a 2,500-year-old Chinese medical tradition. After reviewing thousands of clinical studies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended acupuncture for a variety of conditions, including hepatitis, in its Acupuncture Consensus Statement.
Since one-third of all people with liver disease live in China, Chinese doctors treat most of the world's Hepatitis C patients. TCM has been shown to suppress the hepatitis virus, normalize liver enzyme levels, heal liver cell inflammation, and regulate immunity.
Each acupuncture point in the body has a function and shows up in different colors from surrounding tissue on infrared imaging photos. MRIs have demonstrated that some points stimulate the immune system while others treat conditions.
Through our interstitium - the fluid route between our skin and muscles - acupuncture needles can stimulate and re-route biochemicals to correct hepatitis imbalances.
Ultraviolet Blood Irradiation Therapy (UBIT)
UBIT therapy exposes blood to Ultraviolet C light extracorporeally and then reintroduces it. This treatment may destroy or alter bacteria and viruses in the extracted blood. As the blood returns, the immune system may be stimulated to destroy viruses and bacteria in the body.7
Stem cell therapy
Research shows that stem cell therapy using mesenchymal stem cells may be useful in helping the liver to regenerate from hepatitis B and C damage.
Specifically, regenerative therapies using functional hepatocyte-like cells derived from pluripotent stem cells may be able to treat liver diseases.1 Learn more about stem cell therapy for autoimmune hepatitis.
Learn More Today
Left untreated, hepatitis can become extremely dangerous and may permanently damage your liver. Know all of your treatment options. Visit our Vitadox pages before choosing a healthcare provider to guide you through hepatitis prevention and treatment.
1. Horisawa, Kenichi, and Atsushi Suzuki. "Cell-Based Regenerative Therapy for Liver Disease." Innovative Medicine, 2015, pp. 327-339., doi:10.1007/978-4-431-55651-0_27
2. Klein, A. V., and H. Kiat. "Detox Diets for Toxin Elimination and Weight Management: a Critical Review of the Evidence." Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 28, no. 6, 2014, pp. 675-686., doi:10.1111/jhn.12286.
3. Melhem A, Stern M, Shibolet O. "Treatment of Chronic hepatitis C virus infection via antioxidants"
4. Braun, D, et al, Efficacy of lead-in silibinin and subsequent triple therapy in difficult-to-treat HIV/hepatitis C virus-coinfected patients, HIV Medicine, June 2014.
5. Wei ZQ, Zhang YH, Ke CZ, Chen HX, Ren P, He YL, Hu P, Ma DQ, Luo J, Meng ZJ. Curcumin inhibits hepatitis B virus infection by down-regulating cccDNA-bounc histone acetylation - World J Gastroenterol. 2017 Sep 14;23(34):6252-6260. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v23.i34.6252.
6. Ezhilarasan Devaraj. Hepatoprotective properties of Dandelion: recent update. J App Pharm Sci, 2016; 6 (04): 202-205.
7. J. Todd Kuenstner Shanker Mukherjee Stuart Weg, Trish Landry, Thomas Petrie The treatment of infectious disease with a medical device: results of a clinical trial of ultraviolet blood irradiation (UVBI) in patients with hepatitis C infection. August 2015Volume 37, Pages 58-63
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