Hepatitis is a medical condition that refers to inflammation of the liver; it is mainly caused by a virus (the hepatitis virus) and there are five types of hepatitis namely hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, a different virus is responsible for each type but in this article, we will be looking mainly at hepatitis A.
Other causes of hepatitis are drugs, toxins, alcohol, medications; there is another type called ‘autoimmune hepatitis’, it occurs when the body produce antibodies against the tissues of the liver.
Table of Contents
- Causes of Hepatitis A
- Functions of the Liver
- How is Hepatitis diagnosed?
- Hepatitis A
- Symptoms of Hepatitis A
- Treatment for Hepatitis A
- How to Prevent Hepatitis A
- Complication of Hepatitis A
- Natural Remedies for Hepatitis A
Causes of Hepatitis A
The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is the main cause of this infection; it is also called Hepatovirus A and humans and vertebrates (animals with backbone) serve as the natural host and it transmitted through fecal-oral route.
When this virus is ingested through contaminated food and water; it enters the bloodstream through the intestine and goes straight to the liver where it multiplies and starts disrupting the liver and its functions.
HAV is resistant to detergent, acid, ether, chloroform, drying and high temperature up to 600C; it can survive in both fresh and salt water for months but it can be inactivated by chlorine treatment, peracetic acid, formalin and UV radiation.
Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to inflammation of the liver and in most cases the liver becomes damaged; excess alcohol injures the cells of the liver, leads to permanent liver damage and this in turn leads to liver failure and cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is a medical condition characterized by scarring and thickening of the liver; hepatitis caused mainly by consumption of alcohol is called ‘alcoholic hepatitis’.
In autoimmune hepatitis, the immune system sees the liver as a harmful object and starts attacking it; this cause prolonged inflammation that can move from mild to severe, this hinders the functions of the liver and this in turn halts or impairs a lot of biochemical reactions in the body.
In other cases, overuse or overdose of medications can lead to accumulation of the by product in the body; this can lead to inflammation of the liver. Exposure to poisons and other harmful chemicals can also cause inflammation of the liver.
Functions of the Liver
The liver is the largest and the most important organ in the body which has many important life-supporting functions; it is located in the right upper area of the abdomen and unlike the other organs of the body that comes in pair, the liver is just one.
Important functions of the liver are production of bile which aids in digestion, filtering and excretion of toxins from the body, excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones and drugs, breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, activation of enzymes, production of hormones, storage of glycogen, minerals and fat soluble vitamin (A, D, E and K); synthesis of clotting factors and blood proteins like albumin.
How is Hepatitis diagnosed?
There are many tests that can be carried out to ascertain if an individual has hepatitis or not; the tests are:
- Questions and physical examination: The doctor will ask about your history (family history included) to know if you have risk factor for hepatitis. The doctor will carry out physical examinations on you like checking the colour of your skin or eyes, he may feel to see if your liver is enlarged and he may also gently press on your abdomen to see if there is a pain or tenderness.
- Liver biopsy: This is an invasive test; it involves the doctor taking a sample of your liver tissues. It does not require a surgery, a needle is put through your skin to get the tissues.an ultrasound is used to guide the doctor when taking the sample and this test helps the doctor to know how the inflammation has affected the liver and it also help the doctor to sample any area in your liver that appears normal.
- Liver tests: These are biochemical tests that are carried out to know he state of the liver and its functions; blood samples are used and if the enzymes of the liver are high, it is a sign that the liver is either stressed, damaged or not working properly.
- Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound is used to create an image of the organs in the abdomen; this will help the doctor to take a close look at the liver to see if it has fluid, if it is enlarged, if it has tumors or if there are abnormalities in the gallbladder.
- Blood test: This involves checking blood samples for viruses that cause hepatitis; it also involves checking for antibodies that are common in autoimmune hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is an acute and short term disease of the liver unlike B, C and D which is prolonged and chronic; it is an infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), it is commonly transmitted by consuming food or water that is contaminated with the hepatitis A virus.
Food can become contaminated when it is touched by someone infected with the virus that did not wash his hands after using the toilet.
This can also transfer tiny or unseen particle of stool to the food. The virus can also spread in day care centers if the staffs do not wash their hands after changing babies’ diapers.
Raw shellfish, fruits, vegetables, and undercooked foods are responsible for Hepatitis A outbreaks and HAV is one of the major causes of food related illnesses and infection.
This infection is highly contagious and can spread from person to person through close contact if one of them is infected; even infected children that give no sign or symptom can still infect others.
Its symptoms are mild most times and people who are infected may not know; it usually goes away on its own and does not cause long term liver damage.
It is estimated that about 114 million people are infected with the hepatitis A virus globally; it is more common in Africa and other poor regions of the world where there poor sanitation and no safe drinking water. In 2015; 11,200 people died as a result of acute hepatitis A.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A
Symptoms of hepatitis A are fatigue, flu-like symptoms, dark urine, pale stool, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, mild fever, nausea, vomiting, light coloured stool, muscle soreness, diarrhea, intense itching, joint pain and jaundice (which is characterized by yellow skin and eyes). These symptoms usually last for eight weeks.
Treatment for Hepatitis A
Usually, Hepatitis A does not require treatment because it is a short term illness; there are lots of natural remedies for Hepatitis A and adequate bed rest can speed up recovery. Doctors tell hepatitis A patients to focus on hydration and good, healthy nutrition.
After a single infection with Hepatitis A virus, a person is immune for the rest of his or her life. There are vaccines available to treat this infection. Avoid hard exercise or strenuous activities till you get better.
How to Prevent Hepatitis A
- Practicing good hygiene is the first step in preventing this infection of the liver; it prevents Hepatitis A and E.
- Regularly wash your hands especially after using the toilet and before eating.
- Don’t drink water that you are not sure of the safety and this includes ice.
- Wash fruits and vegetables properly and under a running water before consuming.
- Avoid eating public foods or in restaurants that you are not sure of their hygiene standard
- Avoid overcrowded places with poor sanitation and improper disposal of waste
- Dumping of raw sewage into local rivers and harbours should be discouraged by the government.
- Ensure your child’s day care staffs wash their hands after changing each child’s diaper
- Don’t travel to areas with high prevalence of hepatitis A
- Avoid casual and unprotected sex because one can contact it sexually
Complication of Hepatitis A
This is not a really serious or prolonged form of hepatitis; with good nutrition, hydration and healthy lifestyles, hepatitis A can be healed without any risk of health complications.
Natural Remedies for Hepatitis A
Eat a healthy well balanced diet: During the process of recovery from hepatitis A, avoid junks and processed foods; eat lots of healthy foods and anti-inflammatory foods should be more because hepatitis is simply the inflammation of the liver. Anti-inflammatory foods will strengthen your immune system and help your body to heal fast.
Healthy foods that helps one recovers fast from hepatitis A and other viral infections are green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and Swiss chard; fresh vegetables like beets, celery, broccoli and cabbage; root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes; fresh fruits especially citrus fruits (oranges, limes, lemons and grapes), berries and pineapples; nuts and seeds like walnut, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds; anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, ginger and cayenne pepper; whole and gluten free grains like brown rice, oats, millet and quinoa; healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, ghee and avocado; probiotics like organic yogurt and kefir and nutrient dense bone broth. You can eat meat that was raised organically and wild fish; not farm raised ones.
Take lots of fluids: Hydration will help to clear out the toxins/virus from the body and it will also replace the amount of liquid lost from the body through vomiting and diarrhea.
This is a must if you want to get well in time; make sure you take at least 60 to 80 ounces of water every day, eat lots of fruits that contain water like watermelon, cucumbers, kiwi, berries and oranges.
You can;2 also take homemade fruit juices, smoothies, and herbal teas and if possible try and include coconut water in your diet.
It will help fight dehydration, replace fluids and electrolytes lost from the body through vomiting and diarrhea and it will help the heart to overcome the negative side effect of vomiting.
Avoid or reduce stress and get plenty of rest: Proper rest and sleep will enable your body to fight off this infection; reduce the amount of work you do and make sure you get not less than eight hours of good and uninterrupted sleep every night.
Many studies have proven that deep sleep has a strong positive influence on the functions of the immune system; you can use lavender oil to either massage your body or as aromatherapy, this oil will reduce stress and help you sleep well, spending time in nature and eating foods rich in tryptophan also reduce stress and helps one to sleep well.
Nigella seed extract: This is said to be the best natural medicine to cure the liver from hepatitis A; it guards against viral infections and treats it; it prevents hepatitis and treat the early stages of hepatitis to stop it from developing into chronic diseases or liver failure.
It also strengthens the immune system. Take four drops of Nigella seed extract in a cup of goat milk, do it daily before going to sleep for a month. You will see rapid improvement.
Milk thistle: Its active compound Silymarin protects the liver by strengthening the outer membranes of the liver, this prevents toxins and germs from entering into it; this plant is a strong anti-oxidant, it prevents and reduces damage to the cells of the liver caused by prescription drugs, alcohol, pollutants, cirrhosis and hepatitis; it is an important natural treatment for hepatitis A.
It is called ‘liver tonic’ because Silymarin protects stimulates the synthesis of proteins in the cells of the liver and these newly formed proteins helps to repair and regenerate the liver. You can get milk thistle from a good herbal store; take 200 to 400 grams three times daily.
Barley water: This is one of the best and most effective natural treatments for hepatitis A; it reduces the inflammation of the liver naturally, it removes excess bilirubin and improves the functions of the liver. Boil crushed barley in water and drink it four to five times daily.
Ginger and lemon herbal tea: This herbal tea will boost your immune system, cleanse the lymphatic system, helps to get rid of waste and toxins and speeds up the healing process.
Ginger is a powerful herb with anti-inflammatory and immunonutrition properties; it strengthens the immune systems and relieves the two most common symptoms of hepatitis, nausea and upset stomach.
It also promotes regular digestion and metabolism of food thereby helping your body to absorb useful nutrients from foods; it treats infections, relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Lemon on the other hand is a power house of vitamin C, the vitamin of the immune system; lemon strengthens the immune system and fights off infections.
To make your own ginger tea; you can use the fresh roots or dried ginger root powder; add as much ginger as you can handle to a pot and add two cups of water and let it boil. Then you add the juice of two or three lemon to it, you can add honey for taste and then you take it when it is warm.
You can boil the lemon along with the ginger after extracting the juice; this is how I take my ginger tea, it is more nutritious and you get little of the oil and other nutrients in the peel but it is bitter. You can take this tea two or three times daily; you can also add ginger essential oil to warm water and use it to have your bath.
Peppermint oil: This powerful essential oil gets rid of nausea and boosts the energy level of the body thereby combating fatigue which comes along with hepatitis infection. It has anti-emetic and anti-spasmodic effects on the gastric lining and colon; this reduces nausea and vomiting without any side effect.
To relieve the symptoms of hepatitis A; add two or three drops of peppermint oil to a cool compress and place it on your head. You can also add five to ten drops of peppermint oil to a cool or warm bath water. You can rub one or two drops of peppermint oil on the back of your neck and bottoms of your feet.
- Black seed oil: This powerful oil improves the functions of the liver; it penetrates deep into the body and rapidly brings everything to normal. It strengthens the immune system and promotes optimum health.
- Reishi mushrooms: Many herbalists said that this is a natural remedy for this infection. This highest valued healing herb in China for thousands of years has been used to balance the immune system, prevent auto-immune disorder, aids liver function and blood circulation and it calms down the destructive aspect of the immune system.
- Olive leaves: These powerful leaves have anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacteria properties; you can get the leaf extract and take 5 to six drops in a cup of lukewarm milk daily or you can make a fresh paste of olive leaf daily and take it on an empty stomach.
- Licorice roots: This plant helps to relieve the symptoms of hepatitis A. This root is also used to treat chronic hepatitis B and C.
- Beetroot and lemon juice: Beetroot juice combined with lemon juice helps to promote healthy liver cells and it also helps them to produce naturally. Make a cup of beetroot juice and add two or three juices of three large lemons; take this twice daily and it will help heal hepatitis A.
- Sugarcane juice: The juice of sugar cane is packed with essential vitamins and minerals that helps one in overcoming the challenge of hepatitis A. The anti-oxidants boost the immune function and fight infections; it keeps the level of bilirubin in control, it protects the liver and reduces the stress placed on the liver when carrying out its functions. To benefit from this sweet healing plant, take one or two glasses of sugar cane juice on an empty stomach in the morning; you will recover within three weeks with continuous use.
- Coconut water and ginger juice: Coconut water contains Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, vitamin C, Zinc and other minerals; it has anti-bacterial properties that helps to clear out toxins from the body and liver naturally, the liver needs all these for proper function and to defend itself from infectious diseases, the importance of ginger have already been stated above. Mix a good quantity of fresh ginger juice in one cup of coconut water and take it two to three times daily; this will both treat and cure hepatitis A.
- Yogurt with boiled rice or strawberry: Yogurts have antimicrobial properties which help in keeping the liver healthy; it is also a good source of probiotics which helps fights harmful invaders and strengthens the immune system. Take some strawberries and mash them, add them to a bowl of yogurt and keep this mixture in the refrigerator. Take three tablespoons of this mixture every three hours. If it is boiled rice you mixed with yogurt, then you take one or two cups daily to heal hepatitis A.
- Water chestnut and sweet potato: Water chestnuts are rich in powerful antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids; they remove toxins from the liver and along with sweet potato, this treatment is beneficial for hepatitis A and Jaundice patients. Boil 50 grams of water chestnut and 100 grams of sweet potatoes, cook them very well and eat it during the day.