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 C.
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.
This is an inflammation of the liver caused by the Hepatitis C virus; this virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis and when it is chronic, it can lead to serious illnesses that is life threatening.
There are many types of hepatitis C virus; type 1 is the most common one in the U.S, no type is more serious than the rest, the only difference is that they respond differently to treatment.
The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through blood to blood contact; they are inactive when outside a living cell but once they enter the human body through blood contact they get activated and hijack the hardware of the host cell to make copies of themselves.
A tiny speck of blood not visible to the naked eye can carry hundreds of hepatitis C virus; that is why sharing of needles, blades and other sharp objects is not advised.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
This type of hepatitis is almost without symptoms and many people don’t know that they have it; and even when it gives symptoms they are mild and few. Hepatitis C patients usually notice jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, loss of appetite, stomach pain, muscle and joint pain, weight loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
They also bleed easily and in most of the time it is difficult to stop the bleeding; they also experience easy bruising, fever, swollen legs, muscle soreness, swelling of the belly, itchy skin and confusion.
It was estimated that in 2015; 143 million people were suffering from this infection and this lead to over 500,000 deaths in 2015. The World Health Organization estimated that yearly 399,000 people die from hepatitis C globally.
Hepatitis C is found worldwide but it is mostly prevalent eastern Mediterranean and Europe regions; it is also common in Africa, central and east Asia. It is estimated that about 80% of people with hepatitis C develops chronic infection. It is termed chronic if it does not clear within six months.
How Is Hepatitis C Transmitted?
Hepatitis C is a highly contagious disease that can be spread through:
- Sex: Having casual and unprotected sex with many people can put one at a high risk of coming down with this infection.
- Mother to child through the process of delivery
- Sharing needles and sharp objects
- Being pricked by infected needles
- Coming in contact with contaminated blood or body fluids
Diagnosis of Hepatitis C is by:
- Blood test: This involves checking blood samples for viruses that cause hepatitis; the draw back with bloo;8d test is that it cannot detect the antibodies to hepatitis C if the infection is early; it may take two to three months or longer for a blood test to detect hepatitis C antibodies.
Complications of Hepatitis C
Chronic forms of hepatitis C can lead to health complications like:
- Liver cancer
- Liver failure
- High cholesterol
- Varicose veins
Treatment and prevention
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C; the best way to prevent it is to avoid what causes it and they have been listed above.
In August, 2017 the FDA approved a daily combination of some drugs; this medication offers a short treatment cycle and it has adverse side effects which are flu-like symptoms, fatigue, hair loss, headache, difficulty thinking, low blood count, depression and nervousness.
Natural Remedies for Hepatitis C
- Zinc supplements: Zinc helps Hepatitis patients to repair damaged cells of the liver by reducing the level of elevated enzymes; in a healthy person zinc is needed for the normal functioning of the liver and deficiency of this mineral can impair the functions of the immune system. It improves the symptoms of Hepatitis and it is a powerful antioxidant that helps in fighting infections. You can also eat foods that are rich in zinc like sesame seeds, peas, lentils, beans, oysters, spinach, pumpkin seeds, water melon seeds, garlic, wheat germ and dark chocolate.
- Milk thistle: The active compound of milk thistle Silybum marianum also known as Silymarin blocks the replication of hepatitis C virus; it also contains selenium which has anti-viral properties. This plant can reduce the inflammation of the liver; it exerts an antiviral effect against HCV, it stimulates the growth of new liver cells, it protects the liver from damage caused by free radicals and toxins and it reduces the side effects of hepatitis C medications and treatments.
- Zinc: Zinc helps Hepatitis patients to repair damaged cells of the liver by reducing the level of elevated enzymes; in a healthy person zinc is needed for the normal functioning of the liver and deficiency of this mineral can impair the functions of the immune system. You can eat foods that are rich in zinc like sesame seeds, peas, lentils, beans, oysters, spinach, pumpkin seeds, water melon seeds, garlic, wheat germ and dark chocolate.
- Sunlight/vitamin D: Studies have proved that a deficiency in vitamin D leads to inflammation and scarring of the liver. Spend more time in sunrise and sunsets and take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D also strengthen the activities of the immune system; it improves mood, concentration and fights chronic diseases that are associated with hepatitis C and the supplement is safe to take along with hepatitis C; it helps to increase the levels of this vitamin in the body and improves immune functions.
- Eat balanced diets: Take lots of whole healthy foods; lots of fruits and vegetables because they have lots of healing phytochemicals to help the liver heal faster and better. Take lots of dark green leafy vegetables and other vegetables; spices should also be added generously to meals and taken as herbal teas. Ginger, turmeric, fennel and cayenne peppers are good anti-inflammatory herbs.
- Hydration: Rink lots of water; this is mandatory for healing the body, drinking fruit juices, herbal teas and vegetable smoothies can help strengthen the immune system, enabling the body to fight off the virus. Drink warm water at intervals; this will aid the process of detoxification and chelation of the liver cells and tissues.
- Castor oil: Never consume this oil as it is toxic, just heat it and apply it superficially over the liver. It will help to boost circulation, aids detoxification of the liver, reduce the pain and swellings of the liver tissues and activate the body’s immune cells to fight off the virus. It fights against severe inflammation; it can also be added to cool or hot compress and applied superficially over the liver.
- Black seed oil: This powerful oil is rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and immune strengthening chemicals; this oil is rich in a powerful compound called Thymoquinone. Thymoquinone protects the liver from harm and injury by scavenging for free radicals and by raising the level of glutathione in the body. This oil also helps in postponing the progression of chronic liver disease.
- Probiotics: These are live beneficial bacteria that boost immune functions and enable it to fight off the overgrowth of pathogens that cause diseases; it also aids the health of the liver and helps it to function properly.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine: This wonderful amino acid releases cysteine in the body, which helps the body in creating one of the strongest anti-oxidant glutathione. Glutathione strengthens the immune system, regulates and restores normal functioning of the body. It reduces the extent of damage on the liver caused by the Hepatitis C virus and removes toxins from the liver.
Every cell in the body makes use of glutathione to remove toxins; doctors administer it to patients who have liver damage due to overuse of paracetamol (Acetaminophen).
Researchers have linked liver diseases with low levels of glutathione and the less glutathione present, the severity of the liver disease.
Glutathione supplement increases its levels in the body and improves the patient’s response to interferon, a treatment of hepatitis C. You can buy the supplements and take according to prescription.
- Garlic: Allicin present in garlic helps the liver to remove toxins and free radicals, it helps to detoxify the body generally and improve the ability of the liver to neutralize carcinogens and virus toxins. Eat 4 cloves of garlic daily.
- Turmeric: It protects the liver by restraining the activities of viruses; it lowers cholesterol thereby improving the function of the liver. It also strengthens the immune system and increase the production of bile. Mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of warm water and drink it thrice daily.
- Selenium: This trace mineral slows the replication of the Hepatitis C virus and improves immune function.
- Alpha lipoic acid: This is a powerful antioxidant that protects the liver, detoxifies the body and boosts the levels of glutathione in the body.
- Traditional Chinese Medicines: This system of healing is effective against hepatitis C; it combines many aspect like nutrition, acupuncture, heat therapy, exercise, herbs, meditation and massages. This healing system successfully decrease symptoms; normalize the levels of liver enzymes and slows the progression of chronic liver disease.
This system of healing originated in China over 2000 years ago and due to its long history of treating liver problems and disorder, many people turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine for hepatitis C and other liver problems.
- Mild exercises: Gentle and mild exercises will help one overcome the symptoms of hepatitis like fatigue and lack of energy; it even releases ‘feel good hormone’ epinephrine in the body. Try to walk for at least one hour every day.
What to Avoid?
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol causes inflammation of the liver; it also leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Avoid cigarettes: It affects the liver the same way alcohol does. Even if you don’t smoke, avoid second hand smoke; do not stay anywhere that they smoke.
- Avoid excess weight: If you are overweight, try to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting weight on your abdomen as this will make excess fats creep into the liver and disrupts its functions. Fat in the liver can cause inflammation and scarring of the liver.
- Avoid intake of excess refined sugar: Excess sugar in the body causes scarring of the liver and if left unnoticed or untreated can lead to cirrhosis of the liver.
- Avoid Dairy: Avoid dairy and dairy products because they cause inflammation of the liver and they make the symptoms of Hepatitis C worse in infected patients.
- Avoid anti-inflammatory substances: Anything that causes inflammation should be avoided completely; some inflammatory substances are alcohol, canola, synthetic Fructose and Sucrose, Tylenol (Acetaminophen or paracetamol), Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Naproxen, vaccines, deodorants, fabric softeners, pesticides, soy, Mono-sodium Glutamate, caffeine, coffee, black tea, soft drinks, refined and bleached sugar, artificial sweeteners, food colourings and additives, fluoride, harsh soaps and detergents, table salts and air fresheners.
With all these natural remedies and living a healthy lifestyle, you will help your body heal fast and subsidize the symptoms.
Also make it a point of duty to regular go for liver tests and see the doctor so that they will know the progress of the treatment or if the treatment is not going as expected.