Hepatitis is the general term for the inflammation of the liver, which is the body's largest internal organ and is located beneath the breastbone, extending under the bottom of the right side of the rib cage. Hepatitis can result from the use of alcohol, drugs, and chemicals but is most commonly caused by one of several specific hepatitis viruses.
One of the liver's functions is to produce and metabolize bile, which is necessary to break down fats and expel toxins out of the body. With hepatitis, bilirubin, a pigment normally excreted in bile, builds up in the bloodstream and accumulates in the skin. This causes the characteristic yellowish color of the skin and the eyes, as well as dark urine. Classic symptoms of hepatitis include nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, clay-colored stools, fever, and diarrhea. Blood tests show an elevation of one or more liver enzymes.
At least six different viruses cause acute viral hepatitis. The main three are hepatitis A, B, and C. Other hepatitis viruses include D, E, and G.
Hepatitis A, which has a 15- to 45-day incubation period, is highly contagious and is spread mainly by fecal-tainted food or water. Epidemics are common in underdeveloped countries. Contaminated raw shellfish can be a causative factor. It can also be transmitted through blood or saliva secretions. Hepatitis A is an acute infection, and people do not become chronic carriers of the virus. It does not play a role in the development of chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. A vaccine for hepatitis A is available.
Hepatitis B has an incubation period of 30 to 180 days. It is contracted by contaminated blood or blood products, as happens with drug users who share needles. It can also occur from sexual contact and, less commonly, from transfusions tainted with infected blood. People can become chronic carriers of this virus. A wide spectrum of liver diseases is associated with hepatitis B, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. A vaccine for hepatitis B is available.
Hepatitis C has an incubation period of 15 to 150 days. This is the most common form of viral hepatitis. In the past, it was more commonly contracted through contaminated blood. The main causes of hepatitis C infection worldwide include unscreened blood transfusions and the reuse of needles and syringes that have not been adequately sterilized. In developed countries, it is estimated that 90 percent of people with chronic HCV infection are current and/or former injecting drug users or those with a history of transfusion of unscreened blood or blood products. Hepatitis C can also be transmitted by sexual activity and from mother to infant. It is estimated that 3 percent of the world's population (170 million people) are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus. Most people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, about 80 percent of newly infected patients progress to develop the chronic infection, and liver cancer develops in 1 to 5 percent of those with chronic infection over a period of twenty to thirty years. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. Antiviral drugs are the standard conventional treatment. Effectiveness of these drugs varies, but side effects prevent many people from continuing treatment.
Hepatitis D virus occurs only in the presence of acute or chronic hepatitis B virus infection. Drug addicts who share needles are at high risk for this infection. It is characterized by an unusually severe acute hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis E virus is most commonly transmitted via contaminated water in developing countries. The infection can be severe but is not chronic.
Hepatitis G virus can be transmitted by blood. Currently, not a lot is known about this virus, although it can become chronic.
The early symptoms of acute hepatitis may include a loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Hive-like eruptions and joint pains occasionally occur. After a period of three to ten days, the urine darkens and is followed by jaundice (yellowing of the skin). The liver is usually enlarged and tender, and the spleen may enlarge as well. Blood tests will show elevated liver enzymes from the beginning stage of the illness.
Hepatitis usually resolves within four to eight weeks, especially hepatitis A. However, 5 to 10 percent of hepatitis B infections become chronic, and up to 80 percent of hepatitis C infections become chronic. Hepatitis lasting for six months or longer is generally termed chronic.
Natural therapies can be very helpful in preventing liver damage and decreasing the viral load or the infectiousness of the hepatitis viruses. Holistic therapies are becoming very popular for people with hepatitis C-an emerging world epidemic. The effectiveness of conventional antiviral drug therapy varies, and side effects of these drugs can be severe. Natural treatment is used to augment the immune system to fight the viral infection and to improve and protect liver function. Our experience is that most cases can be helped with natural treatment, and sometimes the improvements are dramatic. Many natural therapies in this chapter can be combined with conventional therapy.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements shown to help Hepatitis:
Prescription for Natural
Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Super Prescription #1 Milk Thistle / Silymarin – LifeSource Product Take a daily dosage of a product standardized with regard to silymarin, so that you supplement a daily total of 600 to 900 mg of the active constituent silymarin daily. This herb protects the liver, promotes liver cell regeneration, and helps reduce liver enzyme count.
Super Prescription #2 Vitamin C - LifeSource Products - See All of our Vitamin C Products. Take 1,000 mg three to four times daily of a buffered (non-acidic) vitamin C. A more therapeutic technique is to keep gradually increasing the dosage until loose stools occur, and then cut back on the dosage. Intravenous vitamin C treatments from a holistic doctor are even more effective. Vitamin C improves immune function and has antiviral properties.
Super Prescription #3 Catechin Take 750 mg three times daily. Catechin is a type of flavonoid that was shown in studies to be helpful for acute and chronic hepatitis. It is best used under the supervision of a doctor.
Super Prescription #4 Thymus extract Take as directed on the container. Look for a high-quality purified thymus extract. A typical dose is 200 to 300 mg three times daily. Thymus extract has been shown to improve immune function and be helpful for people with hepatitis C
Super Prescription #5 Licorice Root - LifeSource Product Take 500 mg three times daily. One of the active phytonutrients in licorice root, known as glycyrrhizin, has been used as part of injectable formulas to treat chronic hepatitis B and C, with favorable outcomes. Licorice root has been shown to have immune-enhancing and antiviral properties. Holistic doctors also administer glycyrrhizin intravenously for a strong therapeutic effect. Note: High doses of licorice root may cause high blood pressure. High doses, as recommended in this section, are best used under the supervision of a physician.
Super Prescription # 6 Reishi Mushroom - LifeSource Product Take 3,000 to 6,000 mg daily of a standardized extract. Preliminary studies have shown Reishi extract to be effective for hepatitis B and elevated liver enzymes. Reishi is commonly used by health practitioners for liver support.
Super Prescription #7 Schisandra extract (Schisandra chinensis) Take 500 mg three times daily. Studies have found that this Chinese herb is effective in treating chronic hepatitis.
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- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Clay-colored stools
- Dark urine
- Viral infection
- Adverse reaction to drugs and other toxins
- Weakened immune system
During the acute phase, it is recommended that you consume soups, broths, diluted vegetable juices, herbal teas, steamed vegetables, brown rice, and non-red meat protein sources, such as free-range turkey or chicken, legumes, and fish.
To promote healing of the liver and to provide a diet that is supportive to the immune system, consume lots of vegetables and moderate amount of fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Reduce or eliminate foods that are taxing to the liver, such as fried foods; refined sugar products; foods containing trans-fatty acids, such as margarine and vegetable shortening; and saturated fats, found in meat and dairy products. Make fresh juices out of foods such as apples, beets, and carrots. Start with small amounts to see how you tolerate them. Steamed artichokes are healing to the liver. Eating smaller and more frequent meals is recommended. Soups and stews are good, as they are easy to digest. Purified water should be consumed, an 8-ounce glass every two to three waking hours.
Foods to Avoid
Cut out junk food, sugar, and alcohol, all of which suppress your immune system and tax your entire body.
Avoid saturate fats and hydrogenated oils, which stress the immune system and the liver. Stay away from fried foods and solid fats, such as margarine, lard, and vegetable shortening.
Find out now if you have any food allergies or sensitivities, because they waken the immune system.
- Avoid the use of acetaminophen and over-the-counter painkillers and other pharmaceuticals, if possible, as they stress the liver
- Chinese herbal therapy from a practitioner of Asian medicine can be highly effective.