Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the fastest-growing infectious disease in America, most parts of Europe and Australia, and this upward trend is set to continue. Infection with the hepatitis C virus is common, and there are around 200 million people worldwide who have contracted this virus.
Researchers estimate that in Australia 0.5 to 1% of the general population tests positive to hepatitis C virus. In the USA the incidence is estimated to be around 1.8% of the population, while in many parts of Asia infection rates are much higher than this. HCV was only identified in 1988. Previously it was known as non-A, non-B hepatitis. HCV is 10 times more infectious than HIV (the AIDS virus), and it may survive for long periods on needles and other equipment contaminated with blood. In the 1980′s, AIDS was the major public health challenge for community based doctors. Now Hepatitis C has this dubious honor.
How can you catch the Hepatitis C virus?
Hepatitis C is transmitted mainly by blood. This occurs through the sharing of equipment to inject drugs, needle stick injuries in health care workers, and unsafe techniques of body piercing and tattooing. Cocaine snorting is recognized increasingly as a potential mode of transmission through the sharing of contaminated straws.
Only a tiny quantity of virus is necessary for the virus to become established in the case of hepatitis C, and transmission usually occurs when the skin becomes contaminated by injecting paraphernalia, such as spoons, mixing tools, tourniquets, cotton buds or by hands. Razor blades and toothbrushes can become contaminated with blood, so it is important not to share these things. Always wear gloves when wiping up blood spills, using paper towels and good quality bleach. While bleach is an effective surface antiseptic, there is no absolute evidence that it can kill the HCV. In about 10 to 15 percent of cases no definite risk factor is detected and the mode of transmission remains unclear.
The incidence of sexual transmission from a patient with chronic hepatitis C infection seems to be quite low, in comparison with hepatitis B and HIV (AIDS). However, those with an acute hepatitis C infection are possibly more likely to spread the virus sexually. It is important to practice safe sexual techniques to avoid blood to blood contact. The risk of sexual transmission is estimated to be around 4%
Transmission of the disease from mother to baby also occurs but much less frequently than with hepatitis B. This occurs in only around 6% of such cases. Infection of the baby through breast-feeding from an infected mother is very uncommon, however great care should be taken to avoid nipple trauma.
Nowadays the risk of catching hepatitis C from a blood transfusion is extremely low, because blood banks now screen all donated blood. As with hepatitis B it is possible to be a symptom-free carrier of the virus. Hepatitis B sufferers in the acute stage of infection and all hepatitis C patients should consider themselves infectious.
HCV is NOT spread by:
- food or water
- sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses
- casual contact
- shaking hands
The following precautions must be taken by Hepatitis C patients:
- Do not donate blood or organs
- Do not share needles, toothbrushes, razors or other intimate articles
- Blood spills should be wiped up with bleach and all cuts and wounds covered with adhesive dressings.
- Blood stained tissues, sanitary napkins and so on must be disposed of safely.
- “Safer sex” should be practised, with the use of condoms recommended, especially for anal intercourse. However, in the case of hepatitis C, the need for condom use in heterosexual intercourse with a stable partner is not entirely clear. The risk of oral sex is also not fully known, though oral-anal contact should be avoided. Intercourse during menstruation should also be avoided.
Initial effects of infection with Hepatitis C virus
People are generally completely unaware that they have contracted this virus because it does not produce any symptoms in the early or acute stages of the infection. During the first 3 to 6 months after infection, the virus replicates itself rapidly and the immune system tries to fight it by producing antibodies against it. Unfortunately in 80 to 85 percent of infected people, the virus is not eliminated and becomes a long-term inhabitant of the body. In other words, the infection becomes chronic. In a significant percentage of people with chronic infection, there are no signs or symptoms of disease and many are unaware that they are carrying an infection that can be transmitted to others through contact with their blood.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of acute hepatitis infection are similar for all three viruses, although generally less severe with hepatitis C. Initially the patient feels unwell with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, headaches, tiredness and a distaste for cigarettes. Fever and upper abdominal discomfort may occur. After one to two weeks the patient frequently becomes jaundiced (the skin and eyes turn yellow), and the symptoms then often improve. The urine may become dark and the bowel motions pale. Most Hepatitis C sufferers, however, do not develop this jaundice.
Long term effects of the Hepatitis C virus.
The long term liver damage caused by the Hepatitis C virus varies from person to person, and those with a strong immune system and a healthy diet and lifestyle will have a much better outcome.
In those who become infected with this virus we find the following approximate outcomes:
- 15 to 20 percent of people will completely eliminate the virus from their bodies within 3 to 6 months (much like we overcome the flu virus).
- 60 percent of people will develop a long-term (chronic) infection that may not cause any problems or may go on to varying degrees of liver damage.
- 20 to 25 percent of people will suffer serious liver damage, although this takes around 20 years to develop. In this group, 10 to 15 percent will remain stable and be able to survive with their disease, while 10 percent will go on to develop liver failure and/or liver cancer. The absolute risk of liver cancer from hepatitis C is not yet clear, but it only occurs if there is already established cirrhosis and generally takes about thirty years after the initial infection.
- Chronic infection may also cause severe loss of liver cells and extensive scarring of the liver which is called cirrhosis. The death rate from chronic hepatitis C infection is around 5 to 10% and is due to end stage liver failure or the development of liver cancer.
Excerpt from The Liver Cleansing Diet by Dr Cabot
“The Liver Cleansing Diet will help to repair liver damage in those who drink too much alcohol or those who have taken recreational drugs, especially intravenously. Those who test positive for Hepatitis B and/or Hepatitis C and are chronic carriers of these viruses will have less chance of developing chronic liver disease if they follow the Liver- Cleansing Diet.
Dr Sandra Cabot’s good liver health tips
- Take a good liver formula.
- Drink plenty of pure water to hydrate all your cells and flush out toxins.
- Take a Selenium supplement in a dose of Selenomethionine 100 to 200mcg daily. There is a wealth of good research about the protective properties of selenium. see www.seleniumresearch.com.
- Take a vitamin C supplement in a dose of 2000mg daily – two-time Nobel Laureate Prize Winning Scholar, Linus Pauling, tells us – the fact that humans cannot make their own vitamin C, is an evolutionary defect, and I agree with him!
- Start raw juicing – good things to juice for the liver are cabbage (red and purple), carrot, beetroot, orange, lemon, limes, ginger root, fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, mint, coriander/cilantro, thyme and oregano, apples and a touch of red onion (Spanish onion) or garlic cloves – juice everyday if you can, or at least regularly. If the juice is too strong dilute it with water, celery and/or extra apple –see my book Raw Juices can Save Your Life
- If you are overweight, check your liver with an ultrasound scan – if your liver is fatty follow a low carbohydrate diet, as found in my book Fatty Liver – You can reverse it If you have excess fat in the liver it will make you feel tired and sluggish and increase your risk of cirrhosis.
- If you are stressed, work on your sleep and try to improve it; I recommend that you get at least 7 hours sleep a night. Deep restful sleep repairs the body and improves the immune system’s ability to fight viruses. Magnesium can help your sleep patterns and reduces stress – I call magnesium the great relaxer! For more information, see my book MAGNESIUM The Miracle Mineral
- Make sure you are getting enough omega 3 fatty acids in your diet – eat more oily fish or take fish oil capsules. The predominant fat in your brain is omega 3 and many people are deficient in this, because like vitamin C, your body cannot make its own precious supplies.
Reduce or avoid the use of
- Sodas and diet pop
- White sugar
Some people will find that these substances upset their sense of wellbeing, whilst in others a small to moderate intake of alcohol produces no adverse effects. It really is a trial and error thing. Do not drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks daily and ideally, do not drink alcohol every day.
Heavy smoking of cigarettes will weaken your immune system compromising its ability to fight the virus.
Why do we need nutritional medicine to fight Hepatitis C ?
- More than 50% of all patients infected with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) do not get good long term results from standard treatment which consists of interferon with anti-viral drugs. Treatment with these drugs lasts only 48 weeks; so you must ask yourself, what are you going to do after this time?
- The HCV can hide in various parts of the body, such as the liver, even when you cannot detect the virus in the blood stream; thus a blood test will show the viral load is zero, which may give you a sense of a false cure. If the HCV reappears in the blood stream after “anti-viral drug cure” then nutritional medicine is essential for a good outcome. According to two recent Spanish studies the HCV can remain in the liver even when a patient has an undetectable viral level in their blood stream. In one of these studies reported in The Journal of Infectious Diseases July 2006, liver biopsies and blood specimens were taken from 12 patients who had HCV antibodies but had been negative for the HCV RNA (viral load) for 12 months. Despite their negative blood tests the HCV was found to be present in the liver in 10 of these patients. The other study reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases in November 2006, looked at 20 patients who tested negative for the HCV in their blood after interferon/ribavirin treatment. In 19 of these 20 patients, the HCV was still present in the liver tissue, as determined from a liver biopsy in these 20 patients. Thus you can see that even in the vast majority of successfully drug treated patients the HCV survives and waits for another time to attack you, especially when you let your immune system become weak and run down.
- The HCV can become resistant to the anti-viral drugs which then become useless.
- Research into vaccines against the HCV (mainly synthetic prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines) is still in its early stages and more funding is needed. According to the experts an effective vaccine against the HCV is 10 years away.
- Fatigue is a common symptom of infection with the HCV. The liver provides the body with energy and if it is damaged, the liver cannot store glucose or make proteins – thus the muscles become weak. Treatment with anti-viral drugs causes worsening of the fatigue, depression and insomnia. This is where nutritional medicine can really make a huge difference.
- Thyroid problems often co-exist with HCV infection and nutritional medicine can support thyroid function.
- HCV infection is a chronic disease that must be managed for life, otherwise it can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. There is a shortage of liver donors for liver transplants.
- Excess weight often results in fatty liver which greatly reduces liver function and health. Fatty liver can co-exist with HCV infection and will worsen the liver damage caused by the HCV.
To overcome all of these problems, drugs can only play a limited role. To treat the underlying causes we need to turn to the power of nutritional medicine. Over the past two decades there have been enormous advances in information in the scientific and medical literature linking incorrect nutrition to disease states. Research gives great insight into the nutritional factors in illness. Dietary changes and the appropriate use of nutrients, juices and herbs will reduce the risk of chronic liver disease.
In many cases it is impossible to eradicate the hepatitis C virus from the body and patients find it difficult to tolerate drug side effects. It is therefore not surprising that sufferers are turning towards nutritional and herbal therapies to fight the virus. Natural therapies will not usually be able to eradicate the virus from the body; however they will definitely help to prevent the virus from damaging the liver. This approach is very successful and can keep the virus in a dormant or harmless state so that it does not damage liver cells.
Although nutritional medicine cannot ‘cure’ HCV infection, by using Dr Cabot’s program for Hepatitis C, many people have experienced a great improvement in the function of their liver and have reduced the risk of associated conditions such as cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure. This program needs to be adhered to basically as a way of life.
While we cannot guarantee to completely eradicate the virus by nutritional medicine alone, the following approximate results have been seen in Dr Cabot’s patients:
- 70% have improved liver function
- 25% have normalized function
- 40% have significantly reduced viral load
Weight Loss and Hepatitis C
Weight loss in overweight people with chronic HCV infection will improve liver function. This was found by researchers in Queensland Australia who followed a group of people with chronic Hepatitis C and fatty liver. These patients were put on a 3 month weight reduction program and it was found that the weight loss led to a reduction in fatty liver, improved liver enzymes and improvement in fibrosis despite persistence of the virus. Reference: GUT 2002; 51:89-94
Excellent results have been achieved by using nutritional programs in many patients with chronic viral infections of the liver. This can also reduce damage caused by any long-term systemic viral infection, including the AIDS virus. The most important strategy is to begin such a program as early as possible and to stay on it long-term. It is possible to restore normal liver function in many chronic viral hepatitis sufferers provided they also stick to a drug free life-style. Nutritional medicine may prevent the virus from damaging the liver and can induce repair and regeneration in the liver. The good news is that of all the organs in the body the liver is most able to repair and regenerate itself. At the very least a significant improvement in liver function and well being will always be achieved, provided you do not wait until end-stage liver disease has set in. Download Dr Sandra Cabot’s Free e-Book titled “Hepatitis – How to treat it naturally”
Do you need a test for Hepatitis C?
If you received a blood transfusion or blood products before routine screening of donor blood was introduced (before February 1990), or if you have ever shared equipment (needles, spoons, swabs, tourniquets, etc) for injecting any drugs, it is important that you ask your doctor for a blood test to check for hepatitis C. If you have been tattooed, had body piercing or needle-stick injuries, you should also consider being tested for hepatitis C.
Testing and diagnosis
1. Antibody detection
The initial screening test for Hepatitis C, tests for the antibodies to the virus, so it does not look directly for the virus itself. Sometimes the antibody test comes back indeterminate and then a repeat test is required. Antibodies are produced in the body after exposure to the virus. Therefore this test indicates if the body has been exposed to the virus and has produced antibodies to fight it. It does not determine whether or not someone still has the virus or how long he or she has been infected. It takes up to 6 months for antibodies to HCV to form in the blood (this is called sero-conversion) It is therefore important to get retested 6 months after initial antibody test.
The main tests used are:
- ELISA III (Enzyme Linked Immuno-sorbent Assay)
- RIBA (Recombinent Immunoblot Assay) This test is more expensive than ELISA and is generally used as a confirmatory test.
2. Virus Detection and analysis
The PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is a test that looks for the virus in the blood. The PCR test amplifies the virus genetic material to a level that can be detected so it is useful when the antibody tests are unclear. The PCR test is the viral load. It is often required to have these tests done to confirm a diagnosis.
Supplements to support liver function
Choose a powerful liver tonic, one which contains enough Milk Thistle to provide 420mg of pure Silymarin per day. Ideally, this liver tonic should also contain the additional supporting nutrients- sulphur bearing amino acids, the antioxidant vitamins E and C, the minerals zinc and selenium and all the B group vitamins.
Extra selenium may be needed. The maximum total daily dose of selenium is 400mcg. A dose of 200mcg of selenium is ideal and very safe. See www.seleniumresearch.com
Vitamin E assists in protecting liver cell membranes from free radical damage. Natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) is superior to synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol). Livatone Plus contains natural vitamin E
Raw juices are an incredible powerful healing tool for the liver and strengthen the immune system. Raw juicing can improve the function of the liver, bowels and kidneys.
It is good to eat both whole fruits and vegetables in the diet as well as drink their raw juices. The raw juices provide an easily absorbed form of healing antioxidants that are very beneficial for the liver. Juices made freshly from raw fruits, fresh herbs and raw vegetables have unique healing and rejuvenating properties. For those who feel they need an extra boost there is nothing better than having a raw juice. It will brighten up the day by providing extra energy and endurance. Raw juicing also reduces headaches and general aches and pains and promotes detoxification of the liver. Juices are unique because they allow the gut to receive very concentrated amounts of phyto-nutrients that could not be obtained by eating a normal amount of whole raw vegetables, herbs and fruits in the diet.
Time saving and sanity saving juicing tip
Some folks would love to juice but they hate cleaning the juicer – I can understand that! It is also time consuming. Well you can juice 4 to 6 pints of juice at one time and freeze it in daily-serving-sized containers. Freeze immediately after making the juice and drink it straight after it thaws out. If you do this, it will retain all its goodness and power.
Dr Cabot’s excellent book contains carefully designed juices to help with common health problems
Appropriate juice recipes found in Dr Cabot’s Raw Juices Can Save Your Life book.
Recommended juices are:
- liver tonic juice page 116
- liver cleansing juice page 116
- antibiotic juice page 45
- immune dysfunction page 103
- infections page 105
Much more research is being done into new antiviral drugs such as NS3 proteinase and effective vaccines. Large amounts of money are needed to maintain this ongoing research which is essential in the face of this spreading epidemic. The aim of Interferon treatment is to eliminate the hepatitis C virus and prevent liver damage and liver cancer. Interferon alone eliminates the virus in only 10 to 20% of patients. Another 25 to 40% respond but subsequently relapse.
The main orthodox drug treatment for HCV is Pegylated Combo treatment incorporating Interferon and Ribavirin. Pegylated interferon has a polyethylene glycol molecule attached to the interferon molecule. As a result, its elimination from the body is slowed; thus higher, more constant blood levels of interferon alpha are achieved with less frequent dosing. Peginterferon alpha needs to be injected only once a week. The addition of ribavirin to interferon alpha is superior to interferon alpha alone in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Ribavirin is a synthetic nucleoside that has activity against a broad spectrum of viruses. Subsequent studies showed that the combination of interferon alpha-2b plus ribavirin is more effective in achieving a sustained response than interferon alpha-2b alone. The Interferon/Ribavirin treatment provides the only hope at this stage of complete eradication of the virus however its effectiveness is limited and side effects are not pleasant. Interferon often causes a wide range of side effects such as a “flu like illness,” suppression of the bone marrow, infections, mood changes and immune dysfunction. Some people will experience long term remission but many will relapse. Many people make the choice to avoid the drug therapies and use nutritional medicine to support the liver and immune system.
This is the procedure whereby the healthy liver of a donor is used to replace the diseased liver of a recipient. It is often very successful and 70 to 80% of recipients of a transplanted liver are alive and well 12 months after the operation. Most of these 12-month survivors become long term survivors. Lifelong immunosuppressant drugs must be taken after a liver transplant. All patients under the age of 65 with advanced cirrhosis are candidates for a liver transplant
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any diseases.