Hepatitis And Arthritis - Is There A Connection?

Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver. Inflammation of the liver can be caused by many different things such as:

  • Chronic viral infections, most commonly with the hepatitis C and B viruses
  • Fatty infiltration
  • Autoimmune diseases - including celiac disease, primary biliary cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis etc.
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Drug side effects
  • Excess alcohol

The liver filter cleanses the bloodstream and removes undesirable substances from the blood as they circulate through the spaces of the liver filter. The liver filter is able to remove and destroy the following from the blood:

  • Micro-organisms and their metabolites, including lipopolysaccharide
  • Globules of fat
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Unhealthy and damaged cells
  • Cancer cells

If the liver filter does not perform this cleansing function efficiently these undesirable things can build up in the bloodstream and then must be dealt with by the immune system. The immune system then becomes overloaded and overworked which sets up inflammatory reactions in the body. One of the consequences of this can be painful inflammatory conditions in the muscles and joints; this can present as arthritis, muscle pain and stiffness and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an inflammatory condition where the patient feels stiffness and pain in many parts of the body.

In those with hepatitis, it is important to nurture the immune system to secure a strong foundation for health.

If these musculo-skeletal problems occur in people with hepatitis, it is very important to take a holistic approach, and treat the whole patient and their immune system and not just the symptoms. Conventional anti-inflammatory therapies using non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can have limitations for patients with hepatitis because these drugs must pass through the liver before getting into the bloodstream and must be metabolized or broken down by the liver. These patients already have liver inflammation, which may reduce the ability of their liver to metabolize these drugs, increasing the risk of drug side effects. These drugs also promote leaky gut syndrome, which worsens liver inflammation.

Simple pain killers like paracetamol and acetaminophen can be liver toxic in themselves, especially in high doses. Stronger anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids and immuno-suppressants also present problems because they weaken the immune system, which allows viruses to replicate more readily. Thus, the use of nutritional and naturopathic medicine to treat arthritis and fibromyalgia becomes more desirable because it is much safer and does not overload the metabolic functions of the liver. These holistic therapies work very well but they take longer to work than conventional drugs.

Autoimmune diseases are more common in those with the hepatitis C virus or those who have used Interferon therapy. These can range from autoimmune hepatitis, a low platelet count, Raynaud’s disease (white, cold hands and toes), vasculitis and polyarteritis nodosa (inflammation of the blood vessels) Sjogren’s syndrome (drying of the mucous membranes), and arthritis.

In some instances, it is necessary to use anti-inflammatory drugs when the pain of arthritis or other inflammatory diseases of the connective tissues is disabling. Generally, the non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen or ibuprofen or celecoxib, are not especially liver toxic, and may provide quick and effective pain relief. I prefer to use these drugs when pain flares up, and once the pain is under control, to very slowly wean the patient off them. At the same time I use the natural anti-inflammatory supplements discussed below. The use of natural therapies, dietary improvement and raw juicing often enables the patient to cope with a much lower dose, or intermittent use only, of the drug therapies. If you are taking anti-inflammatory drugs frequently or on a long term basis, make sure that your doctor does regular liver function tests. If the liver enzymes become elevated, then these drugs should be discontinued early and quickly, thus avoiding any permanent liver damage.

If I have a patient with arthritis, muscle pain or fibromyalgia I will use the following program:

Serrapeptase  has a powerful natural anti-inflammatory effect, and helps to reduce pain. Serrapeptase is an enzyme that has the ability to digest protein. It helps clear inflammatory debris from joints, muscles and connective tissue.

Glucosamine combined with the minerals boron, calcium hydroxyapatite, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, silica and selenium. Research has shown these nutrients are effective and extremely safe. Formulas are available which combine all these ingredients in one capsule. I find that capsules are better absorbed (have better bio-availability) than tablets. These nutrients may:

  • Reduce joint inflammation & swelling associated with arthritis
  • Increase joint mobility
  • Reduce muscle pain
  • Assist in the prevention of muscle cramps & spasm
  • Assist in the prevention of osteoporosis

Fish Oil is an extremely valuable source of natural anti-inflammatory oils. It provides extra amounts of the omega 3 essential fatty acids known as DHA and EPA omega 3 fats.
Omega-3 fats are used by the body to produce Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory hormone-like molecules. Omega-3 fats can help reduce the inflammation that is a significant factor in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and hepatitis. Capsules should be taken with meals for best absorption. If you keep the capsules in the fridge and take them at the beginning of meals you won’t get any after taste or belching.

Also you can get omega 3 from the following foods –

Oily fish – grilled or canned, walnuts, omega 3 eggs and green leafy vegetables

Vitamin C and Selenium are also extremely effective; they are potent anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and both have anti-viral effects. Daily doses of 1000 mg of vitamin C and 100mcg of selenium are generally required but some patients may need higher doses.

The herbs boswellin, yucca root, alfalfa, devil’s claw, sea cucumber, curcumin, bromelain, quercetin and ginger root are very effective in conjunction with the previous nutrients mentioned. These herbs are all available combined together in one easy to take supplement.

Try to get 30 minutes of sunshine daily, as this will ensure production of vitamin D in your body and vitamin D builds bone strength and exerts natural anti-inflammatory properties.

Raw juicing can help as it provides concentrated vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients and pigments, which exert natural anti-inflammatory effects, not just in the muscles and joints but also in the liver. Make sure you check out our Arthritis and Fibromyalgia juice in the recipe section!

The program I have given here will help you to achieve an adequate intake of the nutrients essential to control and reduce inflammation. In those with chronic disease one cannot rely on the diet alone to achieve optimal nutrition for the immune system. My approach works on the whole immune system to reduce inflammation and strengthen the various components of the immune system including the liver and spleen.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

Marquis, Christopher. 2000. “90% of U.S. diets lacking, Feds say”. Denver Post. 28 May, 24A
Munoz, S.J. 1991. Nutritional Therapies in Liver Disease. Seminars in Liver Disease. 11:278-291