Hepatitis Has Many Faces

When we hear the word hepatitis we usually think of the viruses that attack the liver, especially hepatitis C and B, which wreak havoc worldwide. Thankfully we now have a 95% cure rate for the hepatitis C virus. The word hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and inflammation damages the liver and can result in cirrhosis if it is prolonged over many years.

What causes hepatitis?

  • Alcohol excess
  • Carbohydrate excess can cause fat accumulation in the liver leading to inflammation
  • Adverse drug reactions
  • A build-up of iron in the liver
  • A build-up of copper in the liver
  • Autoimmune inflammation

I see many people with all types of hepatitis. Recently I followed up a patient with severe autoimmune hepatitis and fatty liver. She was aged 60 and was very overweight at 302 pounds (137 kilograms) with a large protuberant abdomen. Her liver enzymes were very elevated and she was extremely fatigued. She had just seen a liver specialist who wanted to give her a full range of vaccinations and start her on the immunosuppressant drug called Imuran. She was frightened by the prospect of needing a liver transplant and anxious about taking a powerful drug.

She had been told by a dietician who worked with her liver specialist, that she must eat small meals 6 times a day; understandably this had caused a lot of unwanted weight gain. She had seen me several years ago and I had given her a program of supplements and a gluten free diet and she had experienced a great improvement in her liver function and lost a lot of weight. However, as is typical, she lost her focus and started eating processed foods such as gluten free bread and biscuits and basically just eating too much. She was addicted to food and had a dysfunctional relationship with food.

I explained to this patient that after eating food, the body releases free radicals that cause inflammation and this is why it is important not to eat too frequently or too much. I have noticed that people who graze all day and night often have weight problems. If you are a diabetic you need to eat 3 small meals a day, and perhaps a few small snacks, but if you are not a diabetic, you do not have to eat 3 meals a day, unless you are truly hungry. It has been proven that lab rats who are fed 30% less calories, live 30% longer, so this is telling us something. Many people dig an early grave with their teeth!

Intermittent fasting is very beneficial, as it reduces inflammation in the gut and liver and gives the liver a well-earned rest! One can do a 3-day raw juice fast or a bone broth fast with great benefit. Fasting increases the number of mitochondria in our cells and reduces unhealthy bacteria and fungi in the gut by starving them of the sugar they need to thrive. A build-up of unhealthy bacteria in the gut is common in overweight people with fatty liver because they eat too much carbohydrate. These bad bacteria and yeasts ferment the sugars in the gut producing alcohol and toxins. The result is a leaky gut and more liver inflammation.

My patient with autoimmune hepatitis and fatty liver was quite horrified when I told her she needed to fast for 10 days on raw vegetable juices and bone broth. But she was so desperate to avoid taking the drug Imuran that she would do it. I assured her that I could get her back to the healthy state we had achieved together before, but she needed to do exactly what I told her. The alternative was to eat whatever she liked and whenever she wanted, and stay obese and exhausted and to take Imuran. But Imuran is no sure cure.

Imuran is also known as Azathioprine and has been associated with several forms of toxic effects upon the liver including acute cholestatic (bile stasis) injury developing during the first year of starting therapy, and a chronic liver injury, occlusive disease of liver veins and a nodular regenerative hyperplasia that typically arises 1 to 5 years after starting azathioprine. Azathioprine can also cause an acute liver injury that is typically cholestatic (bile stasis).  This complication is uncommon but not rare, occurring in approximately one in a thousand treated patients.  The acute cholestatic injury due to azathioprine usually presents with fatigue and jaundice after 2 to 12 months of starting therapy.  Liver biopsy typically shows intrahepatic cholestasis with focal death of liver cells.

The liver injury usually resolves rapidly on stopping the drug, but prolonged cholestasis has been reported and some cases have been associated with vanishing bile duct syndrome, which can be progressive and eventually fatal. Azathioprine can also cause chronic liver injury and long term therapy has been linked to the development of portal hypertension and nodular regenerative hyperplasia. Liver biopsy shows nodular regenerative hyperplasia and can progress to hepatic failure, particularly if azathioprine is continued. For more information see https://livertox.nih.gov/Azathioprine.htm

I recommended the following for my patient –

  • Gluten free and sugar free diet
  • Plenty of good natural protein from eggs, lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Plenty of cooked and raw vegetables
  • Intermittent fasting with raw vegetable juices and/or bone broth
  • Livatone Plus 2 capsules twice daily
  • NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine) 600mg capsules, 2 twice daily
  • Vitamin C 1000 mg twice daily
  • Selenomune capsules – one every second day
  • Berberine 2 capsules daily

She will be reviewed in 3 months’ time, and if she is improving with weight loss occurring and liver enzymes reducing, she should be able to avoid Imuran.

I have found that fatty liver condition and autoimmune hepatitis respond very well to nutritional medicine and this approach is generally free of any side effects. Regular follow up is required to keep patients focused and motivated. If you need support please phone our naturopath Christine Ki on 623 334 3232. If you have an autoimmune condition you can read all my recommendations in my book Healing Autoimmune Disease. A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.

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