Hepatitis C virus

February 23, 2012

Health, Health Concerns, Herbs

HCV is spread through contact with infected blood and through mother-to-child transmission. Some research also suggests that unprotected sexual contact can transmit the virus.

by Dr. Paul Stallone — 

Being told by your physician that you have the hepatitis C virus (HCV) — the number one reason for a liver transplant in the United States — could leave you temporarily speechless, particularly if you do not exhibit any of the symptoms. However, most people diagnosed with HCV do not display signs.

HCV is a communicable liver disease that slowly damages the liver, and if left untreated, sometimes results in cirrhosis and liver cancer. When infected with the hepatitis C virus, your body produces antibodies to try to destroy the virus. In the majority of cases, these antibodies will fail at destroying the HCV.

Researchers have learned that the HCV can mutate quite rapidly and that there are several major substrains, and each of these substrain viruses is diverse. This could be one reason why the antibody response to the HCV is unable to eradicate it. The infection can remain undetected within you for a very long time.

The majority of people who are infected with the HCV do not even know that they are harboring this potentially deadly disease. Some may not experience any symptoms, while in others, it can take from 10 to 15 years before symptoms develop. Some people have harbored this virus for more than 20 years before being diagnosed.

Typical treatment of HCV consists of a variety of antiviral medications — most often the use of a drug called Interferon. Interferon is produced by your immune system to combat viral replication, and the synthetic version, which is used to treat many conditions, acts by stimulating the antiviral activity of the immune system. This destroys all the viral RNA so that replication cannot take place, and the virus is destroyed.

Unfortunately, like most pharmaceuticals, Interferon (injected daily for up to one year) comes with a host of side effects that can be compared to those of chemotherapy drugs. Depression, suicide, psychotic episodes, severe joint pain, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue, nausea and loss of appetite can result. Most Interferon prescriptions will include additional drugs to reduce side effects, but many of those drugs come with their own risks and side effects.

Herbs are being incorporated into the treatment of HCV with incredible results and may help with the virus itself or to cope with side effects of other antiviral medications. Skill and experience are needed to prescribe herbs correctly, however, and any herbal treatment plan should include a knowledgeable physician who can recommend herbs other than the few listed for reducing side effects or to combat the disease itself.

Milk thistle — An ingredient in milk thistle promotes the growth of new liver cells. It is an effective antioxidant, which prevents free radicals from damaging cells, and may block various types of toxins from entering and injuring liver cells. Milk thistle may also prevent inflammation of the liver.

Ginseng — Research suggests that ginseng may help the body’s disease-fighting ability and glandular systems. It may help improve the way the liver functions and reduce damage to liver tissue from HCV.

Ginger and St. John’s Wort — Both of these herbs can help reduce the side effects of Interferon. Ginger is one of the best ways to eliminate nausea. St. John’s Wort can help address any depression issues a patient may experience.

Herbs may not be the perfect treatment solution for everyone, although they have performed well for others. You may need a more direct approach tailored by a physician. Diagnostic tools, such as blood work, CT scans, ultrasounds, liver biopsy and an overall physical assessment, will enable your physician to customize a treatment plan that is best suited for you.

Treatment modalities of ozone/oxygen IV therapies, nutritional IV therapy, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and nutraceutical supplements are sometimes the most beneficial. IV therapies bypass the gastrointestinal tract and are administered directly into the bloodstream, where the nutrients are absorbed almost instantly. Specific aspects of the HCV can be addressed and treated using this approach, which is one more benefit over taking mass-produced pharmaceuticals.

Treating HCV starts with a diagnosis that is difficult to obtain, as symptoms rarely show themselves. If you experience persistent abdominal pain, muscle aches, joint pain, swollen legs/feet, diarrhea or jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), you should discuss these symptoms with your physician.

Prevention and awareness are precautions that may help reduce the number of HCV diagnoses in the United States. HCV is spread through contact with infected blood and through mother-to-child transmission. Some research also suggests that unprotected sexual contact can transmit the virus.

Lifestyle choices should significantly reduce or eliminate a person’s risk of contracting this disease, and a healthy treatment plan can greatly support a patient who has already been diagnosed with HCV.

Taking a natural approach to treatment can be complementary to the medications and other options. This allows the body to build the proper immune markers to heal and develop agents that help fight viruses naturally by stimulating the body’s immune-response system.

 

Paul Stallone, N.M.D., founded the Arizona Integrative Medical Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. He combines natural, alternative and conventional treatments to best fit each patient’s needs. www.drstallone.com or 480-214-3922.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2011.

 

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