Hepatitis C is a mysterious virus. Mysterious because many people who have it don’t know that they have it (it can take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to reveal themselves) and people who do know, may not know how they contracted it. There is no known vaccine that can prevent it, and chances of eradicating it all together from the body are slim.
Hep C is an inflammation of the liver. If it remains unchecked it can slowly destroy the liver, turning into cirrhosis and eventually cancer of the liver. People can die from Hepatitis C, but they can also survive with it for many years if they do the right things. Hep C is usually contracted through a transfer of blood (not transmitted sexually) either through a blood transfusion, or today most often between those who share needles used in taking street drugs intravenously. In fact, according to The Immune System Cure (Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Dr. Patrick Bouic), there are an estimated 300,000 cases of Hep C in Canada, as a result of tainted blood transfusions prior to 1992.
Hep C is distinguished by a higher than normal level of enzymes in the liver. Symptoms include lack of energy, having a yellowish tinge to the whites of the eyes (jaundice) and pain in the joints. A blood test will determine if a person has contracted Hep C, then one should be under the care of a liver specialist. A biopsy may be required to determine the extent of damage to the liver.
The only known treatment for Hep C is a drug called Interferon, sometimes used in combination with Ribavirin (both antiviral drugs). Success in eradicating the virus is not guaranteed, however. In The Immune System Cure we are told that only about 35 percent of those treated derive any benefit from the treatment and there can be severe side effects. Patients are told they will not be able to work during the duration of the treatment. They should expect to feel as if they have a bad flu, often experience hair loss and nausea and could feel depressed. In addition, provincial insurance does not cover the cost of the drugs, which usually amounts to about $2000 per month.
Alternative medicine on the other hand takes a practical approach to managing the virus without taking drugs and by improving overall health. Certain nutritional supplements, for example, are considered to be very beneficial to the liver; most recommended is milk thistle (whose active ingredient is Silymarin which stimulates the production of new liver cells), Lipoic acid (a potent antioxidant), and Selenium which slows down the replication of the virus and its attack on the liver. According to Dr. Julian Whitaker, a well known practitioner of natural medicine, patients taking the above supplements see a drop in their enzyme levels, they regain energy and can avoid cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.
As with any illness, a holistic approach is often best. Both traditional and alternative medicine stress avoidance of alcohol, and those suffering with Hep C can help themselves by staying on a good diet free of ‘junk’ food (fried and processed), instead eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, preferably organic. Some natural health practitioners will recommend a liver cleanse as it reduces the number of toxins in the liver and leads to better overall health. Exercise is important, as well as participating in activities that simply raise the spirits—like laughing
For a complete story on a holistic approach to living with Hepatitis C, see www.liversupport.com/interview.htm
Catherine Gilbert is a published poet and writes feature articles for Ezabu online magazine. She has taught tourism and business writing, and has edited tourism publications and historical books and articles. She is currently studying journalism and has had a life long interest in alternative health and therapies, and in all spiritual practices. Catherine resides in Campbell River BC.