Hepatitis A, B & C
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver. It’s usually spread by contaminated food and water. According to a 2015 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis A affected an estimated 2,800 people in the United States.
Although hepatitis A is not usually life-threatening, unlike hepatitis B or hepatitis C, the hepatitis A virus can make you feel sick for weeks or even months, and infected people over the age of 50 are at an increased risk of developing liver disease or liver failure as a result of the virus.
Hepatitis A is usually spread by an infected food handler or an infected food source. With proper hygiene and sanitation, the spread of the virus can be prevented. If you do contract hepatitis A, there are natural ways to relieve symptoms and boost your immune system so that your body can recover quickly.
What Is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is not as severe as hepatitis B and C because it only appears as an acute infection and doesn’t cause chronic liver disease. And unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A is rarely fatal; however, the virus can cause debilitating symptoms and even acute liver failure.
The hepatitis A virus is one of the major causes of food-related infection and illness. Once the virus contaminates food or water, it can spread quickly and cause an epidemic. An example of a major hepatitis A outbreak is the 1998 epidemic in Shanghai, China. Over 300,000 people contracted hepatitis A after eating raw clams contaminated with the virus that came from heavily polluted coastal waters. The outbreak lead to both economic and social consequences. Restaurants lost business, hospitals were packed with patients, and the infected didn’t recover for weeks and were unable to work. Plus people feared contact with the people of Shanghai for fear of transmission.
Researchers believe that poor sanitation and cooking methods that don’t kill the virus caused the contamination in Shanghai — and other cities that have suffered from hepatitis A outbreaks. Eating raw shellfish, for example, doesn’t involve a boiling process that would kill the virus. And when raw sewage is dumped into local rivers and harbors, which is common practice in places like Shanghai, there’s a much higher risk of contamination.
Signs & Symptoms of Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A symptoms range from mild to severe. Some infected people don’t experience any noticeable symptoms, especially children under the age of six. The symptoms usually appear anywhere from two to six weeks after exposure to the virus. For some, the infection will last for a few weeks, but for others, the symptoms continue for months.
The most common symptoms of hepatitis A include:
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- muscle soreness
- joint pain
- light-colored stool
- dark-colored urine
In older children and adults, jaundice occurs in more than 70 percent of cases. Jaundice causes a yellow discoloration to the skin and eyes. It can also darken your urine and lighten the color of your stool. This occurs in hepatitis A patients because their livers cannot metabolize red blood cells that are breaking down, which causes a buildup of bilirubin.
Causes & Risk Factors Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A primarily spreads when an uninfected person ingests food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person. There are a few ways that this can happen:
- If an infected person has dirty hands and prepares food for his or her family, friends or patrons
- When a parent or caregiver changes a diaper or cleans stool of an infected person and then doesn’t wash his or her hands afterward
The virus can also spread through sexual contact and contaminated food or water. A waterborne outbreak is usually associated with sewage contamination or water that isn’t treated properly. This is typically avoided in the United States because water chlorination kills the virus if it enters the water supply.
Food and water contamination is more common in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or poor personal hygiene. According to the CDC, the foods and drinks more likely to be contaminated with hepatitis A include shellfish, fruits, vegetables, ice and water. Foods can become contaminated with hepatitis A at many points, including growing, harvesting, processing, handling and cooking.
The following circumstances or scenarios can lead to hepatitis A contamination
- not having access to safe, clean drinking water
- living in areas of poor sanitation and improper disposal of sewage
- living with or taking care of an infected person
- use of recreational drugs
- engaging in sexual activity with an infected person
- traveling to areas of high hepatitis A prevalence
Interestingly, developing countries with poor hygiene and sanitary conditions rarely have hepatitis A outbreaks, even though these areas have high levels of infection. This is because in these areas 90 percent of children are infected with hepatitis A before they reach 10 years old. At that age, the children don’t develop any noticeable symptoms. They then become immune to the virus. So if they come into contact with it later in life, they will not be infected.
Areas with intermediate levels of hepatitis A, on the other hand, are at a greater risk of developing outbreaks. In countries where sanitary conditions are improving, but vary from city to city, children often escape infection in their younger years. But they may then be infected with the virus in adulthood and then they aren’t immune to it. This is how large outbreaks and higher disease rates occur within a community.
There is no specific cure or treatment for hepatitis A. Typically, the symptoms will go away after a few weeks or even months.
Conventional treatment includes the hepatitis A vaccine, which is available for children and adults who are at risk of contracting the virus, or as a way to control a community-wide outbreak of hepatitis A. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the hepatitis A vaccine “can be given as part of regular childhood immunization programs and also with other vaccines for travelers.”
The WHO also indicates that whether or not to vaccinate your child should depend on his or her level of exposure to the virus. High-risk adults include those who use recreational drugs, are sexually involved with an infected person or plan on traveling to a high-risk area. People with chronic liver disease are also at increased risk of serious complications if they acquire hepatitis A.
For someone already exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends an injection of either immune globulin or hepatitis A vaccine. But this form of treatment must be given within the first two weeks after exposure to the virus in order to be effective. Immune globulin is made from human blood plasma. It contains antibodies that can protect you from the infection. Keep in mind that it only works for a short period of time — approximately three months.
Natural Ways to Prevent & Help Treat Hepatitis A
Luckily, there are a few natural ways to prevent, and also help treat, hepatitis A. These options range from dietary choices to stress management to strategies to help avoid contracting the disease in the first place.
1. Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
The term hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. One of the most important actions to take to help treat the symptoms of hepatitis A is sticking to a clean, well-balanced and anti-inflammatory diet. Eating anti-inflammatory foods can help to regulate your immune system and allow your body to heal quickly. These foods are also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that are vital for your body’s recovery.
Here’s a breakdown of the foods that you should be consuming on a daily basis, especially as your body is recovering from an infection like hepatitis A:
- green leafy vegetables, including kale, spinach and Swiss chard
- fresh vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, celery and beets
- root vegetables, like sweet potatoes and carrots
- fresh fruit, especially blueberries, pineapple and citrus fruits
- nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds
- anti-inflammatory spices, like turmeric, cayenne and ginger
- healthy fats, especially avocados, ghee, coconut oil and olive oil
- nutrient-dense bone broth
- probiotic-rich yogurt and kefir (goat and sheep only - check with your DBM Physician if this is indicated on your program)
- gluten-free grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats and millet
While fighting off hepatitis A symptoms, and even after recovering, stay away from sugary foods, processed and packaged foods, and foods containing refined carbohydrates. These choices will only lead to inflammation and can debilitate your immune system.
2. Stay Hydrated
To treat hepatitis A symptoms, you must stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other hydrating fluids throughout the day. This is especially important if you are experiencing diarrhea and vomiting, which means that you are losing fluids quickly.
How much water you need to drink varies depending on your weight, urine output and the climate. But as a general rule, you want to get about 60–80 ounces of water per day. If you are losing fluids because you are dealing with hepatitis A symptoms, then carry around a 20-ounce bottle of water and aim to drink four of those every day. Eating hydrating fruits and vegetables will also be helpful. These foods include watermelon, kiwi, berries, spinach and cucumber.
3. Get Plenty of Rest and Reduce Stress
To allow your body to fight the hepatitis A virus, you need to make sure you’re getting plenty of rest — around eight hours every night — and you reduce stress levels. In fact, research shows that sleep has a strong influence on immune functions. If you are feeling weak and fatigued, don’t push yourself. Allow your body to rest as you recover from the virus. (12)
Having trouble sleeping? Try some natural sleep aids like eating foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to get your brain into a relaxed state. You can also use lavender essential oil to promote restfulness and relaxation. Just diffuse 5–10 drops of lavender or apply 2–3 drops to your temples and wrists before bed.
Lavender oil can also help you to reduce stress, as will stress relievers like spending time in nature or doing very gentle exercises, like yoga.
4. Try Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil can be used to boost your energy levels and get rid of nausea, one of the most common symptoms of hepatitis A. Peppermint oil is commonly used to reduce postoperative nausea and nausea during pregnancy. People who are feeling ill due to bacterial or viral infections, like hepatitis A, can also use it. Peppermint has antiemetic and antispasmodic effects on the gastric lining and colon, reducing nausea and vomiting without any side effects.
To use peppermint oil to relieve the symptoms of hepatitis A, simply rub 1–2 drops into the back of your neck and bottoms of your feet. You can also add 5–10 drops of peppermint to cool or warm bath water. Or add 2–3 drops to a cool compress and place it on your head.
5. Drink Ginger Tea
You can use ginger to boost your immune system, cleanse the lymphatic system and help the body to get rid of toxins and waste. Both ginger root and ginger essential oil can treat a wide range of health problems because of its anti-inflammatory and immunonutrition responses.
Use ginger to relieve nausea and upset stomach, two common symptoms of hepatitis A. Some other ginger health benefits include its ability to promote regular digestion and the metabolism of food, helping your body to absorb the nutrients that it needs to heal. And it can relieve pain, reduce inflammation and treat infections. (14)
One of the easiest ways to use ginger is by drinking ginger tea 2–3 times daily. You can buy ginger teabags, add 3–4 drops of ginger essential oil to warm water, or make your own ginger tea by boiling ginger root for 10 minutes.
6. Avoid Catching and Spreading the Virus
One of the leading causes of hepatitis A contamination is poor hygiene and sanitation. Keeping up with basic personal hygiene can reduce the spread of hepatitis A. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after using the bathroom, changing a diaper or before prepping and eating food.
To avoid catching the hepatitis A virus, stay away from undercooked or raw shellfish, especially in areas where the sanitation is “fishy.” And if you are traveling to an area that has a history of hepatitis A outbreaks, avoid drinking the tap water and use bottled water instead.
If you have hepatitis A, make sure to speak to your health care provider about the medications, supplements and over-the-counter drugs that you should avoid. Some of these pills or products can cause liver damage. This is something you definitely want to avoid when your body is fighting hepatitis A. It’s also very important to avoid drinking alcohol, which can also damage your liver and make the healing process more difficult.
Final Thoughts on Hepatitis A
- The hepatitis A virus is one of the major causes of food-related infection and illness.
- Hepatitis A symptoms range from mild to severe. Some infected people don’t experience any noticeable symptoms, especially children under the age of six. For those who experience symptoms, they may include fever, fatigue, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and jaundice.
- Hepatitis A is primarily spread when an uninfected person ingests food or water that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. It can also spread by sexual contact and contaminated food and water.
- It’s important to practice basic personal hygiene, including washing one’s hands with soap and water after using the toilet, to help avoid spreading the virus.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish, if you are not on a DBM Program.
- To relieve hepatitis A symptoms, make sure to eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and reduce stress. You can use essential oils like peppermint and lavender to help ease symptoms and promote relaxation. You can also drink ginger tea to boost your immune system.
It is estimated that over 300 million people are living with hepatitis B. In 2015, it resulted in 887,000 deaths worldwide. Although many people with hepatitis B don’t experience any symptoms, it’s a chronic infection that can lead to severe liver conditions like cirrhosis and liver cancer. The scary part is that it is 50–100 times more infectious than HIV. It’s also more infectious than hepatitis C. Both hepatitis B and C are transmitted through infected blood, but hepatitis A is transmitted through infected fecal matter. The virus can live outside of the body for many days and infect you unknowingly. That’s why people at risk of acquiring hepatitis B should be screened. That way those infected can limit the spread of the virus.
There is no cure for hepatitis B. But there are natural ways to support your immune system and reduce your risk of developing a chronic infection. There are also remedies for relieving the symptoms of acute hepatitis B, which for some people can last for months.
What Is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening viral infection that affects the liver. The infection can lead to acute or chronic liver disease, or even death. Approximately 1,800 people die every year from hepatitis B-related liver disease. The hepatitis B virus is a member of the Hepadnaviridae family. It’s a small DNA virus that has unusual features, similar to retroviruses like HIV. The virus is able to persist in infected cells, allowing it to replicate and cause a chronic condition. The danger of hepatitis B is that an acute infection can become chronic and lead to a wide spectrum of liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
Hepatitis B Signs & Symptoms
Most people (about two-thirds) with acute hepatitis B experience no symptoms. But some, especially adults and children over the age of 5, develop symptoms that can last for several weeks. Approximately one-third of adults with acute hepatitis B will experience symptoms. They usually develop two to five months after exposure to the virus.
The most common symptoms of acute hepatitis B include:
- extreme fatigue
- stomach pain (especially the upper right quadrant)
- loss of appetite
- joint pain
- muscle soreness
- dark urine
- light-colored stools
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Symptoms of hepatitis B usually last a few weeks. But people can experience symptoms for as long as six months. People with chronic hepatitis B are unable to clear the virus. They may experience ongoing symptoms or live symptom-free for many years. The likelihood of the infection becoming a chronic condition depends on the age at which a person is infected. Children infected with the virus before the age of six are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B. Research shows that 80 percent to 90 percent of infants infected with hepatitis B during their first year of life will go on to develop chronic infections. And 30 percent to 50 percent of children infected before the age of 6 will develop chronic hepatitis B. This is compared to less than 5 percent of otherwise healthy adults who develop a chronic infection.
Among those who do have chronic hepatitis B, 15 percent to 30 percent develop serious liver conditions, like liver cancer or cirrhosis. The type of liver cancer hepatitis B causes is hepatocellular carcinoma. Unlike other types of liver cancers that start in another organ of the body and spread to the liver, this type of cancer starts in the liver. It’s usually caused by long-term liver damage.
Cirrhosis is a serious disease that occurs when scar tissue develops in the liver. This scarring becomes so severe that the liver no longer functions properly. This impacts some of the body’s most essential processes, like blood flow, the elimination of toxins and waste, and the digestion of essential nutrients. According to research conducted at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, for those with severe chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, the five year survival rate is about 50 percent.
Hepatitis B Causes & Risk Factors
Hepatitis B is caused by a viral infection. The virus can survive outside of the body for at least seven days. During this time, it can infect a person if it enters his or her body. It can be detected within 30 to 60 days after infection. It can persist and develop into chronic hepatitis B, especially if someone is infected at a young age.
It can be transmitted or spread in several ways, including :
- Perinatal transmission: One of the most common ways that it spreads in endemic areas is by transmission from mother to child at birth.
- Exposure to infected blood: Another common cause of hepatitis B is exposure to infected blood. Transmission from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first 5 years of life is especially common. Some scenarios that put a person at risk of transmitting the virus through exposure to blood include sharing razors, toothbrushes or any sharp instruments with an infected person. If infected blood comes into contact with open sores of an uninfected person, this can spread hepatitis B.
- Sexual transmission: Sexual transmission of hepatitis B occurs when the body fluids, such as semen or vaginal secretions, of an infected person enter the body of an uninfected person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, hepatitis B most commonly spreads through sexual transmission, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of all acute hepatitis B cases. People with multiple sex partners or men who have sex with men are the most at risk of transmitting hepatitis B through sexual exposure.
- Needle sharing: The reuse of needles and syringes can transmit hepatitis B. This can happen in a health care setting or among people who inject drugs. It can also spread through instruments contaminated with blood used in tattooing or medical procedures.
Anyone can get hepatitis B. But some people are at a greater risk of exposure to the virus. This includes people who:
- have multiple sex partners
- inject drugs or share needles
- have spent time in prison
- live with or have close contact with a person with chronic hepatitis B
- are exposed to blood at work (such as health care workers)
- are hemodialysis patients
- travel to countries with a high hepatitis B rate
Because the symptoms of hepatitis B are similar to those of other viral infections, an accurate diagnosis should be made with a blood test that detects the hepatitis B surface antigen HBsAg. If the presence of HBsAg persists for at least six months, this serves as a principal marker of risk for developing liver disease later in life. During the initial phase of the infection, patients will test positive for HBeAg, an antigen that indicates that the blood and body fluids of the infected person are highly infectious.
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. But for people with chronic hepatitis B, antiviral agents are usually prescribed to slow the progression of liver disease and reduce the incidence of liver cancer. Some of the most common medications used by patients with chronic hepatitis B are tenofovir and entecavir, which are used to suppress the virus. These drugs don’t cure most people. But they do help by suppressing the replication of the hepatitis B virus and therefore reduce the risk of developing life-threatening liver conditions. Many people with chronic hepatitis B have to stay on these medications for the rest of their lives.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a vaccine can be used to prevent the possibility of infection with the hepatitis B virus. WHO recommends that “all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours … The birth dose should be followed by 2 or 3 doses to complete the primary series.” WHO also indicates that the low incidence of chronic hepatitis B cases in children under the age of 5 is due to the widespread use of hepatitis B vaccine. And the vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing infection and the development of chronic liver conditions due to the infection. The CDC reports that since 1991, the rates of acute hepatitis B in the U.S. have declined by approximately 82 percent. The vaccine lasts for 20 years. It’s probably lifelong, so you don’t need a booster vaccination.
It’s important to note that yeast is used when making the hepatitis B vaccine. So anyone allergic to yeast should not receive it. The vaccine also isn’t recommended for people who have had serious allergic reactions to a prior dose of the vaccine.
To protect infants from getting hepatitis B from his or her infected mother, the CDC recommends that the infant receive a shot called Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth. Then the infant should receive two to three additional shots to finish the series within six months. Precautions should be taken with infants of infected mothers because they have a 90 percent chance of developing chronic hepatitis B if the infection isn’t treated properly.
Natural Treatments to Manage Hepatitis B Symptoms
1. Eat a Healthy & Well Balanced Diet
One of the most important ways for a person with hepatitis B to live a longer, healthier life is to focus on maintaining an adequate nutritional balance with a whole foods and anti-inflammatory diet. Eating foods that contain chlorophyll can also be beneficial for reducing oxidative stress and liver damage. Some of the most beneficial, detoxifying, liver-cleansing and cancer-fighting foods include:
- leafy green vegetables, like spinach, kale, arugula, collard greens and romaine lettuce
- cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
- root vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and butternut squash
- fresh fruit, especially blueberries, strawberries, goji berries and citrus fruits
- fresh herbs, like basil, parsley, oregano and ginger
- probiotic dairy, like kefir, cottage cheese and yogurt - goat or sheep only. Confirm with your DBM Physician if part of your program.
- nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds
- unrefined oils, such as healthy coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil
Some common symptoms of acute hepatitis B are nausea and vomiting. It may be helpful to eat a more substantial breakfast. Then keep your lunch and dinner on the lighter side if you experience an upset stomach. You can also add 1–2 drops of peppermint oil to a glass of water to help get rid of nausea naturally. To be sure that you’re getting adequate nutrients and fluids, try fruit and vegetable juices or smoothies instead of heavier meals. This will be easier for you to digest and using immune-boosting ingredients will help you to recover.
2. Avoid Inflammatory Foods and Drinks
To help prevent the spread of the hepatitis B virus and ease the symptoms of an acute infection, avoid consuming foods and drinks that increase inflammation. This includes sugar, refined oils, refined carbohydrates, conventional dairy products and farm-raised meats. Try not to eat processed foods that typically contain refined ingredients and additives. It’s also very important to avoid drinking alcohol or using over-the-counter drugs, especially acetaminophen. They can worsen liver damage, which is a concern for people with hepatitis B. (15)
3. Stay Hydrated
Vomiting is a common symptom of hepatitis B, which can cause dehydration. You need to make sure you’re drinking enough fluids throughout the day so that you don’t become dehydrated. Drink plenty of water. Have at least an 8-ounce glass with every meal and water between meals, too. Drinking fresh fruit and veggie juices can be helpful. So can consuming bone broth, which is full of essential nutrients that will boost your immune system and help you to fight the virus. Instead of turning to sports drinks that are full of sugar and artificial flavors, drink coconut water, which will help you to avoid an electrolyte imbalance.
4. Reduce Stress
To help relieve hepatitis B symptoms and prevent the spread of the virus, you have to reduce stress levels and take it easy. Don’t engage in strenuous activities, especially if you are feeling tired and low energy. Allow your body to rest. Try some natural stress relievers, like taking a short walk outside, doing some gentle yoga. Take a warm bath or read an uplifting book. Another easy way to reduce stress and bring on feelings of peace is to diffuse lavender essential oil at home or work. If you don’t have a diffuser, just tub 1–2 drops of lavender oil into your temples or inhale it directly from the bottle.
5. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle benefits and supports the liver. It’s a powerful detoxifier. It helps rebuild liver cells while removing bodily toxins that are processed through the liver. The silymarin found in milk thistle acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production and oxidative stress. It even acts as a toxin blockade agent that inhibits the binding of toxins in liver cells. Research on milk thistle shows it can be used to treat acute and chronic viral hepatitis and liver disease. It should be noted however, that IMMUNOClean contains herbs that are intended to detox and clean the liver.
6. Boost your Glutathione Levels
Scientific research shows there’s a direct correlation between glutathione levels and viral activity for both hepatitis B and C. Glutathione is a peptide that consists of three amino acids, L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid and glycine. It is known as the “mother of all antioxidants” because it supports vital body functions, including liver detoxification. The liver uses glutathione to break down toxins. This is why glutathione levels decrease when the viral load increases. If you have chronic hepatitis B for more than 90 days, ask your healthcare provider to check your glutathione levels. If they are low, you can take L-cysteine (NAC), a-Lipoic acid and L-glutamine to help restore your glutathione levels. It should be noted that DBM does not make use of randomly selected supplements, we prefer to obtain vital nutrients, aminos and enzymes from natural sources - YOUR DIET.
If you have chronic hepatitis B and symptoms of acute or chronic liver disease, do not use herbal supplements without consulting with your healthcare provider or nutritionist first. These supplements must pass through the liver. They can cause more damage if you don’t take them correctly. Always alter your diet and lifestyle first. Make sure to eat whole foods that will help to reduce inflammation and support your liver. If you drink alcohol or do drugs, quit immediately — that should be your first line of defense.
Final Thoughts on Hepatitis B
- Over 300 million people are living with hepatitis B.
- It is a potentially life-threatening viral infection that affects the liver.
- The danger of hepatitis B is that an acute infection can become chronic and lead to a wide spectrum of liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Most people don’t experience any hepatitis B symptoms. But some may notice nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, stomach pain, loss of appetite, jaundice, dark urine, muscle soreness and light-colored stools.
- It spreads through blood or body fluids, including semen and vaginal fluids. It can also pass from an infected mother to her infant during childbirth.
- The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that every infant receive the hepatitis B vaccination.
- Some of the best at-home remedies to relieve the symptoms of hepatitis B are eating a healthy and well-balanced diet; staying hydrated; staying away from alcohol and other substances that are hard on the liver; reducing stress; boosting glutathione levels; and trying milk thistle to detoxify the liver.
Hepatitis C symptoms often go overlooked because they are similar to common illnesses, like the flu. In fact, most people with hepatitis C don’t experience symptoms until decades after they contract the virus — after their liver is damaged. That’s the scary thing about hepatitis C — it often becomes a chronic condition before people even know they have it. It’s also the leading cause of liver cancer, the most common reason for liver transplants in the U.S. and a common cause of cirrhosis. Plus, studies show that the prevalence of hepatitis C is on the rise.
A very recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that cases of hepatitis C virus infection in U.S. women in their reproductive years doubled from 2006 to 2014, rising from roughly 15,000 cases to 30,000. As a result, an estimated 1,700 infants were born with hepatitis C between 2011 and 2014.
So what are the causes of hepatitis C and how do you know if you’re infected? Keep reading to answer these questions. If you think you’re at risk of contracting the virus, make an appointment to get tested. The sooner your doctor diagnoses you, the higher your chances of fighting the virus, even with natural remedies that support your liver and help it to function properly.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Like hepatitis A and hepatitis B, hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease that’s caused by a virus. There are at least six different genotypes and 50 subtypes. Seventy-four percent of Americans have genotype 1. This makes it the most common type in the United States.
When the hepatitis C virus first infects a person, he or she may experience hepatitis C symptoms caused by an inflamed liver. Unlike many other viral infections, the hepatitis C virus does not attack the immune system. It causes an inflammatory response within the liver.
Some people are able to fight the virus when it’s still in the acute phase. But research shows that 75 to 85 percent of people infected with hepatitis C progress to a chronic infection that persists for more than six months. Chronic hepatitis C causes tiny scars in the liver, disabling proper liver function.
The liver works hard to detoxify your blood, produce bile needed to digest fat, regulate blood composition, store essential nutrients and break down hormones. When the liver doesn’t work properly, it can negatively affect the entire body. Because chronic hepatitis C leads to inflammation and scarring of the liver, it can cause serious health concerns, including the following:
- Cirrhosis: Researchers estimate that up to 20 percent of those chronically infected with hepatitis C will develop liver cirrhosis within 20 to 25 years of contracting hepatitis C. Cirrhosis is a serious disease that involves the development of scar tissue in the liver. This causes liver dysfunction that impairs the organ’s essential processes, like blood flow, the elimination of waste and toxins from the body, the digestion of certain essential nutrients and the regulation of hormone levels.
- Liver failure: The most common reason for a liver transplant in the United States is hepatitis C-induced liver failure. Unfortunately, data shows that approximately 50 percent of individuals who have received a liver transplant due to hepatitis C liver failure go on to experience a recurrence of the virus.
- Liver cancer: Hepatocellular carcinoma, or cancer of the liver, is the “fifth most prevalent cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related death,” according to research published in Recent Results of Cancer Research. The majority of liver cancer cases are associated with chronic viral hepatitis. As the incidence of hepatitis C viral infections continue to increase, researchers expect rates of liver cancer to rise as well, with the majority of cases caused by hepatitis C-induced cirrhosis.
- Death: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of every 100 persons infected with the hepatitis C virus, approximately 1–5 of them will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer. In 2014, almost 20,000 people died from issues caused by hepatitis C, such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Signs & Symptoms of Hepatitis C
For some people, it can be hard to tell if they have hepatitis C because the symptoms aren’t very noticeable until damage is already done to the liver. This is why it’s sometimes called a “silent infection.” In fact, 45–85 percent of people who have hepatitis C don’t know it. (7) It’s common to have the infection for over 15 years before ever noticing hepatitis C symptoms.
The CDC states that 20–30 percent of people newly infected by the disease experience hepatitis C symptoms, usually within 4–12 weeks of onset. The symptoms of hepatitis C are similar to other common illnesses, like the flu. This is why people typically don’t realize that they are infected with a serious viral disease. People who have contracted hepatitis C may notice the following health issues
- bleeding easily
- taking longer for bleeding to stop
- bruising easily
- swelling in the legs
- joint pain
- sore muscles
- dark-colored urine
- swelling of the belly
- stomach pain
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- yellowed eyes and skin (jaundice)
- itchy skin
You can do a simple blood test to find out if you have hepatitis C. People at risk of contracting the virus should be tested because hepatitis C symptoms usually don’t become noticeable until after liver damage has already begun. When a person tests positive for hepatitis C, he or she can begin treatment immediately and will take precautions to ensure that the virus won’t spread to others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the following groups of people should be tested for hepatitis C:
- adults born from 1945–1965
- injection drug users
- people with HIV
- people who have received clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
- anyone who was ever on long-term hemodialysis
- those with abnormal ALT (alanine aminotransferase) levels
- anyone who received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992
Hepatitis C Causes & Risk Factors
Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that spreads through infected blood. The blood of an infected person enters the bloodstream of someone who is not infected. Here’s an explanation of some of the leading causes and risk factors of hepatitis C:
- Drug use: Today, the highest risk of infection is from sharing needles to inject drugs. According to research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, there is an ongoing epidemic of hepatitis C in the U.S. among young adult injection-drug users. Outbreaks are also higher among young white adults who are 30 years old or younger and have a history of prescription opioid use. Studies show that 8–25 percent of people under the age of 30 who inject drugs will contract hepatitis C. The prevalence continues to rise as the number of drug users has continued to increase in recent years. And data suggests that incidence rates are highest among people new to injected drug use, as 25 percent of them become infected with hepatitis C within two years of beginning injected drugs.
- Sexual activity: The transmission of hepatitis C through sexual activity remains a controversial subject among scientists. Research shows that the risk of hepatitis C transmission depends on the type of sexual relationship. A 2013 study conducted at the University of California San Francisco evaluated 500 couples that consisted of one hepatitis C positive person in order to research the risk of spreading hepatitis C within monogamous, heterosexual couples.Researchers found that hepatitis C virus prevalence among partners was 4 percent, with a maximum incidence rate of hepatitis C transmission by sex among heterosexual, monogamous couples being 0.07 percent per year. Although the prevalence among monogamous, heterosexual couples is low, the risk of spreading hepatitis C is greater among male couples, especially those infected with HIV. The risk is also greater for men and women with multiple sexual partners.
- Being born between 1945–1965: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “of the estimated 3.2 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C in the U.S., approximately 75 percent were born during 1945-1965.” National data suggests that people born in these years are five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C. In fact, it’s the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants among people from this age group.
- Childbirth: Mothers can also pass the virus to their infants during childbirth. Research shows that the type of childbirth, whether C-section or vaginal birth, does not influence transmission. Also, mothers who engage in active drug use and also have HIV are more likely to pass the hepatitis C virus to their newborns.
- Casual contact, like hugging, holding hands, sharing utensils or kissing will not spread the virus. If the blood of an infected person enters an area of broken skin, the virus can spread. So people with hepatitis C should not share razor blades, toothbrushes or nail clippers with others. Hepatitis C is not a hereditary disease; it can only spread when an infected person shares the blood of a non-infected person.
Conventional Treatment for Hepatitis C
The first step in hepatitis C treatment is for your doctor to evaluate you for the presence or severity of liver disease. Your doctor will most likely use liver function tests to determine if any damage has already been done to your liver since you were infected. Your treatment will depend on the condition of your liver and the hepatitis C genotype that you have.
A person with acute hepatitis C can be treated with medications. This can sometimes help to prevent the development of chronic hepatitis C. However, most people don’t know they have the virus until it’s already chronic and there is liver damage. Treatment for chronic hepatitis C involves antiviral medicines. Sometimes people need to try different combinations of medicines until they find what works for their bodies.
There are a number of FDA-approved hepatitis medications. Most of them fall into one of these categories:
- Protease inhibitors — Used to attack the virus and stop it from reproducing.
- Polymerase inhibitors — Blocks a specific protein that the hepatitis C virus needs to grow.
- Direct-acting antivirals — Interferes with enzymes that the hepatitis C relies on to multiply.
In June of 2016, the FDA approved a drug called Epclusa, which is the first medication that can be used to treat all hepatitis C genotypes. This drug contains a combination of antiviral medications. It’s usually given in combination with another drug called ribavirin to treat patients with cirrhosis.
Side effects of Epclusa include slowing heartbeat, shallow breathing, headache, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia and trouble concentrating.
Natural Ways to Manage Hepatitis C Symptoms
Zinc is necessary for normal liver function and it plays a role in multiple aspects of the immune system. Several studies have found that zinc supplementation helps to improve symptoms of hepatitis C, including digestive issues, weight loss and hair loss. Zinc is also a powerful antioxidant that boosts immune function, which is important for people fighting the hepatitis C virus.
Research shows that probiotics help to support the liver because the beneficial bacteria in the gut promotes the health of the liver and allows it to function properly. Probiotics also improve the immune system’s defenses so that it can fight off the overgrowth of pathogens that lead to disease. If there are too many unhealthy bacteria in the intestines, this can have a serious impact on the liver. One study published in Hepatitis Monthly found that probiotic therapy can reduce the symptoms and improve different types of liver disease. Researchers also noted that probiotic therapy is safe, noninvasive and inexpensive when used by patients with liver disease.
3. Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil benefits the function of the liver due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and immune-stimulating effects. A key compound of black seed oil, thymoquinone, protects the liver from injury through several mechanisms like scavenging free radicals and elevating glutathione levels. Research shows that black seed oil protects the liver from liver damage. Also, it can help to postpone the progression of chronic liver disease.
4. Vitamin D
Research shows that it’s common for people with chronic hepatitis C to have a vitamin D deficiency because it needs to be stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Getting enough vitamin D will help to enhance immune function, improve mood and concentration, and even fight diabetes, which is common among people with hepatitis C. Studies show that taking vitamin D supplements along with hepatitis C medications can have positive effects by helping to raise vitamin D levels.
5. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Loss of appetite and weight loss are common symptoms of hepatitis C. But it’s important that people with the virus eat a healthy and well-balanced diet in order to ensure that they are getting essential vitamins and minerals. If you are having trouble eating or you are experiencing digestive problems, stick to small, simple meals and water throughout the day. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (like avocados and coconut oil) and high-fiber foods that will help to regulate digestion. Also, consuming probiotic foods can be beneficial, and so will foods that help to cleanse the liver so that it can function properly, like sweet potatoes, bananas, ginger root and even liver from organic, grass-fed cattle. Stay away from refined carbohydrates and sugars, sugary drinks and processed foods that will only damage the liver further.
6. Avoid Alcohol and Drug Use
For people with liver disease, their livers cannot break down alcohol quickly enough, which leads to inflammation and toxicity. Plus, alcohol makes it more difficult for your liver to absorb essential nutrients. So, drinking alcohol can contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that will make hepatitis C symptoms worse. Injected drug use is one of the leading causes of hepatitis C. If you are already infected, you can spread it to others if you keep using. Plus, you’re harming your body and spirit with these drugs and increasing your chances of becoming another death of despair. Quit drinking alcohol and using drugs immediately, and get help if you need it — it can save your life.
7. Engage in Gentle Physical Activity
Gentle exercise throughout the week can help you to relieve some hepatitis C symptoms, like tiredness and low energy. Some great forms of gentle exercise include yoga, pilates, qigong and tai chi. Even a walk outside can be beneficial by helping to boost energy levels and raising your vitamin D levels too. The best part about all of these exercises is that they not only work your body, but they benefit your mind and spirit as well. This can be extremely important when you’re struggling with hepatitis C symptoms and associated health issues.
8. Take Precautions to Prevent Spreading the Virus
In order to prevent spreading the hepatitis C virus, there are some precautions that you can take. Do not share any of your personal items that may have blood of them, such as razors or toothbrushes. If you have an open cut or sore, cover it until it has healed completely. Also, don’t donate blood, organs, tissue or semen. Remember that hepatitis C cannot spread by casual contact, like hugging, kissing, holding hands or coughing. And, there is a low risk of transmission from sex when you’re in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. If you are not in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, use condoms to prevent the spread of hepatitis C.
If you choose to use herbal supplements to help manage your hepatitis C symptoms, do so under the guidance of your doctor. Medications and even herbal remedies can stress your liver. This can be extremely problematic for people who have hepatitis C-induced cirrhosis or liver disease. Plus, if you are NOT on one of our programs, it should be noted that some herbal supplements interact with hepatitis C medications, so tell your doctor exactly what you’re taking.
Final Thoughts on Hepatitis C Symptoms
- Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease caused by a virus. There are at least six different genotypes and 50 subtypes. Seventy-four percent of Americans have genotype 1.
- Of every 100 persons infected with the hepatitis C virus, approximately 1–5 of them will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer. In 2014, almost 20,000 people died from issues caused by hepatitis C, such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Hepatitis C symptoms usually develop after someone has the virus for many years, when the liver is already damaged. Some common symptoms of hepatitis C include fatigue, bleeding easily, bruising easily, jaundice, fever, digestive issues, joint pain, dark-colored urine and swelling of the belly.
- Today, the number one cause of hepatitis C is injected drug use. The prevalence of hepatitis C continues to rise as the rate of injected drug use rises
- There are natural remedies that can help you to manage your hepatitis C symptoms, such as zinc and vitamin D, plus taking probiotics and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes foods that help to cleanse the liver. Make sure that in order to not over-stress the liver these recommendations are from NATURAL sources.
Article Source: To read the full article visit Dr. Axe's website