Liver | June 11, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver tissue which can be caused by a viral infection, toxins, autoimmune disease or alcohol. Various forms of hepatitis are named after different letters of the alphabet and include A, B, C, D and E. They are sometimes called ‘hep A’, ‘hep B’, ‘hep C’, and so on.
While all forms of hepatitis affect the liver, they all have different causes and treatment options. The hepatitis viruses are the most common causes of viral hepatitis in Australia—with cases of hepatitis B and C being seen more frequently. Symptoms include jaundice, poor appetite, vomiting, fatigue and abdominal pain.
Hepatitis may be acute or chronic (long-term) if the symptoms last for longer than 6 months.
The liver is important for a wide range of functions in the body. It helps to detoxify the body by removing toxins and metabolising drugs.
The production of bile helps to carry away these waste products while also assisting in the breakdown of fats in the small intestine during digestion.
The liver stores vitamins and iron, regulates metabolism and makes proteins important for blood clotting.
Hepatitis A: Usually this infection is considered a mild infection in children but people who are middle-aged are more susceptible to severe infection. It causes an acute form of hepatitis and does not have a chronic stage. It is usually transmitted to humans through contaminated foods. Vaccination programmes have contributed to the decline in the number of hepatitis A virus infections in certain countries.
Hepatitis B: The prevalence of hepatitis B is extensive with more than 2 billion people infected worldwide. Infection can be short-lasting or become chronic. The virus is transmitted via the faecal-oral route with poor personal hygiene, overcrowding and ingestion of contaminated food and water major risk factors. In low endemic areas such as Australia the infection is usually acquired through high risk sexual activity or needle sharing. The infection can also be passed from the mother to her unborn child.
Hepatitis C: Transmitted through contact with blood (including through sexual contact). According to the literature the major risk factor is the use of intravenous drugs and shared injection equipment. Hepatitis C leads to a chronic form of hepatitis which can result in cirrhosis—chronic liver damage which leads to scarring and eventual organ failure. Often people with the infection remain asymptomatic for 10-20 years.
Hepatitis D: Infection with Hepatitis D requires the presence of Hepatitis B and so is only possible in people with an existing Hepatitis B infection. It produces symptoms similar to Hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis E: Epidemics of this virus are related to areas with both poor sanitation and substandard public health facilities. It produces symptoms similar to hepatitis A.
Not everyone has symptoms if they have hepatitis. Many cases are not a serious health threat but if the disease has become chronic it can sometimes lead to liver failure and death. If symptoms do occur they may include:
These dietary guidelines may assist in the management of hepatitis:
Maintain adequate protein intake to assist in the function of the immune system and to help heal and repair.
Foods that are a good source of protein include nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, natural yoghurt, poultry and fish.
Reduce intake of red meat to reduce iron intake. The accumulation of iron is associated with liver damage in chronic cases of hepatitis C.
Eat small regular meals for easier digestion, to reduce nausea and balance energy levels throughout the day.
Aim to eat 2 serves of fruit and 7 serves of vegetables for their fibre and antioxidant content.
Eat foods that encourage healthy liver function such as fresh lemon juice in water, beetroot, carrot, rocket, endive, onions, parsley and ginger.
Foods that are recommended you avoid include:
Processed foods and fatty takeaway’s. Foods high in fat, fatty liver and obesity have been linked to faster disease progression in hepatitis.
Alcohol should be avoided as it is associated with increased risk of cirrhosis, higher rates of death and reduced response to interferon therapy.
Foods high in sugar or high GI foods. People with hepatitis C infection are 4 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes.
Silymarin (the collective name for the range of antioxidants present in St Mary’s thistle), has been extensively researched for its protective effects on the liver—especially in liver diseases. It has the ability to scavenge free radicals, increase levels of glutathione (a potent antioxidant), stimulate regeneration of the liver and reduce excessive scar tissue. Studies in individuals with chronic hepatitis C have found St Mary’s thistle to decrease elevated liver enzyme levels, reduce viral load and liver scarring (hepatic fibrosis) and improve quality of life.
Low blood and liver levels of vitamin E are reported in patients with chronic Hepatitis C infection. When vitamin E has been supplemented in conjunction with conventional medical therapies it has been found to reduce hepatitis C viral load.
In another study, chronic hepatitis B patients who didn’t respond to medical treatment supplemented vitamin E for 3 months. They found that 7 of the 5 subjects supplementing with vitamin E had normalised liver enzyme levels and the DNA from the hepatitis B virus was cleared from their blood. This result is referred to as a complete response and was not experienced in the control group.
There are different forms of hepatitis with chronic cases of B and C occurring more frequently in Australia. St Mary’s thistle and vitamin E are the two nutrients with the most amount of research to suggest they are very beneficial in people with viral Hepatitis B and C. They may also help to support the liver in other forms of hepatitis, even if the cause is unrelated to a virus.
Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia
Milliman WB, et al. Hepatitis C; a retrospective study, literature review, and naturopathic protocol. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Aug;5(4):355-71
Andreone P, et al. Vitamin E as treatment for chronic hepatitis B: results of a randomized controlled pilot trial. Antiviral Res. 2001 Feb;49(2):75-81
Kalantari H, et al. Effects of silybum marianum on patients with chronic hepatitis C. J Res Med Sci. 2011 Mar;16(3):287-90