The most feared consequence of chronic infection with hepatitis C virus is the development of a diffuse web of scar tissue throughout the substance of the liver. This internal scarring occurs in response to years of inflammation of the liver tissue by the hepatitis virus. It is the nature of scar tissue to contract and the shrinking and hardening of the progressively scarring liver tissue creates distortion of the liver’s bile duct system, lymphatic channels, and blood vessel network.
The shrinkage and toughening of the liver – known as cirrhosis – ultimately chokes off the liver cells that perform essential chemistry for the body – synthesis of blood clotting proteins, elimination of toxins, metabolism of cholesterol, etc. Extremely advanced cirrhosis usually causes jaundice (yellow coloration of the skin) and can be fatal through liver failure – unless prevented through a liver transplant.
The anti-viral medication, Harvoni, has revolutionized the lives – and prognosis – of people with hepatitis C.
12 weeks of oral therapy makes the virus permanently undetectable in 95% of people and should be investigated by anyone with this condition.
Whether or not one uses Harvoni, a very promising therapy that seems to help retard or even apparently arrest the cirrhosis process was described by Dr. B. M. Berkson of New Mexico in his article, “A Triple Antioxidant Approach to the Treatment of Hepatitis C using Alpha-lipoic Acid (thioctic acid), Silymarin, Selenium, and other Fundamental Nutraceuticals,” and published in Clin Practice Alt Med 2000; 1(1):27-33. (See a 6-page PDF with this link.)
Since much of the damage done to the liver cells by the cirrhosis process involves oxidation, Dr. Berkson employed potent anti-oxidants in several patients with severe liver disease from hepatitis C – some of whom were on the liver transplant list. Apparently his program produced dramatic clinical improvements, allowing people to regain their sense of health and strength and return to their employment. There was significant normalization of previously abnormal liver function tests. The case accounts are quite inspiring to read.
Dr. Berkson also reports benefits in hepatitis C, and other serious conditions, from the use of low-dose naltrexone, which can be investigated further through his clinic in Las Cruces, New Mexico, about 45 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas.
Dr. Berkson’s supplement “recipe” is as follows (each of these items can be found at your local natural food store and at many pharmacies):
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Lipoic acid (thioctic acid) 300 milligrams, twice daily
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Selenium methionate 200 micrograms, twice daily
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Silymarin (milk thistle) 300 milligrams, three times daily
The above supplement regimen was also combined with a program to optimize the intestinal bacteria, since “unfriendly” bacteria in the intestine can send a steady stream of toxins up into the liver via the portal vein system.
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[It is always wise to perform a stool culture to check for the presence of pathogenic bacteria, yeast overgrowth, amoeba infestation, etc. This test can be ordered through numerous specialty laboratories (such as GenovaDiagnostics.com) with the requisition of a physician or other health professional. If any of these organisms are detected, they should be treated under the care of a skillful clinician. Eradication of significant pathogens will allow the acidophilus to work better.]
To optimize the intestinal flora – and to minimize the toxic burden to the liver – it is wise to consume “friendly” probiotic bacteria as part of a probiotic. (See my answer to a question about probiotics for more details on proper selection and dosage of probiotics.)
The probiotic is available as a powder (preferably in a “non-dairy” form – not grown on milk culture) and is taken as 1/2 teaspoon into water or juice, or in two capsules (preferably non-gelatin “veggie caps”), before breakfast and before bed. This regimen should be followed steadily for three to six months and, probably, for several weeks every few months, indefinitely.
In view of the many assaults that daily life presents to the intestinal flora of each of us – chlorinated drinking water, alcoholic beverages, antibiotic residues in foods, pesticides on vegetables, etc. – the acidophilus regimen described above would probably be a good strategy for most everyone on a regular basis.
Complete care of the liver includes avoidance of liver-damaging toxins – alcohol, cleaning solvents, chemicals in processed foods, gasoline fumes, and especially the pain-medicine, acetaminophen (brand name, “Tylenol”). It is equally important to eat a diet rich in green and yellow vegetables. A high-potency multivitamin/mineral supplement daily can contain liver-damaging vitamin A (retinol) and should be avoided. (See my article, “Re-thinking Multivitamins.”)
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