Approximately 4 million Americans have hepatitis C. Sadly, most of them have been told by their doctor that even with treatments designed to hold the virus at bay they will eventually require a liver transplant. But this dire outlook is just not accurate as far as I’m concerned. Here’s why.
Marginally Effective Drugs
Conventional treatment for hepatitis C usually involves two drugs: injections of interferon, an immune booster, and ribavirin, an oral antiviral. This duo makes for a rough treatment course.
Interferon causes substantial problems that include, but are not limited to: flu-like symptoms, insomnia, thinning hair, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and psychiatric problems, i.e. anxiety, depression, and intense irritability.
Ribavirin has serious side effects as well, including hemolytic anemia, which is marked by the destruction of red blood cells and increased risk of heart attack. It has also been linked with headaches, shortness of breath, and cough.
Side effects notwithstanding, interferon isn’t all that effective over the long term. The main goal of treating hepatitis C is to retard the progression of serious problems such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), cancer, and liver failure.
However, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine casts doubt on interferon’s prolonged use for the management of this disease. The HALT-C (Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-term Treatment against Cirrhosis) Trial followed more than 1,000 patients for three and a half years and found that those who were treated with interferon fared no better in terms of disease progression than those who were not treated.
Though adding ribavirin to interferon does increase response rates—halting disease progression in approximately 40–50 percent of patients—it still leaves at least half of those afflicted to ultimately face liver failure, transplant, or death.
A Safe, Natural Treatment for Hepatitis C
Fortunately, there is hope for people with hepatitis C—not with a pharmaceutical approach but with an extremely effective natural protocol.
More than 25 years ago, my friend and colleague, Burton Berkson, MD, developed a natural treatment for hepatitis C and other liver disorders. Dubbed “triple therapy,” it features three nutritional supplements: alpha lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium. All three of these are powerful antioxidants, but each of them has additional unique benefits for the liver.
- Alpha lipoic acid boosts levels of glutathione, a detoxifying antioxidant that is particularly protective of the liver.
- Silymarin, an herbal extract derived from milk thistle, also increases glutathione levels, plus it curbs inflammation and rejuvenates the liver by stimulating the production of new hepatic cells.
- Selenium, a trace mineral, slows the replication of the hepatitis C virus—I like to think of it as “viral birth control.”
Together, these supplements thwart the attack on the liver and put the brakes on disease progression. The daily doses are 600 mg of alpha lipoic acid, 900 mg of silymarin (milk thistle extract), and 400 mcg of selenium, taken in divided doses.
Dr. Berkson found that when patients with hepatitis C followed this protocol, their viral counts improved, they felt better, and they could resume their normal activities. Best of all, they were able to avoid liver transplants. I’ve also had success using this therapy with my own patients.
Hepatitis C can lie dormant for years, slowly damaging the liver all the while, before becoming symptomatic. So I recommend you get screened for this disease if you have a history of elevated liver enzymes, have ever used IV drugs, have unprotected sex, have had a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, or have had long-term kidney dialysis or treatment with blood products made before 1987. Early detection and treatment are your best bet.
Now it’s your turn: Have you ever used any of these nutritional supplements to help your liver?