Treating Hepatitis with functional medicine
The term hepatitis means ‘inflammation of the liver’. It is most commonly caused by a viral infection or as a result of liver damage from drinking alcohol.
- Hepatitis A – is caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is usually contracted in developing countries where the sanitation is poor. For example where food and drink can become contaminated by water that contains faeces from an infected person.
- Hepatitis B – is caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. It can be contracted from infected needles, passed from mother to child and in rare cases caught through unprotected sex. Hepatitis B can be vaccinated against.
- Hepatitis C – is caused by the hepatitis C virus and is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK. It’s usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, such as via sharing needles. Hepatitis C often causes no symptoms, unless it become chronic.
- Hepatitis D – caused by the hepatitis D virus. It only affects people who are already infected with hepatitis B, as it needs the hepatitis B virus to be able to survive in the body.
- Hepatitis E – is caused by the hepatitis E virus. It has been mainly associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked pork meat or offal, but also with the wild boar meat, venison and shellfish.
- Alcoholic hepatitis – is a type of hepatitis caused by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years.
- Autoimmune hepatitis – is a rare cause of long-term hepatitis in which the immune system attacks and damages the liver. It can lead to liver failure. Treatment involves medications that suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. The British Liver Trust has more information about autoimmune hepatitis. https://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/liver-information/liver-conditions/autoimmune-hepatitis/
Some types of hepatitis will resolve without any serious consequences. Other types can become chronic and long-lasting. This can lead to liver cirrhosis (scarring), loss of liver function and in some cases liver cancer.
Short-term hepatitis often passes without any symptoms. If the hepatitis becomes chronic it is typical to experience:
- A fever
- Severe fatigue
- Muscle and joint pains
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
Conventional medicine has several available treatments for depending on the type of hepatitis. These include anti-viral agents and in the most advanced cases, liver transplants. The success of these can be limited and the side effects can be serious and in some cases dangerous.
In functional medicine the aim is to promote liver function, support the immune system so it can clear the hepatitis virus from the body and support the liver’s detoxification pathways. This protocol will include:
- Dietary adjustments – to remove foods that stress or damage the liver and increase foods rich in nutrients and protective factors that support liver function.
- Nutritional liver support – a personalised regimen of nutrients, supplements and herbs to support liver function, promote proper detoxification pathways, lower inflammation in the liver and protect the liver from the damage caused by free radicals.
- Immune support – specific therapies to stimulate the immune system and aid it in clearing viral load.