Hepatis and Liver Health
The Chinese call it the “house of the soul”. In fact, the liver is the central processing unit of our bodies. It performs over 500 known metabolic functions. Our liver processes and stores excess carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. It manufactures blood clotting chemicals and bile salts necessary for digestion as well as glycogen needed by our brains and muscles. The liver balances hormones and breaks down the toxic substances that we eat, drink and breathe.
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis alphabet now goes from A to G, but it is the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) that is receiving headline attention. As Stephen Buhner says in his book, Herbs for Hepatitis C and the Liver,
compares to 33,000,000 believed to carry the HIV virus.
Laboratory tests for HCV were not available until 1989, so most people being diagnosed today have had the disease for many years. HCV’s symptoms are those of middle-age -- low energy, PMS, irregular menses, hot flashes, frequent urination, chest pains, high cholesterol, low libido, insomnia, joint pain, depression, anxiety, headache, weight gain or loss, poor digestion, back pain, short-term memory failure, allergies, frequent colds, edema or bloating, itchy skin, eczema, intolerance to alcohol, fats, coffee. Untreated Hepatitis C can progress to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
Conventional treatment for HCV uses interferon based drugs alone or in combination with other antiviral drugs. (Actually, our immune system produces interferon to combat viruses in our bodies). Treatment is expensive and usually has severe side effects. Depending on the genotype of the HCV virus and degree of liver damage, interferon may not be indicated. Additionally, only about 50% respond positively, and in cases of those who do, the virus returns.
Have you noticed the ubiquitous the disclaimer at the beginning of self-help books, “nothing in this book is intended to replace your ‘real’ doctor”. Then we are told to discuss any nutritional and/or herbal program with someone whose medical school didn’t offer classes in these subjects? Our bodies are not made of nothing, but of what we put in it. With increasing medical specialization and distancing from the healing gifts of the earth, it is so very important to participate in our own wellness, consulting our inner guidance as well as knowledgeable and trained healers. Food and herbs: seeds, roots, berries, fruit, leaves, stems, and flowers to fungi are not “alternative” but complementary.
The liver responds immediately to stress reduction, good nutrition (including nutritional supplements such as the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid and the minerals selenium and zinc) and herbal support. Botanical sources that support the liver are beets, artichokes, dandelion, milk thistle seed and a dozen others. Major herbs that support and enhance immune function (where the HCV virus hibernates prior to invading liver cells) include astragalus, ashwaganda, licorice, Siberian ginseng, schizandra berry and more.
The good news is that the liver is very forgiving. Fully two thirds of it can be removed and it will regenerate itself. Hepatitis C takes a long time to develop and the damage it causes is gradual. It takes work to reverse it including lifestyle changes and a comprehensive herbal and nutritional protocol, but increasing evidence shows success is fully possible.