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A Natural Treatment for Hepatitis C

By Jessica Patella, ND abstracted from “A Conservative Triple Antioxidant Approach to the Treatment of Hepatitis C. Combination of Alpha Lipoic Acid (Thioctic Acid), Silymarin, and Selenium: Three Case Histories.” from Medizinische Klinik.

An estimated 4.1 million Americans have Hepatitis C (5).  Recent research showed positive and effective results in supplementing three antioxidants, alpha lipoic acid, silymarin and selenium for heptatis C.  Treatment with supplements is cost effective, with one year of supplementation costing less than $2,000 compared to an estimated $300,000 for liver transplant surgery, plus anti-rejection medications (1).

Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that reduces free radicals and chelates metals, or binds metals, from tissues (1).  Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) has been used for treatment of liver disease, alcohol induced hepatitis and poisoning from liver toxic mushrooms (1, 6,7).

Silymarin is the extract of milk thistle (Silibum marianum) and has been used traditionally for hundreds of years in the treatment of liver disease (1).  More recently, research has shown that silymarin decreases hospital stays and normalizes liver enzymes in individuals with viral hepatitis (2).

Selenium is an essential metal that is required by the body for normal metabolism, reproduction and thyroid function (1).  Research has shown RNA viruses, including hepatitis C, create a selenium deficient state in the body, which further promotes the virus to spread (3,4).  Meaning selenium supplementation may slow the reproduction of the virus (1).

Recent research included all three of the above supplements in three different individual cases of hepatitis C (1).  The three individuals were selected at random from a group of 50 diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C. 

Case one examined a 57-year old woman with hepatitis C from a blood transfusion 10 years ago.  Her condition deteriorated and she became fatigued, nauseous, developed portal hypertension, esophageal varices*, and was treated with conventional therapies (steroids & interferon) with no improvement.  Eventually, a mass was discovered in her liver and she was told there was no hope.  After daily treatment with ALA (600mg), silymarin (900mg) and selenium (400 micrograms), a B complex vitamin, vitamin C (2,000mg), vitamin E (800IU), Coenzyme Q10 (300mg), a balanced diet, and diuretics for water retention (furosamide 40 mg, potassium choloride 10 meq) she lost almost 50 pounds of fluid in one month.  After one year on this protocol, she reported no longer feeling tired, feeling healthy, able to work an 8-hour day and free of signs and symptoms of chronic hepatitis C (1).

Case two examined a 49-year old woman with hepatitis C from a blood transfusion 10 years ago.  After seven years, she developed cirrhosis of the liver, portal hypertension and esophageal varices*.  She was told a liver transplant was her only option.  She was given ALA (600mg), silymarin (900 mg), selenium (400 micrograms), 0.5mg aprazolam (for anxiety and insomnia), and placed on a balanced diet.  After 7 months, she regained her health, was able to work, play sports, decreased her viral load and was free of symptoms of chronic hepatitis C. 

Case three was a 35-year old with hepatitis from a blood transfusion 15 years previously.  After twelve years, she developed cirrhosis of the liver, portal hypertension, esophageal varices, an enlarged spleen, and fasting blood sugars of 300 (100 or under is normal).  She was given ALA (600mg), silymarin (900mg), and selenium (400 micorgrams) per day, and a 2,000-calorie diabetic diet.  Within two weeks, her blood sugar returned to normal and she regained her energy, enabling her to return to school.

In conclusion, the antioxidant treatments in these three cases resulted in recovery and improvement in chronic hepatitis C.  There are currently no remarkably effective treatments for chronic hepatitis C; interferon and antivirals have less than a 30% response rate (1). Further research with more participants needs to be conducted to confirm these results.

*Esophageal varices: Dilated veins in the lower portions of the esophagus that can lead to bleeding and are commonly due to cirrhosis of the liver.

Note: The silymarin used in this study was distributed by Now Foods

Jessica Patella, ND, is a naturopathic physician specializing in nutrition and homeopathic medicine.  She earned her ND from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ and is a member of the North Carolina Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  Visit her website at  www.awarenesswellness.com.

REFERENCES:

1. Berkson B. A Conservative Triple Antioxidant Approach to the Treatment of Hepatitis C. Combination of Alpha Lipoic Acid (Thioctic Acid), Silymarin, and Selenium: Three Case Histories 1999. Medizinische Klinik 94: Suppl III:84-9.
2. Plomteux G, et al.  Hepatoprotector action of silymarin in human acute viral hepatitis.  Int Res Commun Syst 1977; 5:239.
3. Taylor EW, et al.  Nutrition, HIV and drug abuse: the molecular basis of a unique role for selenium.  J AIDS Hum Retrovirol (in press).
4. Zhang W, et al.  Selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidase modules encoded by RNA viruses.  Biol Trace Element Res (in press).
5. Armstrong GL, et al. The prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection in the United States, 1999 through 2002. Ann Intern Med. 2006 May 16;144(10):705-14.
6. Loginov A, et al.  Alpha lipoic acid prevents butathione sulfoxunine-induced cataract formation in newborn rats.  Free Fadicals Biol Med. 1995; 18: 823-9.
7. Zulik R.. Kassay S. The role ofthioctic acid in the treatment ot'Amanita phylloides intoxication. In: Faulstich H. et al., ¢ds. Amanita toxins and poisoning. Baden-Baden:Witzstrock. 1980:192-6.