Hepatitis C was Killing Me Until Alternative
did what Conventional Medicine Could not: I am Normal!
written by Sherril J. Wolff
Hepatitis C (HCV): The Disease
There are approximately 3.9 million chronically
infected Americans and 35,000 to 180,000 people infected each year in the
United States. Of these, 85% of infected persons are chronic, 24,500 to
126,000 per year will develop chronic liver disease and 8,000 to 10,000
per year will die from chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis or cancer.
HCV infection is widespread throughout the world. The first global estimate
of HCV prevalence, suggest that up to 3% of the worlds population
has HCV. There may be more than 170 million chronic carries at risk of developing
liver cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.
For a slight majority of patients, the illness begins suddenly as though
they have come down with the flu that never seems to go away.
For many other people, the onset appears gradually over a long period of
time. Many times, HCV takes years before being diagnosed because the symptoms
of hepatitis mimic several other illnesses (autoimmune illnesses, cancer,
chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, arthritis, et...)
The symptoms of HCV range from no symptoms at all, to gradually progressive
fatigue and lack of energy and sometimes to complete debility. The effects
of the virus vary widely between individuals. Other known symptoms include;
joint and muscle pains, memory loss, mental confusion, skin problems such
as dry or itchy skin, rashes or spots, depression, anxiety, irritability,
indigestion, nausea, vomiting, gas, sleep disturbances, pain or discomfort
in the abdomen, chills, sweating, hot or cold sweats, eyesight problems,
sensitivity to hot or cold, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, urinary problems
such as odor or coloration, slow healing and recovery, susceptibility to
illness, weight loss or gain, water retention, mental problems, swelling
of the stomach, legs or feet, mouth sores, excessive bleeding, loss of libido,
red palms and brain fog.
Some doctors insist on believing that HCV usually has no symptoms and dismisses
the patients' complaints as being all in their heads." Some HCV+
patients require treatment for depression for years; before uncovering their
actual diagnosis of HCV. Much is still unknown about HCV and many physicians
have little experience in treating this virus. Also, many doctors are not
yet familiar with the research that legitimizes the various symptoms that
are a part of this virus.
- My Story
In August 1995 I gave blood for our annual blood drive at work. Three
weeks later I received a letter from the American Red Cross telling me
that I should never give blood again. I had tested positive for Hepatitis
B and C. I thought the test had to be wrong so I made an appointment with
my doctor. She re-tested my blood and indeed found out that I did have
HBV & HCV. In October 1995 I had a liver biopsy that confirmed the
diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis C. RNA however, I had developed the antibody
for HBV so it was nonreactive. I soon found out that this diagnosis was
not something to celebrate, there is no cure and could lead to cirrhosis
(a scaring of the liver) which could turn into liver cancer.
I felt completely helpless and could not understand how this happened.
My doctor explained that I more than likely contracted this virus from
the eight blood transfusions I had in 1982 during a minor surgery that
went wrong. No one told me that the blood I needed to save my life could
in the long run kill me.
For now there is no cure for Hepatitis C (HCV) nor is a lot of research
being done to find a cure. In 1995 only FDA treatment being offered for
HCV was 3 million units of recombinant alpha interferon, 3 times weekly
for six months. My doctor explained that a biochemical response with ALT
and AST normalization occurs in 40 - 60%. (ALT and AST are two liver enzymes
that indicates ongoing liver damage.) This response occurs within three
months but relapses after six months of treatment are as high as 50 - 70%.
However, virological response appears to occur only in 20 - 25% long term
and again there is a problem with patients who have detectable HCV RNA
but who have low or normal ALTs level. My doctor explained there were some
side effects that included symptoms like a bad case of flu however they
would subside within the first two weeks. Also, there could be problems
with certain blood levels that required monitoring during the treatment.
I knew my chances were low but I decided to begin the Interferon treatment
on October 25, 1995.
My Experience with Interferon
When I started treatment my liver enzymes were;
ALT - 27 (normal 0 - 28); AST - 29 (normal 0 - 31) and Gamma GT - 45 (normal
0 - 35). One week later I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed. The
side affects from the interferon were horrible. I gave myself the injection
at night with 2 Tylenol as directed by my doctor. Within a two to three
hours, I was vomiting, chilling with a fever, had a massive headache and
every muscle in my body ached. These side effects were only to last for
only 6 to 8 hours but mine did not seem to go away. (See Side Effects from
Interferon below). I was losing weight because I could not eat and so tired
I could not work. When I saw my doctor two weeks after my treatment began
he assured me I should be feeling better by my next appointment (two weeks
After my first two weeks of treatment, my enzymes did go down some so I
was hopeful. My side effects however, did not go away and seem to be getting
worse. It was so hard for me to inject myself with the interferon knowing
that I would be violently ill within an hour or two. The only thing that
helped me through this was the hope of being cured.
After my next appointment and blood work, my liver enzymes were slightly
higher; ALT - 44; AST - 49 & Gamma GT - 41. My doctor said that this
happens sometimes and does not mean the treatment was not working. When
I told him I was still getting so sick after the treatment and the symptoms
never did completely go away before I had to take the next injection. All
he told me is that I could not be that sick and sent me back to work. It
took every bit of strength I had to work eight hours a day. Once again I
felt hopeless and could not understand how my doctor could not see how sick
I was nor listen to my complaints.
My doctor finally decided to discontinue treatment after four months when
my liver enzymes climb to; ALT - 41, AST - 52 and Gamma GT - 87. Devastated
when my treatment failed and knowing there was no other treatment available
really frightened me for the first time since my diagnosis. I left the doctors
office in tears, trying to accept the fact that I was not going to get any
better and that was very hard. A cold feeling doctor hands me a death sentence
and sends me on my way to deal with this disease alone. (Note: there now
are other drugs available that are having some success; however they are
used in combination with interferon. After learning about the side effects
of interferon, I could not use that drug again.)
After the initial shock and depression when my treatment failed, I decided
to do some research of my own. What I found out about HCV and interferon
shocked me even more. Not only did my doctor not inform me about all the
horrible side effect of interferon (some of those are permanent) and he
forgot to tell me that this virus also attacks other organs. The other organs
most often effected include the blood vessels, skin, joints, kidneys and
thyroid. If chronic hepatitis C infection causes liver cirrhosis, the potential
problems can include fluid accumulation in the abdomen, bleeding in the
stomach, jaundice, confusion, poor blood clotting and susceptibility to
My Search for a Cure
For years I seem to get every little flu bug in
the air so I thought but all along it was flare ups from my HCV. When I
realized this, I was on my way to curing myself through nutrition and alternative
medicine. We all do it, moms chicken soup and extra vitamin C when
we get the flu and it helps so why couldnt this help my liver. I started
reading everything I could about the liver and what kinds of supplements
could detoxicify it. One thing about the liver that is important to know,
is the liver can repair itself if we take care if it. Everything we eat,
breath and absorb through our skin is refined and detoxified by the liver.
So it made sense to me that nutrition and diet play a big role in keeping
the liver healthy.
According to the Encyclopedia of Natural medicines:
A natural diet, low in natural and synthetically saturated fat, simple carbohydrates
( sugar, white flour, fruit juice, honey, et...), oxidized fatty acids (
fried oils) and animal fat, and high in fiber is recommended for a healthy
liver and body.
Natural substances to help your letter detoxify are as close as your kitchen
cupboard Eating foods rich in lecithin ( soybean), essential fatty acids
( salmon, flax oil) and green leafy vegetables rich in fiber and antioxidants
like vitamins C and E, are all gourmet cuisine for your liver Lowering your
intake of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein and avoiding
excessive amounts of alcohol are other recommendations that are good both
for your liver and overall body health.
Dandelion root and artichoke are both excellent spring dietary condiments
that are very helpful in improving liver bile flow. In addition to these
good choices, supplements like L-methionine are and excellent choice for
a congested liver. Glutathione peroxidase is one of the body major detoxification
enzymes and is in part defended by methione during a toxic challenge to
The article goes on to describe the function of Milk Thistle. It concludes
that the most potent substances for protecting the liver are Milk Thistle,
Dandelion and L-methionine. L-methionine is classed as a " supplement,"
and Milk Thistle and Dandelion as " botanical medicines." - "Protecting
and Enhancing Liver Functions," by Ronald G Reichert, ND, Alive: Canadian
Journal of Health and Nutrttion_ (#161, March 1996): pp. 14-16
I began my program with a low fat diet that helped me loose fifty pounds.
This inspired me to publish my first book, The Body Shop Cookbook
that has over 350 low fat recipes and lots of great nutritional information.
I also started a nutritional supplement program that included vitamin C,
Vitamin B complex, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid. I also take two products
by Nature's Sunshine called LIV-A and LIV-Guard. LIV-A is a combination
of herbs which include Red Beet, Dandelion, Parsley, Horsetail, Liverwort,
Black Cohosh, Birch, Blessed Thistle, Angelica, Chamomile, Gentian and Golden
Rod with an herbal source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,
silicon, sodium, riboflavin and Vitamin A. All these herbs nourish the liver.
LIV-Guard with milk thistle provides nutrients that must be present for
the liver to perform its 500 or more functions. Each tablet contains: Vitamin
A (as beta-carotene), Vitamin C, Iron (ferrous gluconate) and mixed in a
base of milk thistle extract, dandelion root, choline bitartrate, and inositol.
There are several other hepatic herbs available to us such as Balmony, Barberry,
Black Root, Blue Flag, Boldo, Fringetree Bark, Golden Seal, Vervain, Wahoo,
Wild Yam and Yellow Dock. All of these hepatic herbs help strengthen, tone
and stimulate the secretionary function of the liver.
After six months of taking these products my liver enzymes began to drop
and I started feeling much better. The color in my skin began to come back
and I did not have that sick look anymore. My doctor's pleased with the
results but still skeptical about what all the supplements were really doing
for me. She also reminded me that even though my liver enzymes were going
down - I still had HCV.
I did not intend to give up my search for a cure because I truly believed
that these herbs and vitamins would cure my HCV. Then I found a wonderful
book called "Sharks Don't Get Cancer". It states, "Having
survived virtually unchanged for four hundred million years, the shark is
certainly one of the most remarkable creatures on the face of our planet.
The shark appears to be the only animal with a natural immunity to cancer
and practically every disease known to man. Researchers worldwide are investigating
the shark's natural resistance to disease. There has been an explosion of
medical research on shark cartilage's amazing ability."
This book made me wander if shark cartilage has been killing some types
of cancers and certain virus's, could it kill Hepatitis C, it is a virus.
So, I added 1500 mg. of shark cartilage to my program and in six months
my liver enzymes were even lower.
Finally, I found MSM. MSM is not a medicine, drug or a food additive. It
is a nutritional food supplement found in all foods, - milk, fruits, meats
and vegetables, MSM is a natural form of organic sulfur found in all living
organisms. MSM is the 3rd largest ingredient found in your body. Your body's
made up of water, salt and MSM. Unfortunately, MSM quickly disappears from
foods when processed, cooked and/or stored. The second you pick fruit or
vegetables from the tree or vine, they begin rapidly losing MSM.
Remember what Ronald G Reichert said in his article Protecting and Enhancing
Liver Functions, "In addition to these good choices, supplements like
L-methionine are and excellent choice for a congested liver". MSM is
the transport molecule for elemental sulfur that's required for proper assimilation
of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. In addition, the peptize hormone,
insulin, requires sulfur in its molecular structure, and numerous other
proteins, catalysts, and enzymes incorporate sulfur into their molecular
framework. The body uses MSM to create new, good healthy cells. Vitamins
and amino acids work with MSM during this process. Without proper level
of MSM, our bodies are unable to build good healthy cells, and this leads
to illness. Our bodies are producing new cells 24 hours per day. If your
body does not receive the proper nutrition and building materials it needs,
it will produce bad, dysfunctional cells, deficient of the basic ingredients
that constitute a healthy cell.
If MSM is needed by the body to create new, healthy cells and the liver
is the only organ in the body that can repair itself; then could not MSM
help the livers process in creating new cells and completely repair the
liver. This is the reason I added MSM to my program.
In conclusion, when I stopped my interferon treatment in February 1996,
my liver enzymes were; ALT - 41, AST - 52 and Gamma GT - 87. On December
18th, 1998, my liver enzymes were; ALT - 22 (normal 0 - 28); AST - 25 (normal
0 - 31) and Gamma GT - 31 (normal 0 - 35). For the first time in 16 years,
I AM NORMAL!! The doctor's thrilled and told me to keep doing what I am
doing because it is saving my life. I am still not sure that she believes
that the vitamins and herbs are the reason but I think she must be wandering.
In one year I will be re-tested to see if I have killed this horrible virus
for good. I truly believe I have already. I have not felt this good since
the day I contacted HCV.
Remember, we are all very different so each individual will have their own
program. However, I feel everyone with any of the hepatitis virus's should
be taking Shark Cartilage, Liv-C, Liv-Guard and MSM along with eating a
healthy low fat diet and an exercise routine. Also, stop drinking alcohol
and caffeine, stop smoking and drink plenty of water.
To talk to the author for additional information
about the healing power of herbs, how to receive a copy of her book and
the products mentioned in this article; call 1-815-732-4809 (daytime), call
1-309-756-0265 (evenings), firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.lowfat4life.com
Side Effects of Interferon Alpha in Viral Hepatitis
Interferon alphas have been widely used to treat chronic hepatitis C
virus infection. However, a wide array of side effects have been encountered
in several large trials of treatment of hepatitis C. Side effects are common;
ranging from minor to problematic for a significant proportion of patients.
Major adverse events can occur but life-threatening adverse events have
Early flu-like side effects are predictable and are encountered in the
majority of patients. These tend to occur within 6-8 hours after starting
treatment and are worst with the first injections. Administration at night
may reduce the frequency of these side effects. They usually regress after
discontinuing therapy, albeit after some weeks. These side effects include
fever, malaise, tachacardia, chills, headache, arthralgias, and myalgias.
Later side effects develop after some days. These include fatigue, malaise,
apathy, and cognitive changes. Between 10 and 15 percent of patients find
the chronic side effects intolerable and discontinue treatment. Higher doses
(above 5-6 MU three times weekly) tend to give higher rates of adverse events.
TABLE 1. Most Common Adverse Side Effects for Patients Treated With
Consensus Interferon (CIFN) or Interferon Alfa 2b (3 MU=15 ug) (percentage)
IFN a-2b 15ug
|Resp tract congestion
|Thyroid test abnormal
The following is a list of blood tests that can be effected by Interferon.
This levels most be monitored closely because of the potential danger to
Other Potentially Dangerous Side Effects
|| Neutrophil count|
|White blood cells
|| Basophil count|
|Segmented neutrophil count
|| Eosinophil count|
|| Monocyte counts|
|| Serum calcium|
- Cardiovascular Side Effects
Both benign and severe cardiac manifestations have been reported. Cardiac
arrhythmias, including supraventricular tachycardia but also sudden death
and ventricular arrhythmias, have been reported. There are single case reports
of dilated cardiomyopathy. Hypotension has been reported in large trials.
Dermatologic Side Effects
A variety of rashes including erythema multiforme have been noted. Pruritus
can be troublesome. Mild hair loss is relatively common but is reversible.
Local erythema is common. Psoriasis can develop or be aggravated and is
usually difficult to treat. Vitiligo has been reported.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are relatively
Hepatic Side Effects
Serum aminotransferases may increase during interferon alpha treatment.
These are generally mild and resolve with continued treatment in responsive
patients. Hepatic decompensation may occur in patients with cirrhosis, and
these patients are more susceptible to infections.
Autoimmune hepatitis should not be misdiagnosed as hepatitis C infection,
as severe exacerbation of the disease with cholestasis and severe liver
injury can occur. Patients with documented hepatitis C infection may deteriorate
after interferon alpha treatment if an underlying autoimmune diasthesis
is present. This has been observed in LKM antibody-positive individuals.
These patients require careful monitoring if interferon is considered the
first line of treatment. Rejection may occur if interferon is used after
Hormonal and Metabolic Side Effects
A sustained increase in serum triglyceride levels has been reported.
Diabetes mellitus may worsen or develop
Interferon has been associated with hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroiditis
and hyperthyroidism. Other autoimmune endocrine diseases have been induced
but thyroid disease has been reported in 2.5-20 percent of patients. This
may not be reversible after stopping therapy, unless therapy is stopped
early, and long-term thyroid replacement may be required. It is possible
that underlying thyroid disease is more common in chronic hepatitis C infection.
An aggravation of the chronic hepatitis may occur and discontinuation
may be required, particularly for hyperthyroidism. Autoimmune hepatitis
usually necessitates discontinuation of therapy. Interferon may promote
the development of systemic lupus erythematosus.
Granulocytes, thrombocytes, and red blood cell counts are commonly decreased
during treatment. These are usually mild if normal counts are present initially,
but can be dose limiting in the presence of low counts, for example in patients
with hypersplenism. Patients may be predisposed to infections. The mechanism
of granulocytopenia is unknown, but inhibition of cell release from the
bone marrow has been suggested.
Neuropsychiatric Side Effects
These effects include fatigue, asthenia, drowsiness, lack of initiative,
irritability, confusion, and apathy; behavioral, mood, and cognitive changes
are a relatively frequent dose-limiting toxicity. Severe depression may
occur and suicidal ideation is well described. This can be more marked in
patients with a history of depression, but suicide has been reported in
patients without a previous psychiatric history.
Severe depression is a medical emergency. The overall incidence of neurotoxicity
is 25-33 percent. Seizures have been recorded in 1.3 percent of patients.
There are isolated reports of extra pyramidal syndromes with ataxia and
akathisia. Paraesthesias have been recorded.
Rare Adverse Events
Ocular: Retinopathy has been reported in Japanese patients.
Lung: interstitial fibrosis of the lung and hearing impairment have been
found. The cases of pneumonitis may also be due to the use of Sho-Saiko
This array of side effects indicates the importance of selecting patients
for therapy and optimizing response. Careful assessment is required before
treatment, and monitoring is required during treatment. Relatively little
is known about the mechanisms of many of the side effects of interferon
Combination antiviral therapy, particularly ribavirin and interferon,
is likely to be given to many patients with chronic hepatitis C. Interactive
pharmacokinetic studies examining the distribution and metabolism of these
two drugs are in progress.
Every patient is different and if your doctor does not listen to your
complaints as mine did, find another doctor. As I stated in my article,
the side effects I experienced were extremely bad and all my doctor said
was I could not be that sick.
It has been pointed out by a reader that people with HCV can not metabolize iron and therefore should not take iron supplements.
We have not been able to get in touch with the author of this article and can not varify it's accuracy.