Many health care professionals are recommending that their patients who are “baby boomers” get tested for Hepatitis C. Did you know that 1 in 30 baby boomers are infected with Hepatitis C and don’t even know it? In 2012, the CDC amended testing recommendations to include one-time Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) testing for all persons born between 1945-1965 regardless of other risk factors.1 In fact, people in this age group are 5 times more likely than any other age groups that have HCV.2 But why?
Let’s first discuss what Hepatitis C Virus is exactly. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease which was only just discovered in 1989. Much of the affected population carries no symptoms and therefore don’t even know they have it. Hepatitis C affects the liver and can cause severe liver damage or cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is transmitted by recreational drug use involving needles, recipient of a blood transfusion, sexual contact with a person who has the virus, and unsterilized needles or equipment in healthcare settings or tattoo needles.
Symptoms of chronic HCV are:
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the skin also known as jaundice
- Joint pain
One of the main reasons this age group is recommended to be screened for HCV is because effective screening procedures for donated blood weren’t instituted until 1992. Donated blood can be lifesaving for individuals who have lost blood because of trauma or surgery, as well as for people who have become severely anemic. Screening measures to protect both the donor and the recipient are important to prevent the transmission of any blood borne disease.
Another factor that contributes to the reasoning behind this age group being mostly affected by the virus in the past is because disposable syringes weren’t introduced until 1950-1960. Medical procedures increased after World War Two, and prior to 1950, injections were given in glass and metal syringes, which were sterilized manually and re-used.3 Improper or incomplete sterilization could easily transmit small blood-borne pathogens, like Hepatitis C.
Testing for HCV is done by first testing the Hepatitis C Antibody test in the blood which usually shows up two to three months after the virus has entered the body.3 This test, if positive, it is followed up with another blood test called HCV viral load to determine if the virus is in the blood stream.
Other lab tests to note when testing for HCV in the blood are:
- Your liver enzymes, SGPT and SGOT. (If SGOT is higher than SGPT, this can indicate that damage to the liver is worsening.)
- Alkaline Phosphatase
- Total Protein
Your doctor will explain what these tests mean for you. It is important to note that other factors can contribute towards abnormal lab tests. Factors such as alcohol consumption, medications, drugs, or even Hemochromatosis (high Iron detected by high Ferritin levels in the blood) can elevate liver tests as well. In fact the most common cause is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can affect up to 30 percent of the population.5
Conventional drug recommendations by physicians usually consist of a combination therapy of two to three types of medications. These medications can be used anywhere from 12-48 weeks.6 Blood tests are done during drug therapy to make sure they are working. However, there are many side effects from these drugs such as anxiety, fatigue, headache, birth defects, high blood pressure, reduced thyroid function, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, just to name a few. The problem here…current standard of treatment only has a 50 percent success rate.6
Alternative therapy with vitamins has been documented by research. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a key factor for the immune system and helps reduce inflammatory responses. Numerous studies have identified that patients diagnosed with chronic HCV are deficient in Vitamin D. One documented study showed that out of 118 subjects diagnosed with HCV, 92% of them were deficient in Vitamin D.8 Research shows that even patients taking conventional drug therapy of Hepatitis C medications benefit from Vitamin D because it improves the viral response.9 It is important to test Vitamin D to know your status. However, patients benefit from taking 5,000 IU/day.
Silymarin/Milk Thistle: Silymarin is widely used in patients with liver disease and Hepatitis C. One documented study showed that patients who were not responding to conventional drug therapy responded very well with oral silymarin supplementation. In fact, the study showed that after 12 weeks, the viral load test was undetectable in 43% of patients involved in the study.10
Other supplements used in studies with patients who have chronic and/or acute Hepatitis C is large doses of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Alpha Lipoic Acid.11 However, every case is different and this means that there is no “cure all” protocol for HCV. If left untreated, series side effects can occur. This is why getting tested is so important.
An individualized plan based on exactly what your body needs can be determined by testing a comprehensive blood test, toxic element hair analysis, and any further blood tests that your experienced nutritionist sees fit. Like mentioned above, every case is different and by defining other deficiencies and toxicities in the body, we are able to improve the immune system’s ability to heal and repair. Just because you feel healthy, doesn’t mean that there are signs your body is trending towards disease. Find out today what you can do to be healthier each day forward!
- CDC. Recommendations for the identifications of chronic hepatitis C virus among persons born during 1945-1965. MMWR 2012;61 (No. RR-4).
- Carter, Michael. HCV epidemic in North America peaked between 1940 and 1965 with medical procedures likely source of most infections April 4, 2016.
- Hepatitis C testing. https://www.hepmag.com/basics/hepatitis-c-basics/hepatitis-c-testing. Accessed on 7/11/2017.
- OH, Robert and Hustead, Thomas. Causes and Evaluation of Mildly Elevated Liver Transaminase Levels. Tripler Army Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program, Honolulu, Hawaii Am Fam Physician. 2011 Nov 1;84(9):1003-1008.
- Cherney, Kristeen. A full list of Hepatitis C Medications. July 29, 2013. http://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis-c/full-medication-list#3
- Cutler, Nicole. The top three alternative treatments to Hepatitis C. Hepatitis Central. June 2010.
- Arteh J1, Narra S, Nair S. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in chronic liver disease. Dig Dis Sci. 2010 Sep;55(9):2624-8. doi: 10.1007/s10620-009-1069-9. Epub 2009 Dec 4.
- Julio A. Gutierrez, Neil Parikh, and Andrea D. Branch. Classical and emerging roles of vitamin D in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Semin Liver Dis. 2011 Nov; 31(4): 387–398.
- Ferenci P1, Scherzer TM, et.al. Silibinin is a potent antiviral agent in patients with chronic hepatitis C not responding to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy Gastroenterology. 2008 Nov;135(5):1561-7. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.07.072. Epub 2008 Aug
- Dr. Rothfeld, Glenn. Hepatitis C can be treated without an expensive new drug. http://nutritionandhealing.com/2014/03/19/hepatitis-c-can-be-treated/. Accessed on 7/18/17