Hepatitis C Treatment and Remedies: How to Ward Off This Dangerous Infection

Milk Thistle

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  • The length of time for taking hepatitis C medications can take anywhere from 12 to 48 weeks, depending on what type of medicines you’re taking, the strain or genotype of the virus that you have and the symptoms you’re experiencing
  • By making positive changes in your daily habits, you can reduce the risk of spreading the infection and prevent further damaging your liver

The good news is that hepatitis C is curable. In fact, in some people, acute hepatitis C infection can typically resolve on its own. Therefore, if the disease is diagnosed through a blood test during the early stages, you may choose not to undergo drug therapy immediately.

Instead, you may wait and then request another blood test a few months later to see if your body has successfully fought off the virus.1 During this period, bolstering your immune system through healthy lifestyle tactics is absolutely necessary. However, if the infection is already chronic, then your physician may recommend conventional drugs to help you treat the disease. Keep in mind, though, that these drugs may pose certain side effects that can add to your symptoms.

Conventional Drugs Used for Hepatitis C

The length of time for taking hepatitis C medications can last anywhere from 12 to 48 weeks, depending on what type of medicines you're taking, the strain or genotype of the virus that you have and the symptoms you're experiencing. You will need to consult with your physician on this.2

Usually, two to three types of drugs are taken to treat hepatitis C infections, a technique known as combination therapy. Some of the typical hepatitis C drugs prescribed today include:3

  • Interferon — This assists your immune system in fighting viruses to help prevent complications. Interferon drugs are administered intravenously by a healthcare provider.
  • Ribavirin — It works by stopping viruses from replicating and spreading in your body. It is found in several strengths and is taken orally, as a tablet, capsule or solution.
  • Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) — As the name implies, they directly attack the hepatitis C virus. All DAAs are taken orally.
  • Protease inhibitors — They help prevent infection from spreading by stopping viruses from multiplying in the body.

You may need to consult your physician to help you determine the right combination therapy for your HCV infection. Remember that while you're taking the drugs, you also need to have regular blood tests to see if the medications are taking effect.

Beware: HCV Drugs May Have Severe Side Effects

One of the drawbacks of taking hepatitis C medications is that they can be expensive — a 12-week course can cost you over $94,000. But what's worse, these drugs that are made to "heal" you may have devastating effects themselves. For example, interferon has been linked to side effects, such as:4,5

Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, headache and fever)

Rashes and itchy skin

Depression

Low red blood cell count (anemia), which can make you feel tired and out of breath

Low white blood cell count, which can lead to infections

Constipation or diarrhea

Insomnia

Weight loss

Appetite loss

Slowed growth in children

Inflammation in the bowels or pancreas

Vision problems

Reduced thyroid function

Liver and/or lung disease

Meanwhile, ribavirin may lead to birth defects if taken by a pregnant woman. If a man fathers a child while taking this drug, the child may be at risk of birth defects as well.6 Viekira Pak, another combination drug used to treat genotype 1 in particular, was found to, ironically, cause liver failure, according to the U.S. FDA.7 Those who already have liver scarring have a high risk of this complication.

Are There Natural Remedies for Hepatitis C?

With the costs and potentially troublesome effects of hepatitis C medications, it's no wonder that some people are turning to natural remedies to heal the infection. The good news is that natural remedies that are said to help with hepatitis C are available, and include:

  • Milk thistle. Scientific studies have found that milk thistle (Silybum marianum), a plant from the aster (Asteraceae) family,8 may potentially benefit patients, with few reported side effects. This herb has been found to reduce liver inflammation, stimulate growth of liver cells and protect them from damage and even have an antiviral effect against HCV.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). This is a potent amino acid that can rapidly metabolize into glutathione. Glutathione is used by almost every cell in the body to neutralize toxins. According to one Italian study, patients with low glutathione levels in their body have more severe liver disease. A separate study found that replenishing glutathione levels in HCV patients who are using interferon helped improve their response to the medication.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Originating in China over 2,000 years ago, this entire system of healthcare combines nutrition, acupuncture, massage, exercise, heat therapy, meditation and herbal medicine to help treat various disorders. Many patients with hepatitis C who turned to TCM-based protocols have successfully decreased their symptoms, normalized liver enzyme levels and slowed down liver damage.9

Remember that following a healthy lifestyle is the first step you should take if you have this disease. By making positive changes in your daily habits, you can reduce the risk of spreading the infection and prevent further damaging your liver.

MORE ABOUT HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C: Introduction

What Is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C in Pregnancy

How Do You Get Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C Duration

Is Hepatitis C Contagious?

Hepatitis C Causes

Hepatitis C Types

Hepatitis C Symptoms

Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C Prevention

Hepatitis C Diet

Hepatitis C FAQ

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