Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. There are many causes of Hepatitis but the most common cause is viral infection. There are many known Hepatitis viruses including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and hepatitis E.

Once a virus has infected the liver, several things happen:
• The virus may cause no symptoms or damage at all, but can leave the body of its own accord without patients being aware that they were infected. This is called a sub-clinical infection.
• The virus may cause no liver damage, but can continue to live quietly in the liver and blood (this is called being a healthy carrier).
• The virus can cause an acute (short lived) illness, with jaundice (turning yellow), nausea and a general feeling of being unwell. This is acute Hepatitis. Usually acute Hepatitis will get better completely and the virus will leave the body. Sometimes the liver can recover completely but the virus stays in the liver and blood ("healthy carrier").
• Sometimes a virus may cause chronic Hepatitis. This involves damage to the liver, which usually does not get better by itself. The symptoms are not always obvious, Sometimes tiredness, nausea or abdominal discomfort are the only symptoms.
• If chronic Hepatitis goes on for several years the liver may repair itself without much damage or it may respond by making scar tissue. This tissue stops the liver from working properly and this condition is called cirrhosis.
• Very occasionally chronic damage to the liver from Hepatitis viruses may cause liver cancer.
Each type of Hepatitis has its own list of symptoms or in some cases no obvious symptoms at all. The virus may be present and passed on in body fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, saliva, and blood). Symptoms may include gastric discomfort, clay coloured stools and dark urine.

TREATMENT OPTIONS
As with all conditions your Doctor should be consulted to diagnose and treat this condition. Ask your Doctor about the latest advice for this ailment.

DIET HINTS
• Avoid fatty foods such as butter, meat, fried and creamy foods and chocolate. Fats, particularly saturated and heated fats, are detrimental to the liver.
• Avoid drinking alcohol as this places a strain on the liver.
• Drink plenty of fluids e.g., filtered water, juice, herbal teas and broths.
• Adequate protein is needed to repair damaged liver tissue.
• Limit the intake of refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, sweetened fruit juices, cakes and pastries as these place stress on the liver.
• A high fibre diet has been shown to increase the function of the gall bladder and liver. Psyllium, pectin, guar gum, slippery elm, oats, fruits and vegetables are good sources.
• Fresh juices such as artichoke, carrot, spinach, grape, tomato and beetroot may detoxify the liver and support the body.

VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS
• Milk thistle can protect the liver, promote liver cell regeneration and help reduce liver enzyme count.
• Liquorice may be effective in treating viral hepatitis, particularly chronic active hepatitis. (CAUTION: avoid using liquorice in the presence of high blood pressure.
• Vitamin C may have a beneficial action in treating viral hepatitis as has anti-viral properties and can also improve immune function.
• Vitamin E is important for protection against liver damage and to support immune function.
• Zinc can support immune function.
• Turmeric has anti-inflammatory benefits for liver infection.

NOTES
With Hepatitis B, the partners of the previous two weeks may be helped by a special globulin injection (not the vaccine), available from your Doctor. All partners in the previous six months should be tested. For those people who remain infectious (a carrier) it is important to have future partners vaccinated.

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Follow the Diet Hints.
2. Avoid the risk factors for contracting Hepatitis viruses.
3. Your Pharmacist may recommend some nutritional supplements if the diet is inadequate.
4. Hepatitis B is the only sexually transmitted disease, which has a preventive vaccine. This is useful to protect partners of people who carry the virus.