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Natural Healing for HCV

June 2005

Natural Healing for HCV
Hepatitis is a chronic illness that can lead to serious liver damage, cancer and death. Conventional treatments exist and are effective in some patients. Lifestyle changes in conjunction with therapies considered "alternative" can often offer assistance in symptom management, quality of life improvement, prevention of further liver damage and liver repair.

However, many questions can arise when seeking alternatives to conventional treatment. Are they safe? Are they effective? Are there side effects? Will they interfere with other medications or treatments I am currently on? Have the therapies been researched?

Many alternative therapies have been researched in this country and abroad and are found to be safe and effective. There is still a great deal of research that needs to be conducted though. As with any medication, side effects and interactions can exist and should first be evaluated. Address any concerns with your healthcare providers before beginning a new nutritional or supplement plan and for other appropriate treatment options.

An effective treatment option is nutrition! It is easy to do, and can be done along side with conventional care. One of the foundational principles to healing is recognizing that our bodies do possess the innate ability to heal themselves if allowed to and given the right tools. The choices we make can directly affect our health. The following is intended to guide you in making life choices that support and promote optimal liver function.


Foods to Avoid

Alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is damaging to liver cells and has been shown to increase the speed of hepatitis progression. Alcohol consumption alone can cause severe liver damage and is to be avoided completely.

Saturated fat. The liver is instrumental in fat absorption by producing bile. Blood lipid levels often rise as a result of liver disease. Lowering dietary intake is one step to helping control lipid levels. Another reason to avoid saturated fat is that organic pesticides are stored in fatty tissue. By consuming animal fat, you are consuming the pesticides and fat soluble chemicals that the animal may have been exposed to during the course of his or her life. Foods in this category include; dairy, butter, eggs, fried foods, red meat, animal proteins and organ meats. HIV-positive patients do need adequate daily protein consumption, though. Better substitutions will be discussed below.

Coffee. Coffee stimulates the liver and is one of the most pesticide-sprayed crops. Decaffeinated coffee is processed with chemicals to remove the caffeine. When eliminating caffeine from the diet, some people will experience a headache. This can be avoided by gradually cutting down caffeine intake over several days.

Artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. Any artificial substances need to be detoxified by the liver. The less work we make the liver do, the better! A good hint at figuring out what contains artificial additives is to avoid most foods that come prepackaged or in a color that does not exist in nature. Read labels carefully to see ingredients and additives.

Substances to Limit

Fats (especially animal derived). As described above, lipid levels tend to rise with progressive liver disease. Keep these fats at a minimum.

Animal protein. Fish is okay 1 to 2 times per week.

Egg whites. This can be consumed 1 to 2 times per week. Avoid the yellow yolk as this contains saturated fat and cholesterol.

Environmental chemicals and toxins. The liver is the major organ of chemical detoxification for our body. The following substances all put an extra burden of detoxification on the liver: cigarette smoke (first and second hand), detergents, cleaning products, air fresheners, paint and carpet fumes, and any other human-made chemicals. Drug use should be limited to those prescribed as necessary by your physician, as most drugs require the liver to process them.

Foods to Include

Natural Healing for HCV
Organic and free range foods. These should be chosen whenever possible to avoid added hormones and chemicals.

Whole grains. Whole grains contain natural fiber, slow down sugar absorption from carbohydrates and help to lower blood lipid levels. Some examples are brown rice, whole oats, whole wheat, whole rye, quinoa and amaranth.

Artichokes. Consume steamed artichokes 3 to 5 times per week. Do not add butter or mayonnaise.

Berries and grapes. These are high in natural antioxidant properties.

Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Raw or lightly steamed retains the highest amount of nutrition and vitamins in the food.

Garlic. Raw garlic contains a component that is naturally antiviral. Consume 2 to 4 cloves daily. Avoid garlic if you are on protease inhibitors as it interferes with drug effectiveness.

Whey protein powder. This can be combined in a smoothie with frozen fruit and juice for adequate protein intake. Substitute with soy or rice protein for people if you have dairy allergies.

Nuts and seeds. Consume one serving of raw nuts a day. Roasting nuts changes some of the beneficial properties found in the nut oil.

Filtered water. Reverse osmosis or filtered water removes any chemicals occurring in the water supply.

Green tea. Consume 2 to 4 cups daily for antioxidant and cancer prevention properties. Avoid before bedtime if you are sensitive to caffeine.

Chicory tea. Consume 2 to 4 cups per day as a substitution for coffee. Chicory is also naturally beneficial to the liver. (Mix one-half to one full teaspoon per cup filtered hot water).

Ginger tea. This is helpful with controlling nausea.

Turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that gives food a wonderful yellow color. It is widely used for natural anti-inflammatory properties and can be added freely during meal preparation.

Milk thistle seeds. These may be purchased in bulk at herb stores. Seeds can be ground in a coffee grinder (hint: Don't use the same coffee grinder you use for coffee) and liberally sprinkled on salads, soups, vegetables, whole grain cereals and in smoothies. Do not cook as this decreases effectiveness.

Congratulations on choosing a way of life that supports your healing process! You are on the path to improving your personal overall well-being by taking an active role in your nutritional consumption.

JoAnn Yanez, N.D. is a licensed naturopath and runs the informational Web site

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.