A trusted route for evaluating how well your liver is working – the liver function test (LFT) is a series of blood tests. Physicians choose from several different tests that check levels of particular proteins and enzymes in your blood. The combination of tests ordered depends on many factors, including whether it is for diagnostic or monitoring purposes.
Most of the body’s organs have a specific job to perform, making their function relatively straightforward.
Although this is an oversimplified summary, each of these major organs generally does the following:
Your heart pumps blood throughout your body.
Your lungs bring oxygen into the body and escort carbon dioxide out.
Your kidneys remove waste and water in the form of urine.
In contrast, the liver organ is much more complex.
In general, your liver:
assists with food digestion
removes toxins from your bloodstream
manufactures many hormones, blood clotting factors, and other vital substances
Because your liver has so many essential responsibilities, detecting a problem in this organ typically requires a multi-faceted approach:
Abnormal liver function test results don’t always indicate liver disease.
Some LFTs measure how well your liver is performing its normal functions of producing protein and clearing bilirubin, a blood waste product.
Other liver function tests measure enzymes that liver cells release in response to damage or disease.
What Are Liver Function Tests Used For?
Liver function tests are used for several different reasons, including:
Screening for liver infections, such as hepatitis
Monitoring disease progression (and determining the effectiveness of a treatment)
Measuring the severity of a disease, especially to assess the degree of scarring in the liver
Monitoring possible side effects of medications
10 Common Liver Function Tests
Liver function tests may include liver enzyme tests, liver protein tests, and bilirubin tests:
Alanine Transaminase (ALT) – ALT is a measurement of an enzyme that is primarily found in the liver. Alanine transaminase helps the body metabolize protein. When the liver is damaged, ALT is released into the bloodstream. Consistently high levels of ALT in the blood may be a sign of liver damage. Normal levels of ALT are between 7 and 55 units per liter (U/L).* (ALT was previously referred to as serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase, SGPT.)
Aspartate Transaminase (AST) – AST is a measurement of an enzyme found in large amounts in your liver and other parts of your body. Aspartate transaminase helps metabolize alanine, an amino acid. Like ALT, AST is normally present in the blood at low levels. However, high levels of AST can be a sign of liver damage, disease or muscle damage. Normal levels of AST are between 8 and 48 U/L.* (AST was previously referred to as serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase, SGOT.)
Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP or AP) – ALP is a measurement of an enzyme found in large amounts in the liver, bile ducts, and bone. Alkaline phosphatase helps break down proteins in the body and exists in different forms, depending on where it originates. It is made in the bones, intestines, pancreas, and kidneys. In pregnant women, ALP is also made in the placenta. High levels of ALP may indicate liver damage, a blocked bile duct, or certain bone diseases. Normal levels of ALP are between 45 and 115 U/L.*
Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT or GGTP) – GGT is a measurement of an enzyme found in large amounts in the liver, bile ducts, and pancreas. GGT acts as a transport molecule, helping to move other molecules around the body. It plays a significant role in helping the liver metabolize drugs and other toxins. High levels of GGT can be a sign of liver or bile duct damage. Normal levels of GGT are between 9 and 48 U/L.*
Lactate dehydrogenase (LD or LDH) – LD is an enzyme found in the liver that is involved in energy production. Elevated LD levels may indicate liver damage – but can also be elevated in many other disorders. Normal LD levels vary widely depending on age; for children a normal range is between 60 and 170 U/L, and for adults a normal range is between 100 and 190 U/L.*
Total protein (TP) – Total protein measures the amount of protein in your blood. The two main proteins found in the blood are globulins and albumin. Low levels of TP may indicate liver damage or disease. Normal levels of total protein are between 6.3 and 7.9 grams per deciliter (g/dL).* A total protein test can also check the amount of albumin you have compared to globulin, also known as the “A/G ratio.” Healthy people have a little more albumin than globulin, but this is not the case when ill.
Albumin – A protein made in the liver, measuring albumin assesses how well your liver is making the proteins that your body needs. A low albumin level can be a sign of liver damage. Normal levels of albumin are between 3.5 to 5.0 g/dL.*
Globulin – Globulin is a protein made in your liver that helps the immune system fight infections. Low globulin levels can be a sign of liver damage or other conditions. Normal levels of globulin are between 2.0 and 3.5 g/dL.*
Bilirubin – A yellow substance produced during the normal breakdown of red blood cells, bilirubin passes through the liver and is excreted in stool. Elevated levels of bilirubin (jaundice) might indicate liver damage or disease, or certain types of anemia. If the liver is damaged, bilirubin can leak out of your liver and into your blood, causing jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) or in the urine (darkening the color). Normal levels of bilirubin in adults can be up to 1.2 mg/dL.
Prothrombin time (PT) – Prothrombin is a protein made in your liver and helps with clotting blood. PT is the amount of time it takes your blood to clot. Because the liver makes clotting factors, an increased PT may indicate liver damage. High PT can also be due to taking blood-thinning medications. Normal PT is 9.5 to 13.8 seconds.*
*Different laboratories will have different normal ranges. In addition, normal values vary based on age and sex.
Because of the multi-faceted interactivity of the liver and the human body, just running one of the tests listed above is insufficient for drawing conclusions. Different combinations of the liver functions tests described above will give different sets of information.
The AST, ALT and AP tests are most useful to make a distinction between injury to liver cells and injury to the bile ducts.
The GGTP level is liver specific, but is also very sensitive – frequently elevated when no liver disease is apparent. An isolated elevation of GGTP does not need to be further evaluated unless there are additional clinical risk factors for liver disease.
GGTP levels can be increased with smoking cigarettes or consumption of small amounts of alcohol.
The LDH test is insensitive and nonspecific because lactate dehydrogenase is present in tissues throughout the body.
Elevations of AST may be seen in acute injury to cardiac or skeletal muscle.
Slightly elevated ALT may occasionally be seen in skeletal muscle injury or even after vigorous exercise.
In clinical practice, it is common to see elevations of AST, ALT or both in common conditions (not related to the liver), such as myocardial infarction and rhabdomyolysis.
Both ALP and GGT are elevated in disease of the bile ducts and in some types of liver disease, but only ALP will be elevated in bone disease.
Physicians will typically prescribe specific combinations of liver function tests depending on what information they are looking for. To be used as an effective diagnostic or monitoring tool, LFTs are intended to be grouped together – not used as stand-alone tests.
Yes, it’s a mouthful. But it’s also a powerful approach to managing the many debilitating symptoms associated with hepatitis C.
CAM, which stands for “complementary and alternative medicine,” refers to a widening net of natural therapies and natural remedies tailored to alleviating the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C (CHC). Taking its cues from Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) like aromatherapy, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and heat therapy, CAM is a natural and holistic approach to Western medicine’s lose grasp on hepatitis C.
With the CDC estimating that 3.2 million persons in the U.S. have the chronic form of hepatitis C virus, the demand for CAM is crystal clear (1). And even if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford the out-of-pocket cost of most hepatitis drug regimens, you may get to the end of the treatment cycle and find yourself reeling from side-effects which often include fatigue, diarrhea, dizziness and nausea, depending on the drug.
When we take a macro view of the situation, the American healthcare system could also use relief from the strain that CHC applies on insurance companies and then individual households in absence of an actual cure.
The Familiar Symptoms
First, let’s go over some of the symptoms of hepatitis C before examining CAM to better understand how its techniques can be utilized to address and target specific hepatitis symptoms.
Upset Stomach or Abdominal Pain
Loss of Appetite
Unexplainable Weight Loss
Jaundice or Yellowing of the Skin or Eyes
The CAM Umbrella
Now that we have a good idea of what different hepatitis symptoms look like, let’s dive right into the different techniques that CAM incorporates to help target these symptoms.
Discovery of this technique dates back to ancient Egypt and the use of distilling and extracting oils and aromas from plants for use in the embalming process. Aromatherapy would go on to gain wider popularity in 19th Century Europe, but the exploration of how aromas and scents can affect mood and mental health traces back to China.
Managing the fatigue and low energy tied to hepatitis is well paired with aromatherapy treatment. Basil, cedarwood, and peppermint are all aromas good for mental stimulation and will also help elevate mood and creativity. For an additional energy and mood lift, throw some eucalyptus oil in the diffuser, and turn to the citrus family of aromas, along with cardamom, bergamot or ginger to help boost appetite.
The idea behind acupuncture is that energy moves throughout the body along 12 main channels known as meridians, and applying pressure at various points along the meridians can redirect the flow of energy through your body to elicit various health benefits.
While acupuncture alone may not be enough to wholly alleviate CHC symptoms, it definitely fills a vital role in CAM by improving liver function, immune health, and inflammatory modulation. In studies investigating acupuncture’s role in liver function, researchers found acupuncture to “normalize liver and kidney function for patients with liver cirrhosis and ascites.”
Research surrounding acupuncture is difficult to unpack, and more is needed, but we also need to acknowledge that clinical trials are often a problematic way to evaluate manual therapies, such as acupuncture, and their results are not necessarily a reflection of the treatment efficacy.
If you’re search for CHC relief finds you on the acupuncture table, the following 3 pressure points may be helpful in targeting some of the most common hepatitis symptoms:
Lower Sea of Qi – This point is directly below your navel and stimulating this acupressure point can boost energy, kick start your immune system, and stimulate your digestive system for help dealing with the abdominal pain and stomach issues associated with hepatitis.
The Inner Gate – This pressure point is located on your forearm approximately an inch and a half below your palm. Activating this point on both arms will also improve stomach discomfort while additionally alleviating chest congestion. The inner gate is also thought to be associated with increased blood flow and detoxification which is always a good thing in terms of lightening the load we put on our livers.
The Liver Median – Located slightly above the webbing of your big toe, this point is directly connected to your liver and kidneys. Hitting this point for a minute or two at a time will promote circulation and aid your liver and kidneys in filtering and detoxing your liver.
Reiki and Meditation
While they are similar, Reiki and meditation are two different examples of energy healing that can both fall under the CAM umbrella. Research data is limited on Reiki, which relies upon a practitioner channeling and directing energy to the places where you need healing, but there is a healthy body of empirical data supporting the benefits of meditation.
In regards to hepatitis and liver function, meditation and Reiki have proven very helpful in combating cirrhosis and liver damage. The principle is that meditating can clear your mind and clear negative energy that’s impeding you and your body. Meditating can also ease muscle tension and release stress in the body which, in turn, improves immunity.
Practicing meditation is free and can offer serious health benefits beyond liver function by broadly improve quality of life. You can also do it anywhere. Just sit down, close your eyes, and try to clear your mind. Even 5 minutes can be beneficial and, at the most basic level, meditating can help manage the depression often associated with CHC and other chronic diseases.
It may be difficult at first, but there’s no wrong way to meditate. Don’t get frustrated if a thought interrupts you. It’s hard to get our brains to slow down, but doing so could be a game changer in terms of managing CHC symptoms.
The active cousin to meditation, yoga harnesses breath control and specific body postures to unlock a host of health benefits. In relation to your liver, certain yoga poses may target and bolster liver function. Below are some of the best poses for your liver but, be warned, some of these postures are more advanced and you should work up to them over time:
Revolved Half Moon – As an extension of the more familiar triangle pose, revolved half moon will help improve your balance, but also stretch your spine and cleanse your digestive organs, including your liver.
Seated Spinal Twist – This posture is fairly simple, but packs a huge punch. Take a seat, fold your legs and gently twist your core. Doing so will improve spine health, flexibility, and aid overall digestion, lightening the burden on your liver.
Marichi’s Pose – Another simple pose that’s great for your liver, Marichi’s pose also massages your internal organs and promotes pique functionality.
A massage isn’t just an excellent gift for your loved ones and significant others, it’s also a very relaxing way to help combat the symptoms of hepatitis. Massage therapy involves the manipulation of the soft tissue of the body with the goal of relieving stress and pain.
These 2 massage techniques are best at managing hepatitis C symptoms:
Cranial Sacral – Focus here to rebalance the face through gentle, noninvasive stimulation of the cranium, bones of the face and the spine in order to alleviate headaches and dizziness arising from hepatitis.
Polarity Therapy – This technique uses physical manipulations, rocking movements and specific hand placements to help bring relief from chronic pain, nausea and dizziness, and stress.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal remedies are the cornerstone of any successful CAM routine. Of all the herbs, milk thistle stands out as one of the most popular for helping manage hepatitis C symptoms.
However, according to The Hep C Trust there are a plethora of other herbs that can help target specific CHC symptoms as well.
Turmeric – Also known as curcumin, turmeric is a spice primarily popularized by its use in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Turmeric can improve liver function by detoxification and is believed to inhibit cell to cell transmission of hepatitis C.
Dandelion – Known to attenuate oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, it can be found in many forms such as supplements.
Artichoke – Artichoke is believed to reduce liver toxicity. Also, it’s quite delicious when grilled or roasted, and served with an aioli.
Aloe Vera – Aloe vera has long been believed to possess antioxidant properties, reduce oxidative stress and help manage blood sugar levels.
Green Tea – Not just a great coffee alternative, green tea is packed with antioxidants and has long been regarded for its protective effects on the liver. Drinking green tea regularly is healthy and decreases the risk of developing a variety of liver conditions such as hepatocellular carcinoma, cirrhosis and chronic liver disease.
Heat therapy, also known as thermotherapy, is just that – the therapeutic use of heat via an object such as hot cloth, hot water bottle, ultrasound, heating pad, hydrocollator packs, whirlpool baths, sauna, or heat therapy wrap.
The basic idea is that applying heat can induce sweating and help lift and remove toxins out through the skin. Simply put, toxins lifted through the skin means less toxins for your liver to handle, and livers with hepatitis need all the help they can get.
Now that we know what CAM is and how it can be used to manage and address multiple hepatitis symptoms, now comes the hard part of implementation.
CAM opens a whole new world of approaching CHC management and can definitely feel overwhelming. Start slow. Incorporate the CAM techniques that feel are easiest for you and build up from there.
In the same way you wouldn’t dive straight into a difficult yoga position, the same is true for CAM. Our suggestion, start with meditation. It’s the easiest way to start and build confidence, and may set the stage for more CAM integration and growth.
But, remember, always consult with your physician before making any drastic changes to your routine and always be cognizant of what your body and liver are telling you.
While vaccines exist for hepatitis virus A, B, and D, there is no licensed vaccine for hepatitis C.
Research is ongoing but, because the virus mutates so rapidly, developing a vaccine has proven difficult.
Ideally, a vaccine would alleviate the mental and financial strain of HCV. Even if you can afford some of the costly hepatitis treatments on the market such as Olysio or Sovaldi, and they help, in a small percentage of cases HCV can reoccur.
A viable vaccine would be very welcomed in the face of lengthy and expensive treatment regiments that burden not only the individual, but also the healthcare system as a whole.
Currently, HCV patients get antiviral meds. For the lucky ones, newer medicines can eradicate the virus, but HCV clearly remains a problem on a global scale.
What’s exciting about this study is that for the first time, researchers felt encouraged and able to articulate how a novel vaccine could work. They described that, in addition to T cell immune responses and humoral immune responses, these treatments are “vaccines against HCV based on alphavirus DNA replicons expressing HCV antigens.”
Basically, researchers are exposing alphavirus replicon DNA vectors to mice in order to induce an HCV antigen response. That’s a good thing. And it could be one of the initial steps towards human trials.
In an article published in Gastroenerology experts from John’s Hopkins and Oxford go on record in agreement that “an HCV vaccine would prevent transmission, regardless of risk factors, and significantly reduce the global burden of HCV-associated disease.”
But they advocate for an HCV prophylactic vaccine to truly take control of the global HCV issue (3). They remind us of this because, according to the WHO, some of the leading causes of hepatitis C include:
injecting drug use through the sharing of injection equipment;
the reuse or inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, especially syringes and needles in healthcare settings; and
the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
As promising, exciting, and sometimes difficult to digest as all this research is, the vaccine described above is miles away from being publicly available and faces a long road towards approval, availability, and affordability. The timeline for any medication to conduct lab models, then the necessary human trials, necessary approvals, and the ultimate public launch could be years if not decades away.
There are multiple reasons why an HCV vaccine has been difficult to develop (4). To start, HCV has at least six genetically unique genotypes with multiple subtypes. Roughly 50 subtypes have been identified thus far (4). It’s a tricky virus.
In The Meantime
There are many steps you can take towards HCV prevention. Some of the basics include avoiding alcohol, sugar, and any other toxins that may be difficult for your liver to break down or promote cirrhosis.
Diet and Exercise – We say it every time, but we honestly can’t stress it enough. A diet rich in leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables is KEY in order to get the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy liver function.
And even light exercise, like a 30-minute walk, can help ward off a host of diseases by getting your heart rate up and helping your blood circulate.
Whether you’re past the prevention stage or not, supplements can offer an almost effortless way to help bolster your liver function and protect it against scarring and cirrhosis. Consider using supplements to help support your liver until a viable vaccine is available. Supplements are an inexpensive and almost effortless thing to add to your routine to help strengthen your liver.
It’s not only the secret ingredient in all of your favorite Indian dishes, turmeric is also a healthy and natural antioxidant. Turmeric helps heal the liver and reduces inflammation throughout your entire body.
However, the amount of turmeric you absorb through eating food is very small compared to ingesting turmeric in supplement form. Taking a supplement will multiply your absorption and thus the health benefits turmeric has to offer.
And, remember – be safe. Consult your physician before attempting any drastic change to your diet or routine. If have any other health issues talk to your doctor about how any changes may interact with your routine or other medications. It could be as simple as a phone call.
For generations of the near future, a licensed HCV vaccine will be a reality; but, until then, take care of yourself and your liver by consuming a healthy diet, getting adequate exercise, and supplementing with milk thistle and/or turmeric.
Using its anti-inflammatory properties to deal with aches and pains
Dealing with mental and mood disorders like stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD
Clearing up unwanted acne
People enjoy using CBD for the above reasons along with many others because, despite coming from cannabis plants, it is not psychoactive the way that THC is and won’t give them the unwanted high commonly associated with smoking weed – all while still providing great benefits.
It’s starting to become increasingly popular and, after the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill legalizing all hemp products, it is no longer classified as a drug. This has lead to an explosion in popularity for CBD!
To help clarify things, below are the 2 types of CBD:
CBD Isolate – It is pure CBD extracted from hemp. It is made when manufacturers take an extra step in the extraction process to make sure no THC or terpenes are in the product.
Full Spectrum CBD – This form of CBD has a minimal amount of THC in it (less than .3%). It will provide a slight high to you known as “the entourage effect.”
If you contracted the virus or fear potentially getting it if you don’t turn your life around, you may want to consider using CBD to help kick the habit and free yourself of addictive substances. Or, if you’re simply hooked on a prescription drug that you feel you no longer need, CBD could also be good for you. (4)
There are new studies coming out showing that CBD can help those stop crippling addictions.
One reason it is believed to help is due to CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties which help ease the pain people usually feel when withdrawing from substances. Some doctors believe that CBD helps brain cells that were previously damaged by opioids communicate better, leading to less anxiety and cravings for drugs. Studies are still in preliminary stages, but researchers are very optimistic on the matter. (1)
In states where medical marijuana has been legalized, there are starting to be experimental studies where those addicted to opioids are weaning themselves off with the use of CBD and THC. Some believe it’s the combination of using both of them together, while others are finding results from patients who are just using CBD.
It’s also worth noting that states that have legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use have found a decrease in both filled opioid prescriptions and opioid-related overdoses and deaths compared to states that have not legalized marijuana. That’s not to say you should go out there and start smoking marijuana, but you may want to consider trying CBD, especially if you aren’t looking to get high. (1)
How to Take CBD
CBD comes in many forms. Some people inhale it from vaporizer pens, while some people get it in edible forms.
But one of the most effective methods is getting it as a tincture which can easily be applied under the tongue or mixed into a beverage. Many people prefer tinctures due to how fast it can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Plus, a lot of manufacturers add natural flavors like peppermint to it so it tastes nice.
There are many other ways to take CBD as well; you just have to find what works best for you. (3)
Safety and Side Effects
CBD has considerably minor side effects. Most notably, there have been cases of tiredness, nausea, or changes in appetite. Although it can make you tired at times, it’s also intended to work as a sleep aid, so if it’s making you tired, it’s working properly. Moreover, after you take it and have a good night’s sleep, you should feel well rested and energized the next day.
If you are concerned though about taking CBD, you should consult with your physician to make sure you won’t have any adverse effects, especially if you are currently on any medications. (2)
When choosing what CBD brand to purchase, you should also be cognizant of a couple of things.
First, you want to make sure that the bottle is properly labeled with supplemental facts. The label should tell you everything that’s in the product that you are buying so you know how pure it is and that there aren’t any unwanted chemicals in there.
Secondly, you should see if the company you are purchasing from can provide a COA – Certificate of Analysis – to prove it was tested by a third party and validate its purity. Being that CBD isn’t FDA regulated, testing isn’t mandatory, so you want to make sure you purchase from a company that takes the extra time to properly test their products. (1)
If you do decide to try using CBD in order to get off opioids – it’s best to have a plan in place. Talk to your doctor about this and work together.
You shouldn’t just go cold turkey. Progressively take less and less of your prescribed medication while slowly increasing the amount of CBD you take every day. This way you can see what kind of withdrawal symptoms you have to deal with and you can see how CBD is affecting you.
If it doesn’t help at first, don’t be discouraged; it may take some time. But you should discuss your progress with your doctor as you go along.
Hopefully, over time, you will be able to be off opioids and start living a healthier, happier life. (1)
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is spread by contaminated blood. It causes liver inflammation and can sometimes lead to severe liver damage. (5)
Up until recently, interferons were the primary choice of treatment for hepatitis C. But after recent developments, the medical community has started to use direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) as the preferred method to fight the virus. This is due to DAAs having less side effects on the patient and, more importantly, it has proven to be more effective.
Despite DAAs being the new preferred type of treatment, those who have been treated with interferons in the past may want to read up on the long term side effects to see how they may have been affected.
Interferons are a type of protein that naturally occur in your body. They work by communicating to the immune system that unwanted germs and cells are in your body. Killer immune cells are then triggered to fight the sickness. Interferons got their name from “interfering” with illnesses as they keep them from spreading in the body. (2)
The 3 primary types of interferons are:
Interferon-alpha (interferon-alfa): treats viral infections like hepatitis C
Interferon-beta: treats different types of multiple sclerosis
Interferon-gamma: treats chronic granulomatous disease and malignant osteopetrosis
Interferon treatment consists of synthetic versions of the proteins that are normally created by the body but instead created in a lab. They are then administered via a shot either into tissue or a vein. The interferons then work with the immune system to fight the virus and keep it from spreading. (2)
flu-like conditions, including headaches, exhaustion, and feebleness
irritability and mood swings
low white blood cells counts
loss of appetite
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and think they may be due to interferon treatment, you should consult with a physician. They will be able to diagnose if this is due to the treatments or something unrelated.
More Severe Side Effects of Interferons
Then there are some more severe side effects that the FDA makes note of directly on the box for interferon treatment, including autoimmune disease, mental disorders, increased infections, and strokes. (1)
AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE – When interferons are introduced to your body, they can increase production of certain antibodies to fight harmful bodily invaders. Sometimes antibodies may accidentally fight healthy cells when confusing them for harmful substances.
This could lead to the following disorders: psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. (6)(1)
Water retention, leading to bloating and puffiness
Swollen, aching joints
MENTAL DISORDERS – Treatment from interferons can lead to mood swings and mental disorders including severe depression. If you already suffer from mood disorders, interferons can worsen the condition. (1)
Acts of aggression
Hallucinating things that may not actually be there
Mania – unusually overexcited or restless
INCREASED INFECTIONS – When undergoing interferon treatment, white blood cells – which usually fight infections in your immune system – may be affected and not able to work the way they usually do. This could lead to an increased amount of infections. (1)
Interferon treatment can also reduce cell growth, which could lead to a lower white blood cell count. When your body has less white blood cells, it is harder for your body to fight off infections, making them more frequent. Those who already have infections may find their infections becoming worse.
Symptoms indicative of an infection include:
Fevers and/or chills
Burning sensation while urinating
Visible changes to skin including rashes, bruises, or flaking
STROKES – Interferon treatment can cause your blood pressure or heart rate to increase, both of which can increase the possibility of suffering a stroke. (1)
There are two types of stroke that can come from interferon treatment: (7)
Ischemic – a blood clot lets less blood get to the brain
Hemorrhagic – a blood vessel in the brain bursts or leaks, leading to damaged tissue
If you have undergone interferon treatment and are in fear of suffering a stroke, signs to look out for include:
Difficulty speaking by either slurring words or not being able to talk
Blurry vision or seeing double
If you think you are suffering a stroke, call 911 immediately.
Blood Cell Related Side Effects
Interferon treatment can lead to a reduced blood cell count; this can cause a variety of maladies due to less white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. This is because interferons make it harder for your bone marrow to produce more blood cells. Once treatment is complete, blood cell production should go back to normal. (1)
Below are some blood cell related conditions.
Anemia – A reduced number of red blood cells will lead to less oxygen getting to bodily tissue. It can lead to the following symptoms: (4)
Feeling tired or weak
Loss of breath
Bleeding Issues – With less platelets, it will become harder for blood to clot.
If you find that you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article and fear they have to do with past or current interferon treatment, you should consult with your physician to see if you can make changes to your treatment to fix these issues.
Realistically, now that DAAs are more prominent, there is little reason to be on an interferon treatment. DAAs have been found to have a better cure rate with less side effects while also being a shorter treatment period.
CBD – is a cannabis byproduct that is becoming increasingly popular in the world of alternative medicine. CBD can be derived from both types of plants in the cannabis family: hemp and marijuana. While marijuana has a rather high amount of THC in it (the component that makes you high), hemp does not. CBD products contain little to no THC. Due to the low THC content and that marijuana is more difficult and expensive to grow, most of the CBD sold over the counter is derived from hemp.
CBD has been found to have more than 50 uses, including:
treating liver issues
reducing pain and inflammation
working as a sleep aid
clearing up bad skin
There Are 2 Types of CBD
CBD Isolate – This is pure CBD and does not contain any THC or terpenes. It is more expensive to produce, since an extra extraction process is required during production to separate out the CBD from the THC and terpenes.
Full Spectrum CBD – This CBD contains small amounts of THC and terpenes. With this CBD, you can experience what is known as “the entourage effect,” which can produce a high or an enhanced feeling of “well-being.” This CBD will make you fail a drug test.
CBD Oil and Hepatitis
As already mentioned, CBD can help with many different ailments. But this article in particular will discuss how CBD oil can help those coping with hepatitis and its various symptoms.
What follows are 8 known symptoms of hepatitis and how CBD oil helps each of them. (1)
Liver Inflammation – First and foremost, hepatitis is known for scarring the liver which can lead to liver failure and more serious diseases. CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce such scarring, thus reducing the possibilities of worse diseases like cirrhosis of the liver or potentially cancer. (5)
Exhaustion – While CBD oil won’t provide you with more energy when you’re exhausted, what it will do is help you fall asleep at night. Those suffering from hepatitis are usually awake at night due to the stress of coping with the disease, so they can use something that can help them relax and fall asleep.
With better sleep you are less likely to be exhausted or fatigued. Similarly it has proven to improve the sleep-wake cycle, meaning you have deeper sleep at night while you are more focused and awake during the day. (6)
Mood Changes – When suffering from hepatitis, patients can find themselves having dramatic mood swings, going from happy to sad to angry, all within seconds. It’s a very emotional virus. CBD has proven to be useful in stabilizing the central nervous system, helping to improve the mood of patients. (2)
Depression/Anxiety – When coping with hepatitis, patients can find themselves feeling rather depressed or anxious. Who can blame them, right? This is a common side effect of interferons and other medications that are used to fight the disease.
CBD oil has been known to help people deal with depression and anxiety and help them be more mentally stable. It is also considered to be better for depression than prescription drugs as it is not habit forming or addictive. (5)
Low Appetite / Nausea – While undergoing antiviral treatment for hepatitis, side effects include nausea and lack of appetite; it can even lead to vomiting in extreme situations. CBD oil can interact with serotonin receptors to help your stomach feel better, reducing the nausea brought on by treatment. This can lead to a better appetite and the ability to keep food down.
Also, studies have shown that because CBD improves patients’ mood or anxiety, it can help them feel better about eating. (5)(4)
Pain in Muscles, Joints, and Abdomen – When your liver isn’t functioning right, your body is going to feel sore, as it is not getting the proper nutrients that it needs. As CBD interacts with your brain and immune system it creates an anti-inflammatory and pain-killing effect. (2)
Cognitive Problems – Hepatitis could cause people to not focus or remember things well. This is due to a change in glutamate activity, which can lead to brain cells being damaged or dying. But when CBD oil works as a protective shield to keep brain cells from getting damaged, this leads to a healthier, better functioning brain. Similarly, it has an anti-inflammatory effect in the brain and is able to help regenerate new brain cells. (3)(2)
Itchy Skin – A CBD based topical cream or lotion can help clear up itchiness and rashes that can be a result of hepatitis.
While hepatitis is no picnic, there are ways to help deal with it.
CBD oil has shown to help cope with hepatitis in a multitude of ways. It helps prevent scarring which could lead to worse conditions like cirrhosis, liver failure and cancer.
It helps improve your mood, causing less depression and anxiety which, in effect, will help improve your appetite.
On top of that, its anti-inflammatory effects also help provide pain relief and improve cognitive activity.
If you’re looking for a solution to help deal with the symptoms of hepatitis, CBD may be right for you.
If you are on other medications though, you may want to consult with a physician to make sure it is okay to combine CBD with what you are already taking.
Where to Get CBD Oil
A good source of CBD oil can be found with Natural Wellness’s Hemp Oil. Their hemp oil contains CBD Isolate, the pure version of CBD which will not get you high. It comes in 2 strengths, a bottle containing 500mg of CBD and a bottle containing 1,500mg of CBD. Both are a tincture, where you apply drops of the oil under your tongue – the fastest way for it to take effect.
The impact of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in America is no joke. Not just on our livers, but also on our waistline. According to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control an estimated, “41,200 acute hepatitis C cases occurred in 2016.” Factor in population growth and it looks like hepatitis C in 2019 affects .93% of the U.S. population (2).
While the causes and symptoms can vary greatly, one of the major concerns surrounding hepatitis C is how it affects weight. Weight fluctuations are also a side effect of some of the most common hepatitis C medications on the market. If you’re trying to figure out whether or not hepatitis C causes rapid weight gain or if weight gain is a sign of a hepatitis C flare up, read on.
Below you’ll learn all you need to know about how hepatitis C can tip the scales.
Does Hepatitis C Make You Lose Weight?
Symptoms of hepatitis C and steatosis (a presence of fat in liver cells) range from fever and fatigue to loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. We mention steatosis because it occurs in over 50% of chronic hepatitis C sufferers with associations with increased hepatic fibrosis (3).
With symptoms like those, it’s no surprise that weight loss and HCV go hand in hand. For many hepatitis C suffers, nausea makes it difficult to keep food down. But in order to even take food in you need to have an appetite. Together, loss of appetite and nausea create a vicious cycle that often leads to involuntary weight loss in hepatitis C patients.
A study published in The BMJ back in 2002 concluded that “weight loss in patients with chronic hepatitis C may be associated with a reduction in steatosis and abnormal liver enzymes and improvement in fibrosis, despite the persistence of the virus.”And while this study has its flaws, collecting data from a relatively small sample of HCV patients, it does seem to reinforce that weight loss and hepatitis C are tied together.
If weight loss and HCV are correlated, the reciprocal question becomes, “is gaining weight a sign of a HCV flare up?” All indications point to no.
Weight loss is often a sign of chronic or prolonged hepatitis C and the likelihood of experiencing other symptoms first is much more likely. Weight gain is not a symptom; however, weight and obesity, in particular, have long been known to be risk factors leading to all different types of liver disease and cirrhosis (7).
Medications and Weight
With a handful of common FDA approved HCV medications on the market, knowing which one is best for you is important, especially if weight is a concern.
Harvoni & Mavyret – You may be asking yourself, “does Harvoni make you gain weight?”
While it does have a relatively long list of side effects including:
weight gain is not one of them.
Nausea, however, a known side effect, may indirectly contribute to weight loss. The same holds true for Mavyret, another new and popular HCV drug. No study exists suggesting that Mavyret or Harvoni cause weight loss directly, but their known side effects can indirectly contribute to eating less and thus losing weight.
Ribavirin & Interferon – Often prescribed in tandem, Ribavirin and Interferon, in particular, are known to cause weight loss (4). According to a large study published in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 67% of their 260 person sample pool experienced significant weight loss during the Interferon and Ribavirin treatment period (4). Although, the weight tended to come back in the months following HCV treatment.
In terms of your weight, it would appear that weight loss is an indirect, but common side effect of both hepatitis C and its leading treatments.
What You Can Do
Eating right, light or moderate physical activity, and using supplements are all potential ways to help manage the weight fluctuations commonly associated with HCV and its most common medications.
The number one diet rule is no alcohol. Whether you have hep C or not, alcohol is never good for your weight and it’s a huge tax on your liver to process.
Vegetables, however, are always a great addition to any HCV patient’s diet. The more fibrous the better!
In terms of keeping down food and bolstering your appetite, The Mayo Clinic in Arizona has some great suggestions.
Eat smaller meals throughout the day to reduce digestive stress and nausea (5).
Odor can be a trigger for nausea so try to eat foods that can be served cold in order to reduce their smell (5).
Steer clear of spicy foods, too much dairy, or greasy foods, and try taking a short walk before mealtime to settle the stomach and prime the digestive system (5).
But before making any changes to your diet or behavior make sure to consult your healthcare provider. And not only that, but be sure to ask the right questions when it comes to your hepatitis C treatment plan.
Making sure the hepatitis medication being prescribed is the right one for you and also that you understand how to use it and any potential side effects are important. Keep in mind that if any questions arise after visiting your doctor, any medication you may be prescribed likely has a 24/7 support number.
If you do suffer from or suspect that you have hepatitis C and are experiencing weight loss don’t be alarmed. Consult your physician to get a diagnosis if you haven’t already and start down the treatment path that’s right for you. HCV and the side effects are very treatable, with better and more affordable medications hitting the market all the time.
Whereas 2018 saw a spike in cure rates and effectiveness, 2019 will hopefully see a drop in high costs coupled with more accessibility and fewer denials from insurers.
Cure rates upwards of 95% in brands like Epclusa, Zepatier, Daklinza, and many others across all patient genotypes have caused research, development, and competition to stagnate with multiple inferior products voluntarily withdrawing from the marketplace (1).
The newer treatments are generally:
and faster acting.
Now, the final hurdles in the fight against hepatitis are:
Many popular Hepatitis C drugs have been discontinued in recent years as cure rates steadily climbed from 2014 to 2019. Manufacturer Janssen pulled out of the Hepatitis C market by discontinuing Olysio in May 2018, and rival AbbVie discontinued Technivie and Viekira XR starting January 1, 2019 (2).
As the marketplace levels out we should begin to see more cost-effective treatments.
However, high success rate treatments often have $1,000 per pill price tags with common treatments like Sovaldi adding up to $95,000 for a single round of treatment (1).
Meanwhile, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania illuminated the ugly fact that more than half of privately insured Hepatitis C patients were denied treatment between 2016 and 2017, and denials from public insurers were also high at 34% over the same period (2). The reason for the high denial rate and restriction of access is undoubtedly cost, with researchers also finding that health insurance providers were granting approvals only for “patients with evidence of advanced liver fibrosis and/or abstinence from alcohol or illicit drug use (2).”
The backlash against high cost and inaccessibility pushed prices down throughout 2018 and, ideally, that trend continues into 2019.
Last year saw AbbVie launch Mavyret for $26,400 for one round of treatment.
2019 may very well witness the escalation of a price war that Mavyret’s release sparked. In July 2018, Merck announced the price of Zepatier would drop by 60%, from almost $55,000 per round (3). Also scheduled to be available in January 2019 are authorized generic versions of Gilead’s Hepatitis C medications Epclusa and Harvoni for $24,000 per round, which some are taking as an indication of more patient-friendly price fluctuations.
7 Top FDA-Approved Hepatitis C Treatments for 2019
MAVYRET – Having gained FDA approval in August 2017, Mavyret is a combination drug comprised of two viral protein inhibitors (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir) and is easily the most affordable treatment currently available. Mavyret is successful at clearing all six Hepatitis C genotypes in 8-12 weeks and is delivered in 3 pills taken once daily. Mavyret perked ears with a price tag of roughly $26,000 per round, falling far below the $40k threshold that many scholars believe to be sustainable by U.S. healthcare systems without requiring treatment delays or withholding other services (5), (6).
VOSEVI – Gained FDA approved in July 2017 and, like Mavyret, can also be used to treat any genotype of the Hepatitis C virus. Vosevi was designed for those previously treated with sofosbuvir who didn’t achieve viral clearance (4). Vosevi also sports a single tablet once-daily dosage with a 12-week regiment that costs a whopping $890 per pill, or upwards of $74,000 per single round of treatment.
EPCLUSA – Gilead’s version of sofosbuvir was approved on June 28, 2016, and is a two-in-one combination tablet able to treat all six major Hepatitis C genotypes. Epclusa is prescribed in a once-daily dose for a short period of 1-6 weeks. However, the cost leaves much to be desired at $74,760 for a 12-week long regiment (5).
ZEPATIER – From manufacturer Merck comes Zepatier, a combo (grazoprevir/elbasvir) that clocks in at $54,600 as single pill therapy taken once daily for 6-12 weeks (5). Zepatier can treat Hepatitis C genotypes 1 and 4 (4).
DAKLINZA – Approved in July 2015, Daklinza was the first direct-acting antiviral to treat Hepatitis C genotype 3 infections without the help of peginterferon or ribavirin (4). However, it must be taken in conjunction with Sovaldi which causes the cost to skyrocket. Twelve weeks of Daklinza runs you $63,000 and Sovaldi costs $84,000 for a similar 12-week course for a staggering total of $147,000, or roughly $1,750 per day for the combo (6).
HARVONI – Harvoni gained FDA approval in October of 2014 and was the first all-in-one treatment plan for genotype 1 and 4 infections with or without cirrhosis. Unfortunately, the price hovers around $94,000 for a 12-24 week round of treatment (1).
SOVALDI – Approved in December of 2013, Sovaldi is a direct-acting antiviral for genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 (4). For genotype 3, Sovaldi is co-administered with Daklinza and has a 12-24 week treatment period (5). This regiment of Sovaldi will run you $84,000 before even factoring in the additional cost of Daklinza.
With Mavyret being one of the only treatment plans even making an attempt at cost-effectiveness there is an abundant need of inexpensive generics. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Gilead is seemingly doing their part and we should see affordable generics from them to replace Harvoni and Epclusa coming shortly (1).
Hopefully, 2019 sees more competitors dropping prices and more cost-effective entries into the marketplace.
In the meantime, educating patients so they understand how they’re being evaluated by insurers is another hurdle. Not drinking or smoking are two large factors insurers look at in deciding whether or not to approve, and cutting them out of your diet is never a bad idea as both are leading indicators of a number of other chronic conditions, liver disease aside.
2019 should be a turning point in the fight against hepatitis and chronic liver disease as the quality of treatments and accessibility continues in an upward trend.
While the scale appears to be tipping in the patient’s favor in the fight for hepatitis treatments, cost and accessibility are still deciding factors for many. In lieu of medication, taking supplements to strengthen and protect your liver is a necessary second measure. If you’re looking to support your liver naturally, we recommend choosing a company that has been around for decades, complies with all FDA guidelines and good manufacturing processes, like Natural Wellness.
There are several distinctly different known variations of hepatitis, from hepatitis A to hepatitis G – each with their own set of symptoms, causes, and treatments. Thus, the best diet for each is slightly different.
and alcohol are bad for ALL types of hepatitis.
This is because they are difficult for your liver to process.
However, figuring out what to eat, and getting past nausea, a common symptom of hepatitis, can be a complicated task.
With so many variations of hepatitis, we will focus on hepatitis A, B, and C in this article, are they are easily the most common types of hepatitis.
What Can I Eat When I Have Hepatitis A?
On the hepatitis A diet front, full avoidance of alcohol is highly recommended along with the usual suspects, including refined sugars, high fat foods, salts, and saturated fats.
However, drastic changes to one’s diet may not necessarily make a difference to someone with hepatitis A. That’s because a vaccine for hepatitis A exists, with most cases only lasting between two weeks to two months and leaving no lasting liver damage.
What Should I Eat if I Have Hepatitis B?
As far as diet goes:
Lean meats and proteins
Healthy fats like those from nuts, avocados, and olive oil are best.
Eating clean is a good way to take unnecessary stress off of your liver and give it the best chance to fight the hepatitis B virus.
Different herbs have also been used for showing mild protective and preventive qualities against hepatitis B and liver damage such as dandelion, milk thistle and ginseng. Mistletoe, licorice, germanium and danshen have also been used along with many others.
In building your diet to fight hepatitis C infection, putting the least amount of strain on your liver is the goal while still getting all of the nutrients you need to promote normal bodily function. A strong liver also keeps your body strong enough to fight off illness.
Right off the bat, we can eliminate alcohol. Not doing so is, in essence, throwing fuel on the hepatitis fire.
Refined sugars and foods high in salt and fat also put unnecessary strain on your liver, so avoiding them can greatly increase your body’s chance of ridding itself of hepatitis.
The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs also chimes in adding, “…good diet, by contrast, can actually improve liver health in a person(s) with hepatitis C. A balanced diet can lead to better liver functioning and lowered risk of cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver.”
Another helpful tip is eating smaller meals with slightly more frequency. With hepatitis C, eating a small meal once every few hours, as opposed to two or three large meals every day can lessen the workload of your liver.
For a more comprehensive look at what foods you should eat, which you should avoid, as wells as tips on healthy eating habits, visit A Basic Diet for Hepatitis.
Whether you have hepatitis A, B, or C, it’s safe to say, don’t drink alcohol.
Take it easy on your liver by eating vegetables, fruits, healthy fats like those found in nuts, avocados and olive oil, and go for lean proteins like fish, chicken and lots of legumes.
Try eating less, and more frequently, to alleviate stress on your liver.
Also making sure you’re getting all the herbs, vitamins, and nutrients that protect and fortify your liver should be a prerogative.
With hepatitis C being the most prevalent and most traumatic of the 3, it warrants the most change if you don’t already have a well-suited diet to fight the infection. Hepatitis B would warrant slightly less dramatic steps than hepatitis A, calling for few, if any, dietary changes.
Stocking up on low-fat versions of things can be a good compromise and decent way to fight nausea and stay healthy. Another trick is eating a plain cracker or biscuit before a meal to prime your stomach for food and potentially kick-start your appetite.
Treat you liver well, and remember, before trying anything, consult your physician, especially if you’re already diagnosed with hepatitis A, B, or C.
Below you will find the ultimate guide to Harvoni, a prescription medication to treat the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014. While there are multiple HCV treatment options available in the U.S., Harvoni was the first once-daily pill that didn’t require interferon or ribavirin.
It is approved in the United States for patients over 18 years old who are HIV-negative and HIV-positive with HCV genotypes 1, 4, 5, and 6. It is also approved for those with HCV genotype 1 who have advanced (decompensated) cirrhosis as well as transplant recipients with HCV genotype 1 or 4.
It is taken once per day, with or without food, between 8 and 24 weeks. The length of treatment is dependent on the patient’s HCV treatment history, if they have cirrhosis, and how much HCV is in the bloodstream.
Some patients will need to take an additional drug, called ribavirin (RBV), twice a day with Harvoni.
Generally, Harvoni has a success rate between 94 and 100% for patients with genotype 1.
Genotype 1 Adults Without Cirrhosis
Genotype 1 Adults With Compensated Cirrhosis
Adults With Genotypes 4, 5, or 6 With or Without Cirrhosis
Side Effects of Harvoni
Common side effects are usually mild cases of fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia. Some patients have reported skin swelling, rash, or blisters.
For those who must take amiodarone, intensive heart monitoring in a hospital is recommended for 48 hours after starting Harvoni, and daily monitoring for at least 2 weeks afterwards.
Talk with your physician prior to starting or stopping any medications, supplements, or herbal remedies. Some medications should be alternated, stopped or avoided while using Harvoni.
You should not take Harvoni if you’re taking any of the following drugs:
Antivirals like Aptivus (tipranavir) and Olysio (simeprevir)
Cordarone, Pacerone, or Nexterone (amiodarone)
Dilantin and Phenytek (phenytoin)
Equetro, Carbarol, or Tegretol (carbamazepine)
Rifadin or Rimactine (rifampin)
The herbal supplement St. John’s wort
Other drugs that may have serious interactions with Harvoni include:
Antacids, like aluminum hydroxide, Tums (calcium carbonate), and sodium bicarbonate
Axid (nizatidine), Pepcid (famotidine), Tagamet (cimetidine), and Zantac (ranitidine)
Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide)
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Dexilant (dexlansoprazole), Nexium(esomeprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), and Protonix (pantoprazole)
Videx and Videdx EC (didanosine)
Can Hep C Come Back After Taking Harvoni?
Once treatment is complete, patients have a high chance of being cured of HCV. But they will still need to take certain precautions. 12 weeks after completing treatment, patients need to take a PCR viral detection test to confirm if they are cured. They will not know if they are cured till they take this test.
Once cleared of HCV, patients still aren’t immune from catching it again. It’s best to lower the risk by avoiding blood-to-blood contact with other people, practicing safe sex, and not sharing needles.
If cured, you still may have existing liver damage. If you have cirrhosis, you still have a risk of liver cancer, even after being cured of HCV. If you have serious liver damage, it is advised to continue seeing a liver specialist who can monitor the issue.
In the rare case that Harvoni did not cure you, it could be due to various reasons such as genetics, the virus mutating, or you missed taking pills during treatment. When this happens, you can consider extending your treatment or trying a different treatment.
To find out if Harvoni is covered by your insurance, you should contact your insurance company directly for information.
Is There a Generic Version of Harvoni?
You can find generic versions of Harvoni in Bangladesh, Egypt, and India at a significantly cheaper price of about $1,000 or less for a 12-week treatment. The Indian version is chemically identical to the brand name version in the United States.
Gilead Sciences, Inc., the U.S. manufacturer of Harvoni recently announced that their newly created subsidiary, Asegua Therapeutics LLC will be producing a generic form of Harvoni that will be available in January of 2019.
At launch, the generic version will be available at a list price of $24,000 for the most common course of therapy.
This authorized generic version is priced to more closely align with discounts that health insurers and government payers receive today. Insurers will have the option of offering either the authorized generics or the branded medication.