Dr Dale Peterson, hepatitis C

Hepatitis C: The Silent Epidemic

Hepatitis C: The Silent Epidemic

© 2001 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

They come from all walks of life and all age groups. The overwhelming majority have no symptoms and many do not suspect that they are harboring a potentially fatal infection. Some will recover spontaneously while others will go on to develop liver failure or liver cancer. Their exact number is unknown, but it is estimated to be between 2.7 and 4 million or 1.3 to 1.7 % of the United States population. They are individuals who are infected with the hepatitis C virus, a condition that has been referred to as the silent epidemic.

Unknown prior to 1989, hepatitis C is now recognized as the most common cause of chronic liver disease and one of the most common chronic infections encountered in the United States with 35,000 new cases being reported each year. It is currently the number one reason for liver transplantation accounting for thirty percent of those procedures each year.

This is not to say that the disease did not exist prior to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. Testing of stored sera drawn from 10,000 Air Force recruits between 1948 and 1954 revealed that 17 of them were infected with the hepatitis C virus. This means that the virus has been present for at least 50 years. The term “non-A, non-B” hepatitis was used for at least fifteen years before the infectious agent was identified.

When it was first recognized, non-A, non-B hepatitis was felt to be a mild form of hepatitis associated with blood transfusions. Some initially suggested that it was simply a result of the stress of the underlying condition that necessitated the transfusion. Only after health care workers were discovered to have developed this form of hepatitis after exposure by needle-stick was its infectious nature recognized.

Because the virus was unknown no method of screening for its presence existed prior to 1990. Blood transfusions were the primary mode of transmission at that time. It is now believed that one out of every ten people who received a blood transfusion between 1975 and July 1992, when screening
of blood for hepatitis C became standard practice, were infected with the virus. Today the risk of contracting hepatitis C from a blood transfusion is less than 1 in 100,000.

People with a history of intravenous drug use or those on long term hemodialysis for kidney failure are also at risk for hepatitis C. While sexual transmission is possible, the risk is quite low. The virus is not spread by household or social contact.

The course of hepatitis C varies greatly from individual to individual. Approximately 20 % of adults and up to 45 % of children exposed to the virus will spontaneously clear the infection. The 55 % of children and young adults who remain infected will generally do well. Of the adults who remain infected approximately 30 % will develop severe liver disease progressing to cirrhosis or liver cancer, 30 % will have stable liver disease that does not progress regardless of whether or not treatment is given, and 40 % will have a very slowly progressive course. Many of these individuals will never experience any significant liver disease, but others may develop complications over a period of twenty to sixty years. Given the long periods of time involved many people will ultimately die of other causes before the complications of hepatitis C have time to develop.

Perhaps the primary reason that hepatitis C infections tend to persist is the virus’ ability to change its appearance. Each variation of the virus requires a different antibody response by the body. As many as twenty different modifications of the hepatitis C virus have been identified in a single individual at a single point in time and this is felt to be an underestimate of the actual number of variations in existence.

Standard medical treatment for hepatitis C consists of six to twelve month courses of
interferon with or without the antiviral drug, ribavirin. Long-term response rates, defined as absence of detectable virus for six months, have been a disappointingly low 10 to 20 % with interferon. Combination therapy offers improved response rates, but these vary considerably depending upon which variety of the virus is the predominant one in an individual. Genotype 1 is associated with only a 30% long-term response rate while genotypes 2-6 respond up to 60 % of the time.

The decision to undergo medical treatment is not an easy one. The cost of combination therapy runs $8,000 to $16,000 depending upon the length of the treatment course. Side effects can be significant. More than 50% of people treated with interferon experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Others develop weight loss, low white blood cell count, abdominal pain, hair loss, thyroid problems, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and impaired concentration. For some, concentration difficulties become so severe that they
are unable to work for the duration of their treatment. Approximately 10% of patients who take ribavirin develop hemolytic anemia. Ribavirin can also cause a persistent dry cough.

Critical questions exist. Why are some individuals capable of clearing the virus completely? Why are some able to carry the virus for a lifetime without developing any serious liver impairment while others progress to cirrhosis and liver failure? Why do a small percentage of people infected with hepatitis C develop liver cancer while the overwhelming majority do not?

It is becoming clear that a number of steps can be taken to optimize the likelihood that an infected person will remain relatively unaffected by the virus. These are beneficial whether or not conventional medical therapy is pursued.

Abstinence from alcohol is one of the most significant ways an individual infected with the hepatitis C virus can influence the course of the disease. The combination of alcohol and hepatitis C virus is particularly damaging to the liver. While non-drinkers infected with hepatitis C are 9 times more likely to develop cirrhosis than a non-drinker who is not infected and a heavy alcohol drinker is 15 times more likely to become cirrhotic, infected alcohol drinkers are 147 times more likely to develop cirrhosis and liver failure.

While anyone can benefit by avoiding zones of geopathic stress (see the June 2000 HBD Newsletter on Geobiology) it is particularly important that those fighting a chronic infection do so. I witnessed a dramatic example of how geopathic zones can affect the course of the illness recently. An individual who had been doing well on a nutritional regimen for approximately two years began feeling significantly more tired. Tests showed that her liver studies and viral load had jumped dramatically. The only change she could identify in her life was that her office desk had been moved shortly before the onset of fatigue. It was discovered that since that time she had been sitting in a zone of very low energy for 8 to 10 hours each day. Moving the desk back to its former location brought about a rapid improvement in her energy level.

Basic health measures including drinking pure water, following the rules for healthy eating (keeping the diet colorful, edible at room temperature, unrefined, varied, and inclusive of whole grains, soy and vegetable oils), avoiding exposure to environmental toxins such as chlorine and other chemicals, and remaining active are important. A nutritional supplement incorporating the approximately 90 vitamins and minerals required by the body for optimum functioning of its healing mechanisms should be taken, along with a green plant supplement to keep the body alkaline and minimize damage from free radicals.

It is also important to support the body’s immune system. Many herbal immune system stimulants including echinacea, goldenseal, pau d’arco, St. John’s wort and cat’s claw are available. I have recommended many of these in the past, but now prefer a protein called alpha-peptide that was originally isolated in the blood of sharks.

Alpha-peptide, which can now by synthesized in sufficient quantities, has several advantages over the older immune system boosters. Alpha-peptide is much more effective in stimulating the body’s immune response and, unlike herbal preparations, does not appear to lose its effectiveness over time. A major advantage is that it is really an immune system modulator, meaning that while it enhances
elements of the immune system that have been underactive it calms those components that have been overactive. It can therefore be used in individuals who have allergies, asthma, or autoimmune conditions that might be aggravated by the herbal preparations.

Substances that support the liver may be helpful in preventing the progression of cell death and cirrhosis. Two herbs that have been used for centuries to support the liver are milk thistle and eyebright. Eyebright received its name because the liver is the seat of vision in traditional Chinese medicine. Because the body can become tolerant to herbs used continually I recommend that milk thistle and eyebright be alternated, each being taken for a month at a time.

Hepatitis C is no longer the silent epidemic it once was. Many support organizations have been developed and its presence is recognized by an ever-increasing number of people. Research is ongoing and the future for those infected by the virus appears bright. Incorporating the principles of bioenergetic and nutritional medicine into the daily routine can significantly enhance the likelihood that the virus will remain quiescent and that the infected individual will enjoy a long and fruitful life, free of the more serious complications of the disease.


Since this article was written it has been learned that loss of the body's ability to use methyl groups for repair as indicated by elevated homocysteine levels is a significant factor in determining the prognosis of hepatitis C.  A homocysteine level should be checked and supplementation to normalize homocysteine should be taken if the level is greater than 7 mmol/L.  For more information see Homocysteine:  Repair and Maintenance.

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