Hepatitis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the liver; it is mainly caused by a virus (the hepatitis virus) and there are five types of hepatitis namely hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, a different virus is responsible for each type but in this article, we will be looking mainly at hepatitis B caused by the HBV.
Other things that can cause hepatitis are drugs, toxins, alcohol, medications; there is another type called ‘autoimmune hepatitis’, it occurs when the body produce antibodies against the tissues of the liver.
Functions of the Liver
The liver is the largest and the most important organ in the body which has many important life-supporting functions; it is located in the right upper area of the abdomen and unlike the other organs of the body that comes in pair, the liver is just one.
Important functions of the liver are production of bile which aids in digestion, filtering and excretion of toxins from the body, excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones and drugs, breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, activation of enzymes, production of hormones, storage of glycogen, minerals and fat soluble vitamin (A, D, E and K); synthesis of clotting factors and blood proteins like albumin.
Hepatitis B also called ‘serum hepatitis’ is an inflammation of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus; unlike hepatitis A, this type of hepatitis can lead to chronic hepatitis B and other health complications, it is potentially dangerous and life threatening if it is allowed to get chronic.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Symptoms are chronic fatigue, headache, mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and feeling sick to your stomach, abdominal and stomach pain, itching all over the body, pain over the location of the liver, joint pain, tan-coloured stool, dark urine and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin).
It is estimated that 257 million people around the globe have this infection and in 2015, 887,000 died as a result of hepatitis B infection. This infection is an important occupational hazard for health workers.
This infection is prevalent in the pacific regions and Africa and it is said to be chronic when it persist for more than six months; when it becomes chronic, it may be difficult to cure or treat it and this is when it leads to chronic diseases and a lot of health complications and even death.
Causes of Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B virus: This is the main cause of hepatitis B and it spreads from one person to another; a healthy person gets infected when he or she comes in contact with the body fluid or blood of an infected person. This virus can survive outside the body for at least seven days and during this time it can infect another person.
Sex: Having unprotected sex with an infected person can cause and spread the Hepatitis B virus.
Needles: Sharing needles and sharp object with an infected person can cause this. Don’t share razor blades and toothbrushes too.
Tattoo: Getting tattoo with unsterilized equipment can also cause this.
Mother to child transmission: A woman infected with the hepatitis B virus can pass it to her baby during delivery; that is why antenatal care is important because you pregnant women are tested for hepatitis and treatment is commenced immediately. The baby is also given shots to help prevent the infection.
Note that hepatitis B is not spread through food, water and casual contact.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis B
Blood test: This involves checking blood samples for viruses that cause hepatitis; it also involves checking for antibodies that are common in autoimmune hepatitis.
Liver biopsy: This is an invasive test; it involves the doctor taking a sample of your liver tissues. It does not require a surgery, a needle is put through your skin to get the tissues.an ultrasound is used to guide the doctor when taking the sample and this test helps the doctor to know how the inflammation has affected the liver and it also help the doctor to sample any area in your liver that appears normal.
Liver tests: These are biochemical tests that are carried out to know he state of the liver and its functions; blood samples are used and if the enzymes of the liver are high, it is a sign that the liver is either stressed, damaged or not working properly.
Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound is used to create an image of the organs in the abdomen; this will help the doctor to take a close look at the liver to see if it has fluid, if it is enlarged, if it has tumors or if there are abnormalities in the gallbladder.
Questions and physical examination: The doctor will ask about your history (family history included) to know if you have risk factor for hepatitis. The doctor will carry out physical examinations on you like checking the colour of your skin or eyes, he may feel to see if your liver is enlarged and he may also gently press on your abdomen to see if there is a pain or tenderness.
Treatment of Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B goes away on its own in most cases but chronic hepatitis B is treated and treatment depends on whether the infection is getting worse or whether the liver is damaged. There are medicines for these but they are not good for every one; so you need to consult a doctor to know which one is right for you. You also need to consult your doctor before taking any herb or herbal remedy; although hepatitis B has a lot of herbal remedies, difference in individual’s biology can make some herb react in different way. Also if you are on hepatitis medications; you need to consult with your doctor before trying any herb or supplement to prevent drug herb interaction.
Complications of hepatitis B
Chronic hepatitis B can lead to:
- Severe liver damage
- Chronic infection of the liver
- Hepatitis D infection
- Liver transplant
- Liver cancer
- Cirrhosis of the liver (scarring of the liver)
- Liver failure
- Kidney disease
- Inflammation of the blood vessels
How to prevent Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can be prevented by:
- Taking the vaccine which is a series of three or four shots.
- Avoid unprotected and casual sex with strangers
- Don’t share needles, razor blades, tooth brushes and sharp objects.
- Avoid tattoos
- Avoid traveling to areas where hepatitis B is prevalent
- Always go for liver tests because these signs and symptoms do not start showing immediately one is infected; they have a long incubation time.
Natural Remedies for Hepatitis B
Natural remedies for Hepatitis B
Eat anti-inflammatory foods: Eating lots of anti-inflammatory foods relieves the symptoms of hepatitis B and makes healing faster. Dark green leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll that helps in reducing liver damage and oxidative stress. Eat lots of anti-inflammatory foods like green leafy vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, berries, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach , Swiss chard, beets, celery, carrots, sweet potatoes, fresh fruits especially citrus fruits (oranges, limes, lemons and grapes), berries and pineapples, nuts and seeds like walnut, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds, turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, whole and gluten free grains like brown rice, oats, millet and quinoa; healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, ghee and avocado; probiotics like organic yogurt and kefir and nutrient dense bone broth. You can eat meat that was raised organically and wild fish; not farm raised ones.
Reduce stress: Stress aggravates the symptoms of hepatitis and spreads the virus while avoiding or reducing stress relieves the symptoms and reduce the spread of HBV. Use lavender oil either for massage or aromatherapy; it will ease stress and help you relax well.
Stay hydrated: This will help replace lost body fluids caused by vomiting. Take lot of coconut water to help you maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes and this will also strengthen the immune system to resist this infection. You can also add fresh fruit juices, herbal teas and vegetable smoothies regularly to your diet as this will boost your nutrient level when hydrating your body. Drink at least 8 ounce glass of water at every meal; bone broth will also help to hydrate the body and provide it with essential nutrients to fight the virus and strengthen the immune system.
Peppermint oil: This essential oil helps one to overcome nausea, add a drop of it to glass of water; you can also add it to a cool compress and apply it on your head.
Garlic: Garlic has strong anti-viral properties that can kill this virus; it has lots of metabolites and amino acids that can help in quick recovery. Garnish your meals generously with garlic and to protect the liver from hepatitis consume raw garlic cloves daily.
Take Glutathione supplements: Studies have proven that there is a direct correlation between low level of glutathione in the body and Hepatitis B, C and other viral activities. Glutathione is known as the mother of all anti-oxidants, it supports vital functions of the body, detoxifies the liver, the liver use this compound to break down toxins. If you have checked with your doctor and you are low, you can take L-cysteine and L-glutamine; this will help to restore healthy level of glutathione.
Milk thistle: The active anti-oxidant compound silymarin found in milk thistle detoxifies the liver, removes toxins from the liver, rebuilds liver cells, reduce oxidative stress, production of free radicals, inhibits the binding of toxins in the cells of the liver; it is helpful in treating both acute and chronic viral hepatitis and other diseases of the liver. This is the most popular and most tested herb for hepatitis B.
Cordyceps: This plant helps to reduce the damage caused by chronic hepatitis and it also helps to improve the functions of the liver. Take three to five grams two times daily.
Whey protein: The flow of blood into the liver is diminished when it is inflamed; consuming 25 grams of whey protein every day for one year helps to increase the rate of blood flow into the liver, it also helps to reduce other symptoms of hepatitis and speeds up recovery.
Vitamins: Vitamin B kills the virus that causes Hepatitis B, aids production of new liver cells and also strengthens the immune system. Vitamin B12 treats the symptoms and controls the growth of the virus. You can get these vitamins from fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables, organic beef liver, fish, raw milk, cheese and yeast.;2
Lemons and papayas: Offers great relief from nausea and they help in increasing appetite. Taking their juices regularly each day is an effective treatment for the symptoms of Hepatitis B. lemon on its own is a natural cure for hepatitis B; it relieves the symptoms of this infection like nausea, puking and loss of appetite. You can also add grapefruit extract and olive oil to this juice when taking them to make it more effective.
Green tea: The anti-oxidants in green tea help in restoring normal functioning of the liver through balanced secretions of juices.
Ginger: This wonderful herb improves the immune functions, fights infections and helps one to overcome the symptoms of this infection. You can add it generously to your meals, you can chew it raw and you can also take it as tea. You can also consume ginger juice after each meal to get the desired effect.
Olive leaf: The anti-oxidants from olive leaves fight both the Hepatitis virus and any other virus that attacks the body due to their powerful anti-septic effect. Its active ingredient oleuropein has strong anti-viral and anti-fungal properties that effectively kill the virus. It also supplies the body with nutrients and strengthens the immune system. You can take olive tea every day by putting one teaspoon of dried olive leaves in a cup of water; let it boil for 10 minutes. Then you filter it and let it cool, drink it three times daily.
Black seed oil: This oil helps the metabolism in the body to go on smoothly; it aids digestion, spreads warmth and improves the strength and functions of the liver.
Dandelion: Dandelion has anti-viral, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which reduce swellings, pains, cleans the liver and thoroughly flush out all toxins from the liver. Drink at least three cups of dandelion tea daily. You can make dandelion tea by either boiling the fresh leaves or flowers in water, sieve it or let it cool then you drink it. You can also use the dried powder.
Licorice: The high content of anti-viral and anti-anti-oxidant properties helps in killing the Hepatitis B virus rapidly. Eat a piece of licorice root three times daily. It is also proven that it releases an antigen called ‘glycyrrhizin’ which is effective against chronic hepatitis B.
Beets: Beets are very high in iron, potassium, Vitamin A, B, C, calcium, copper, manganese and folic acid; all this nutrients helps the liver to repair its damaged cells, reduce pains and swellings, detoxifies the liver and provides the body with sufficient energy. Drink two glasses of fresh beet juice daily for effective results.
Artichoke: This herb makes recovery from Hepatitis B fast and quick. Its active compound cynarin prevents damage to liver cells, aids in bile production and protects the liver from all kinds of infections and dysfunction.
Indian gooseberry: This fruit has anti-viral properties which can help to reduce the number and activities of hepatitis B virus in the body. Take this juice with honey in it several times daily.
What to avoid?
Avoid foods and drinks that cause inflammation: Avoid alcohol, refined oils, sugar, farm raised meats, dairy and dairy products, refined carbohydrates, food colourings, sweeteners and additives. All these food clogs the digestive system, slows digestion and this puts more strain on the liver and it leads to inflammation of the liver and other body organs and parts.
Avoid pain killer drugs: Ibuprofen, paracetamol and other over-the-counter drugs cause inflammation of the liver as side effects when taken regularly and they can worsen liver damage for those already infected by Hepatitis B.
Avoid strenuous physical activities or hard exercises: Strenuous exercises and stress increase the symptoms of hepatitis and it weakens the immune system and makes it unable to fight the infection.