An Interview with Ralph
a "Hepatitis Survivor,"
on living with hepatitis C.
1.Tell us about yourself, your history with Hep C.
I am a 50 year old licensed massage therapist, the president of
Natural Wellness® and the executive director of the Institute
for Integrative Healthcare Studies. IIHS provides home study,
graduate level continuing education programs for holistic health
professionals. In these varied capacities I am an educator, a healthcare
professional and a business person.
As host of a public access cable program, aptly named Natural Wellness®,
I have had the pleasure of interviewing many holistic health and
integrative healthcare practitioners over the past several years.
This includes holistic MDs, herbalists, aromatherapists, chiropractors,
clinical nutritionists, practitioners of TCM (traditional Chinese
medicine) and so on.
For over 25 years I have been in the holistic health field and
actually met my wife Joanna in a health food store in 1987. We have
two children, Michael, 8 and Lia, 13.
I am a corporate dropout. Sales and marketing is my background.
My last incarnation in the world of big business was as the director
of sales training for the largest newspaper company in North America
(1 billion dollars in annual revenues). I was making relatively
big bucks but the traveling was keeping me from my young family
(plus, helping people through the healing arts spoke more to my
deepest self). Finally, corporate life was just not worth the tradeoff
anymore. I left there six years ago. It was then Joanna and I decided
to start a natural health and distance learning education business
The business outgrew our home in three years and continues to expand
but we still work close to home. We often have the children in the
office after school either helping out or doing homework or just
playing on the computers.
Interestingly, I had been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis many
years before and really yearned to be closer to my family and other
things that really matter in my life.
I call myself a hepatitis c survivor because as long as I am breathing
I am surviving this enigmatic and potentially deadly disease. I
believe that anyone who is reading this interview should start referring
to themselves the same way. Calling yourself a survivor is truthful
and it is hopeful.
Like many chronic hepatitis c patients, I found out about my liver
disease by surprise. In 1989 I applied for an increase in my life
insurance plan. My wife Joanna and I had just had our daughter and
more life insurance seemed like a good idea. Needless to say, I
was shocked when our agent came to our door and told me I had been
denied due to health reasons based on my blood test. He told me
he didn't have any specifics at that time but that the only reason
he had heard of people being denied due to blood tests was HIV/AIDS.
His inept reassuring words were, "Don't worry, Ralph, we all have
to go sometime."
This was on a Friday and he told me I'd have to wait until the
next week before I would find out specifically what the reason was.
I felt like I had been kicked in the gut by a karate expert. Suddenly,
my mortality was right there in my face. It was NOT a good feeling.
Actually, I think it took me years to recover from the shock of
being "unwell". I had always been so healthy.
When I discovered the problem was elevated liver enzymes I began
a quest to find out why. The doctor I chose (recommended by my insurance
agent) turned out to be over his head with my problem. At our first
meeting he kept asking me if I was experiencing night sweats. Finally,
after about the fourth time he asked about this, I inquired why
he wanted to know. That's when he told me it was a potential sign
of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This guy was assuming I had CANCER.
I vividly remember him taking blood and sending me for a chest
x-ray and telling me he would not have results until the following
week. This, again, was a Friday (in fact I recall it was a Memorial
Day weekend). The prospect of waiting at least four days for results
was unnerving to the max. This was definitely not my favorite holiday
weekend in memory.
Anyway, after much fumbling and bumbling and numerous follow up
appointments and tests it was determined I had chronic non-A, non-B
hepatitis (yes, I was diagnosed in the pre-C days). The only time
in my life I had active hepatitis was around the age of 20, several
weeks after giving blood.
The blood drive was conducted in the basement of our county center
and I imagine they may have been a bit careless with regard to optimum
sterility. This was prior to many of the precautions that are taken
today. At the time of that diagnosis it was just assumed I had infectious
hepatitis A and my family and friends all needed to get gamma globulin
Right from the time of discovery of my elevated liver enzymes from
the insurance physical I began treating myself holistically. I researched
all the literature I could find regarding liver disease and natural
healing. I combed the library and once it became available I dove
into the internet.
I consulted with naturopaths, homeopaths, clinical nutritionists,
holistic M.D.s, etc. One of the first products I began taking regularly
was milk thistle extract because so much was written about it with
regard to its centuries long successful use around the world for
liver ailments (and every holistic practitioner I spoke with recommended
it without reservation. There was no other herb that had as impressive
a reputation as milk thistle for liver support and protection. At
that time I started taking the best 80% standardized extract I could
find and milk thistle has been the mainstay of my regimen ever since.
2. Tell us how you "discovered" the milk thistle product that
you offer and what gave you the idea to get it on the market. Give
us the story of how you have become personally involved in getting
a product you believe in to others with liver conditions.
As a lifetime learner and avid reader I am always seeking out new
information related to those subjects that interest me. In the February
1999 issue of the International Journal of Integrative Medicine
there was an article about milk thistle written by a Naturopathic
physician (to learn more about Naturopaths go to http://www.Bastyr.edu).
Most of the article was a rehash of information I was already aware
of, but in one paragraph the author mentioned a clinical study on
a superior form of milk thistle that was shown to be dramatically
more absorbable. She pointed out that one of the only shortcomings
of regular standardized milk thistle extract was its extremely poor
absorption. By combining the extract with phosphatidylcholine (PC)
the researchers had achieved 8 to 10 times more absorption.
At first, in my naive mind I thought all I had to do was take my
milk thistle along with lecithin (which contains high levels of
PC) and I would enjoy this valuable benefit of more milk thistle
getting to my liver. Researching further I discovered that the process
was much more sophisticated than that. The researchers had actually
bound one molecule from the milk thistle extract to two molecules
of PC on a molecular level. The resulting compound was called Siliphos®
. The end result was more like a medicine and less like a supplement.
I think of it as a super-charged delivery system. Your body soaks
up PC like a sponge soaks up water. The milk thistle extract gets
to go along for the ride through your bloodstream to where it does
the most good, your liver.
What impressed me the most were the published clinical studies
I discovered that had been done showing the dramatic superiority
of this product over any other form of milk thistle. There are very
few nutritional supplements that have this kind of scientific validation
to back up their claims of safety and effectiveness.
With still more research I found that Siliphos® was available as
a finished product through Enzymatic Therapy® (a highly respected
nutritional supplement company) and I started buying it at the health
food store for my own use. At the same time I kept looking for more
information and came upon the clinical studies that had been done
with the product. One study done with hepatitis patients showed
the median helpful dosage was 240mg take three times per day.
The bottle of E.T.s supplement contained 60 capsules of 120mg.
The recommendation on the bottle called for one to two capsules
per day. This was nowhere near what the study recommended. To attain
the study dosage I had to take six capsules per day which meant
one bottle would last ten days. That would be three bottles per
month. At $21 per bottle. It would cost $63 per month which seemed
a bit expensive even for such a powerful product.
I knew that this price put the product out of the range of many
people who could most benefit from it. It was then I started to
research the possibility of Natural Wellness® offering the product
directly. Remember, I got into the health care field because I had
a strong desire to help people live healthier lives to the best
of my ability. I saw this as another way to help others.
Our education business already had a mail fulfillment department
in place for shipping our home study programs and I had some knowledgeable
associates in the supplement business.
We decided that going direct to consumers through the internet
was the most cost effective method and would best allow us to offer
the lowest price available. We were able to get the cost as low
as $25 per bottle for the same amount of product that would cost
$63 through Enzymatic Therapy. This was a dramatic savings and
convinced us we were right to move forward.
In order to contain costs, our first iteration of the LiverSupport.com
website was designed with two very bright high school seniors. The
major highlight of the site is the clinical study synopses section.
Some of the studies are even hotlinked to the National Library of
Medicine so people can see that they are medically recognized.
The site went live in August 2000 and we have helped thousands
of people get the best milk thistle product at the best price ever
Incidentally, we recently redesigned the website to be more user
friendly and one of my favorite features is on the home page where
there are news items regarding hepatitis that are automatically
updated on a daily basis. Plus, we have added more clinically proven
products and a book "Healing Hepatitis Naturally" (published
by Freedom Press) which discusses clinically proven liver remedies
(including Siliphos®®). The book, incidentally, mentions LiverSupport.com
as an excellent source for this product. We are very proud of this
3. How do you think Maximum Milk Thistle has helped you and your HCV condition?
I was specifically diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1996 (before that
I was still considered non-A non-B because I hadn't gone for the
hepatitis C blood test). My genotype is 1a. The last time it was
checked my viral load was over 3 million. As I stated earlier, I've
probably had this virus for 30 years. Because I have been taking
care of this condition naturally since first discovering my liver
was ailing, I have been fortunate not to suffer any of the symptoms
so many others have.
I have not had a biopsy because the results would not change what
I am doing to care for my liver. Current medical therapy is too
much of a long shot for me. Especially considering genotype 1 is
the most resistant. Plus, I am able to work, enjoy my family and
function normally now. I have heard too many horror stories, from
the actual people who lived them, to choose a likely debilitating
therapy with such low odds of success.
With regard to Maximum Milk Thistle helping my liver, I have no
doubt it is beneficial based on the clinical studies I have read
about milk thistle in general and Siliphos® in particular. Both
in vivo and in vitro, milk thistle extract has been scientifically
proven to protect and regenerate healthy liver cells. In most cases
elevated enzyme levels are reduced
Even when enzyme levels are unaffected by milk thistle, fibrosis
appears to be slowed considerably according to a study cited in
Gastroenterology journal by Dr. Detlef Schuppan. Dr Schuppan is
considered one of the world's leading experts on milk thistle and
The German Commission E Monographs (considered by knowledgeable
physicians to be the bible of herbal effectiveness and safety) classifies
milk thistle as an approved herb. The Commission E is the equivalent
of a division of our F.D.A. They were tasked with scientifically
validating and rating herbal preparations as drugs (because in Germany
herbal preparations are prescribed by doctors). They found milk
thistle to be helpful for liver conditions as well as being nontoxic
and having no known drug interactions nor contraindications.
Under the category of "Uses" this is a direct quote, "Toxic liver
damage; for supportive treatment in chronic inflammatory liver disease
and hepatic cirrhosis." Under the category "Actions" the Commission
E Monograph has this to say, "The therapeutic activity of silymarin
is based on two sites or mechanisms of action: (a) it alters the
structure of the outer cell membrane of the hepatocytes in such
a way as to prevent penetration of the liver toxin into the interior
of the cell; (b) it stimulates the action of nucleolar polymerase
A, resulting in an increase in ribosomal protein synthesis, and
thus stimulates the regenerative ability of the liver and the formation
of new hepatocytes." This means it both helps to protect and regenerate
healthy liver cells. Many people ask me if they will see or feel
a difference when taking milk thistle products. The fact is that
some people do and some don't. Generally, elevated enzyme levels
may be reduced (indicating a reduction in the liver cells dying
on a daily basis) but this is not true in all cases. Yet, as Dr.
Schuppan pointed out, this does not mean the herb is not helping
to protect and support healthy liver function and inhibit fibrosis.
Some people report feeling less aches and pains, more energy, less
brain fog, etc. Because this varies from person to person no promises
or even suggestions can be made about how it may affect any individual.
Look at it this way, people don't feel a difference taking cholesterol
reducing drugs, but that does not mean those drugs are not doing
their job in helping to save or extend their life.
4. Do you believe in eliminating the virus? Is it possible to
do this with natural medicines?
Totally eliminating the virus from the body is the holy grail of
effective treatment (provided you don't have to kill or maim the
patient to do so). I have seen no proof that any natural substance
or substances can eliminate the virus from the body entirely. One
product I know of has been shown in one small 24 month human study
to reduce viral load dramatically, but this was only what most scientists
would consider to be a pilot study and the virus was not eliminated
in any of the individuals tracked.
I believe some people (who shall remain nameless here ) are behaving
irresponsibly. Claims of a cure give false hope. It may help sell
products that could actually be of value, but it does so in a way
that gives people unrealistic expectations.
Some people who sell products to "cure Hep C" sell them as a "cure"
and claim that they have a "cure". Where are the hundreds or thousands
of patients that should be cured by now? Where are the verifiable
before and after blood tests? I consider myself to be a discerning
open minded skeptic. For instance, I have no doubt that certain
thymus products can upregulate the immune system and this could
be very helpful. But cure hepatitis c? I don't think so.
As patients we need to remember there are many people selling "snake
oil" out there just to make a buck from vulnerable, and sometimes
desperate, chronically ill people. This is reprehensible but true.
Buyer beware! Look for real scientific studies. Ones that have been
published in recognized medical and/or scientific journals.
As patients we need to remember there are many people selling "snake
oil" out there just to make a buck from vulnerable, and sometimes
desperate, chronically ill people. This is reprehensible but true.
Buyer beware! Look for real scientific studies. Ones that have been
published in recognized medical and/or scientific journals.
Take a certain company in Canada. They are selling a product here
in the U.S. that they are not even allowed to market in their own
country because of the inflated unsubstantiated claims they were
making. All their proof is foreign studies that are not even recognized
by the western medical establishment (you certainly won't find them
at the National Library of Medicine). Plus, this company recommends
that hepatitis patients take just their product for six months and
no other supplement or herb. Why is that? So the customer won't
feel as bad about spending nearly $100 per month on this questionable
product? What danger would there be in also taking milk thistle,
or schisandra, or dandelion, or artichoke, or NAC, or ALA, or selenium,
or a good multi vitamin without iron?
Another well known company in the liver supplement arena was recently
fined $60,000 by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for making unsubstantiated
claims about their products. This is unfortunate. For someone who
is deficient in any of the elements included in their key product,
it could have a real beneficial effect. Just don't go claiming it
is going to treat or cure hepatitis c.
There are probably hundreds of natural substances which can be
good for your liver, but there are none that are known to be "cures".
You need to carefully choose the few or several natural substances
that may do you the most good without sending you to the poorhouse
and/or thinking they are truly going to "cure" you.
5. Can you tell us what makes your milk thistle product different
from other ones available?
As stated earlier, the key dramatic difference is absorption.
Take all the studies about milk thistle benefits and multiply by
up to 10 because that is how much more reaches your liver (and how
much less goes into your toilet). This also makes Maximum Milk Thistle
a much greater value based on how much more actually gets to your
There is one other key difference. Explaining it sometimes confuses
people, but I'll give it my best shot here. Only the proven most
beneficial component of milk thistle extract is used in Siliphos®,
the active ingredient in Maximum Milk Thistle. You see, milk
thistle extract is called silymarin.
When you buy 80% standardized milk thistle that means the raw plant
material is processed and purified to contain 80% silymarin. Silymarin
is made up of several bioflavonoids. The 3 active ones are silibin
(sometimes spelled silbinin or silybin), silychristin, and silydianin).
Silibin makes up 60% of silymarin and has been proven to have the
most beneficial effect on the liver. In fact, all of silymarin's
beneficial effects can be directly attributed to silibin.
Now, the process of isolating the most active constituent of a
plant or substance is not uncommon in pharmacology. The best analogy
would be the drug Digitalis. This is a heart medicine. It is derived
from the Foxglove plant. It is isolated and purified to be used
as a medicine. There would be no additional value in eating an entire
Foxglove plant (and it would taste terrible). The full benefit is
contained in the Digitalis.
Another example would be aspirin. Originally isolated from the
bark of willow trees, salicylic acid has been proven to help alleviate
certain aches and pains. While you could chew on a bunch of willow
bark and get even more elements that it contains, all you really
need is the salicylic acid to get rid of your headache. And it would
take quite a lot of bark sucking to give the equivalent of two aspirin
Now consider milk thistle. Silibin has been shown to be the most
active beneficial constituent of the plant for your liver. The company
we get Siliphos® from isolates the silibin and binds it to phosphatidylcholine
in a patented process which increases absorption. So not only are
you getting a super charged delivery system, this system is delivering
the most valuable and beneficial constituent of the milk thistle
This is why we can guarantee that there is no better milk thistle
product on the planet.
6. Do you think someone with Hep C should take just milk thistle
or should they also use other supplements in addition to the milk
If you are going to take only one supplement I believe it should
be milk thistle. Just looking at the published scientific studies
should convince you this is your best bet to protect and support
healthy liver cells.
Once you decide you are going to take milk thistle you may as well
take Maximum Milk Thistle to be sure you are getting maximum benefit
at minimum cost. Of course, there are other supplements I believe
to be important, too. I would never suggest milk thistle is the
only valuable supplement you could take to assist your liver to
continue to function normally.
7. Are there other supplements that you recommend taking with
the milk thistle? Which ones?
Not being a doctor I cannot make recommendations for other people.
I can only let you know what I have chosen for myself and why.
To reinforce the protective and supportive action of Maximum Milk
Thistle® I have added Liv.52® and Liver Kampo® (also
known as sho-saiko-to) to my protocol. They are both herbal combinations,
one ayurvedic (from India) and one Japanese, respectively.
The reason I chose these is that there is a plethora of scientific
validation of their effectiveness and safety. Liv.52® has been most
successful with detoxifying certain substances like alcohol. For
people who are in a more toxic environment or are concerned about
what they ingest (such as alcohol---which is certainly not recommended)
then this product may be very helpful. Sho-saiko-to is produced
using traditional eastern herbs that aid the liver. The manufacturer,
Honso, then standardizes them and produces the product using pharmaceutical
grade standards. In fact, this is considered a true medicine in
Japan where it is prescribed by doctors for liver concerns because
it, too, has been shown to protect and support liver cells.
These two products are available at http://www.LiverSupport.com
and at better prices than you can get elsewhere.
Not available at our site at this time, but still on my "A" list
are certain supplements you can get in any health food store. These
are not necessarily listed in a hierarchial order. The first is
NAC or N-acetyl-cysteine. This is readily turned into glutathione
by your body. Glutathione is essential for normal phase two detoxification
in your liver. You can buy oral glutathione, but it is considerably
more expensive than NAC and there is some controversy among biochemists
and clinical nutritionists as to whether it passes through your
digestive system intact.
NAC is cheaper and it is known to be easily transformed into glutathione
in your body. To give you an idea of its importance let me give
you this example; if you were rushed to the hospital with Tylenol
(acetaminophen) poisoning they would give you intravenous NAC to
detoxify the acetaminophen before it destroyed too many liver cells
and killed you.
Next there is selenium. I take 300mcgs per day. Retrospective
studies in China showed that provinces with elevated levels of hepatocellular
carcinoma (liver cancer) were brought to normal levels very quickly
by the introduction of selenium to the inhabitants' otherwise selenium
deficient diets. As someone with a liver disease, liver cancer is
definitely something I want to avoid (and selenium is very inexpensive).
I also take a good multi vitamin without iron. And, no, it is
not Centrum. The brand is Biotics and you can normally only get
it through a healthcare professional because it is not sold in health
food stores or vitamin shops.
Although Maximum Milk Thistle® contains phosphatidylcholine I still
supplement with additional amounts. It has been shown to be a valuable
supplement for liver health. There are granules from the vitamin
company Solgar that are 95% phosphatides. This is the one I choose.
I usually mix it in health shakes I ingest on a regular basis.
Vitamin C, I take 500mg to 1000mg per day. There is some
question about it helping to bind iron in the body but I have seen
no solid evidence that this could be a problem. In fact, some sources
claim it helps to chelate (remove) excess iron from the body.
Vitamin E, I take 400i.u. per day. It is a strong antioxidant.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (a.k.a. Thiotic Acid) is also on my "A"
list because it has a great reputation as an antioxidant and antiviral
within the HIV community. There is a doctor in Texas who has been
getting quite a bit of press with his "triple antioxidant therapy"
for hepatitis C. The keystone to this therapy is ALA. Also included
in his protocol is milk thistle extract and selenium (what a coincidence).
600mg of ALA per day is his recommendation and I concur.
Green tea is my beverage of choice because it contains catechins,
which are said to be important immune stimulating and healing substances.
I drink at least a tea pot full a day.
Leafy greens supply chlorophyll, enzymes and other essential micronutrients
that are deficient in most modern diets. I alternate between powdered
green drink (ProGreens® from Nutricology) and E3 Live® (a living
algae product that arrives at my home in a dormant frozen state
packed in dry ice).
I am also testing the supplement I mentioned earlier which claims
to lower viral load dramatically. The company is very reputable
and I have spoken to their president. If my viral load goes down
measurably I will feel more comfortable recommending this product
by name (and perhaps making it available on the LiverSupport.com
There are other supplements I take on an intermittent basis. These
include, but are not limited to:
Schisandra (used in China for liver ailments)
Dandelion root (a great diuretic and mild liver cleanser)
Coenzyme Q10 (shown to have immune boosting properties)
Thymus supplements (to recharge the immune system)
Licorice root (used intravenously in Japan and other countries
for hepatitis treatment used orally by me)---be cautious with this
one if you have high blood pressure
Digestive enzymes (to help you better absorb other nutrients)
Astragalus (considered a general tonic to the immune system)
Tumeric root (a natural anti inflammatory)
Mixed Essential Fatty Acids in small amounts (fats have a
bad reputation, but nutritionally the three essential food classifications
are carbohydrates, protein and fats)
SAMe (shown to be antiviral and help cellular metabolism)
Picrorhiza herb (said to be similar in action to milk thistle)
Maitake and shitake mushrooms (both antiviral and immune
Organic liver extract (to help provide essential nutrients)
I also intermittently take certain brand name products that contain
a mixture of nutritional compounds (there are almost too many of
these to mention). There are many other potentially helpful substances,
but the above mentioned are listed because I have found them to
be supported with either clinical evidence or a strong biochemical
I am always on the lookout for new credible remedies or liver support
products and am currently in touch with a Vietnamese doctor who
has formulas that are said to have dramatic and long lasting beneficial
You can sign up for our update newsletter at the LiverSupport.com
website. This way you can stay informed about new and relevant information.
(You may as well benefit from my legwork and research.)
8. Do you care to tell us what your personal health regimen
is and how you feel it has affected your health and well being living with Hepatitis C?
The most important aspect of dealing with this disease is lifestyle
modification. Even to take supplements regularly most people need
to modify their lifestyle in order to fit this into their schedule
on a habitual basis. You would not believe the number of people
who can't seem to take 3 capsules of milk thistle per day on a daily
basis, just because they are unaccustomed to making this a habitual
part of their lives.
Drinking at least 1.5 liters of water per day is extremely important.
Spring or distilled water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is
Regular exercise (at least four days per week) is invaluable. Even
if you are somewhat debilitated, do what you can to keep your body
moving. A little is much better than none. But regularity is keenly
important (as with most things of value in life, consistency is
more important than intensity). I lift weights, ride my bike, walk
and occasionally do a bit of yoga. I was a runner for 14 years but
it just doesn't fit into my lifestyle anymore.
Meditation. contemplation and prayer make a real difference in
stress management and resource development. Meditation and exercise
both help me to reduce stress. And stress seems unavoidable to most
of us here in the 21st century so we need ways to relieve it.
I think it is important to read inspirational books. Any of the
Chicken Soup books will do (or anything of that sort).
Here are several other books from my bookshelf I would highly recommend:
Unlimited Power, Anthony Robbins
It's Not What Happens to You It's What You Do About It, W.
Healing Words, Larry Dossey, MD,
You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought, Peter
Life 101, Peter McWilliams and John Roger
Radical Healing, Rudolf Ballentine, MD
The Life We Are Given, George Leonard and Michael Murphy
The Little Book of Letting Go, Hugh Prather
Natural Detoxification, Jacqueline Krohn, MD
Timeless Healing, The Power of Biology and Belief, Herbert
Spontaneous Healing, Andrew Weil, MD
Why I Survive AIDS, Niro Asistent
A Brief Explanation of Everything, Ken Wilbur
The Four Pillars of Healing, Leo Galland, MD
Don't forget or underestimate the power of laughter. That includes
both books of humor and movies/videos. You should be able to acquire
any of these by visiting your local library and asking the librarian.
Even in our little town they have county wide interlibrary loans
that put nearly any book or tape I want at my fingertips.
Sometimes what you don't do is even more important than what you
do. Alcohol in any amounts is a liver poison, avoid it. Even if
that means joining a program to help you stop drinking. Salt should
be limited. Fried foods are a real negative. Avoid processed meats
and high sugar content soft drinks. Don't overeat. Avoid or limit
coffee intake. Eat less processed foods. Eliminate or at least minimize
drug use. This includes recreational and prescription drugs and
over the counter medications. All of these substances need to be
processed by the liver and put more of a strain on it (some more
than others, of course).
On the "more" side, eat more whole seeds and nuts for essential
fatty acids. Drink more green tea. Eat more green and whole foods.
Get a juicer and drink my favorite combo, carrot, celery and beet
with a bit of parsley.
Eat more green foods, more raw foods, more fresh foods.
Fruits and veggies are your friends.
Eat more garlic.
Raw is best if you don't mind alienating your family or
friends for awhile.
Eat more cruciferous vegetables. This category includes
cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Eat organic foods when possible. Your liver does not need
the additional work of dealing with any pesticide residue.
Eat whole grain breads.
Oatmeal with a bit of maple syrup is a much better breakfast
than bacon and eggs.
I am not a vegetarian, Joanna is. I enjoy lean meats (especially
organic). They are a good source of protein. Joanna eats fish and
eggs and soy for most of her protein intake.
As mentioned earlier, I am fortunate and grateful that I do not
feel the debilitating side effects which often accompany chronic
hepatitis c. This may or may not be because I have been pursuing
natural health and wellness enhancement from even before I was diagnosed.
Since the diagnosis I have simply stepped up and better focused
my healthy living protocol.
You don't have to become a fanatic. Just eat more and more sensibly,
exercise regularly, get plenty of rest and find ways to reduce stress
(or to minimize its effects on you).
9. Any recommendations for those who are newly diagnosed with HCV?
Yes, don't despair. Far more of us will die WITH this disease than
FROM it. One of the keys, I believe, is to stay as healthy as possible
until a real cure or much more effective (and less debilitating)
treatment is discovered. The CDC estimates that 70% of North Americans
with hepatitis c have genotype 1. This is the most resistant type
to today's foremost prevailing medical therapy (interferon and ribavirin).
For people who are diagnosed with genotype 2 there is a much greater
likelihood that this therapy will work and if I were type 2 I might
give it serious consideration.
Be sure to get lots of information, such as what is provided on
the objectivemedicine.com website and places like hepatitis-central.com.
Get more than one medical opinion. M.D. does not stand for Medical
Deity. If you can find a bona fide Naturopath in your area, consult
with them also. They have a broad range of knowledge in the natural
10. What are your thoughts on cirrhosis? Once someone is diagnosed
with cirrhosis, is it too late to turn to alternative therapy. Can
someone with cirrhosis take milk thistle?
Cirrhosis is a serious condition. Doctors consider it irreversible.
Some complementary therapists believe it is possible to slow, stop
and possibly reverse it. Certain herbs, including milk thistle)
are thought to help with this situation. Again, be informed, get
more than one medical opinion, find a Naturopath and never, never,
never give up. Vikki Shaw at Hepatitis-Central.com was told she
had severe cirrhosis and six months to live. That was over six years
ago and Vikki is still going strong (not without some debilitation
and discomfort, but she is far from dead and buried).
11. What do you consider a cure for HCV?
A true cure would be the complete eradication of the virus from
your system forever. This may not be necessary, though, to live
a long, productive life with hepatitis c and die at age 95 in your
sleep. You may be able to live healthier and better through natural
means. New, potentially more effective and body friendlier therapies
are on the horizon.
12. Have you or anyone close to you tried the conventional Hep
C treatment? Are you against using interferon/rebetron? What are
your beliefs about the effects of this treatment on your health?
I have spoken with over one hundred people, many of whom have tried
the therapy in its various forms. Some were on it when we spoke,
others had been on it in the past. The minority had minimal side
effects, the majority found the side effects to be considerably
uncomfortable and more than a little debilitating. Most of them
intensely regretted the experience.
Of course, most people calling the office to speak with me about
hepatitis generally have not had a successful course of medical
treatment. They are what the doctors call "non-responders". They
are looking for other ways to protect and support their liver. For
genotype 1 patients my gastroenterologist said it best, "Interferon
is a drug looking for a disease to cure and with genotype 1, hepatitis
c is not that disease."
While I am not against it, I do believe there has got to be a better
treatment coming soon to a doctor near you. Your decision in the
meantime is between you, your doctor, your loved ones, and your
13. Can milk thistle be used while a person is on conventional HCV
The German Commission E states there are no known drug interactions
nor contraindications with milk thistle. Considering the active
constituents are bioflavonoids, though, it has been shown to have
a downregulating effect on phase one detoxification in the liver.
This means some substances will circulate in your bloodstream longer.
For certain drugs that is a benefit, but doctors need to be aware
of this because it can mean that less of a drug dosage is needed.
Your doctor may not want you taking anything else while on the medical
therapy because they are unfamiliar with what affect it may have.
The final decision, of course, is up to you. After all, it is your
body and your life.
14. If someone has Hep C and continues to drink alcohol on a
social basis, say once a week, are they doing significant damage
to their liver? Can milk thistle help a person who wants to drink
in moderation even though they have hep C?
Hepatitis c is a liver disease. It kills liver cells. It can lead
Alcohol is a liver toxin. It kills liver cells. It can lead to
You have probably heard the analogy of throwing gasoline onto a
If you can't stop drinking completely when you know it can be life
threatening in your case, then you have a drinking problem and should
get help. Social drinking is to get high. To loosen up. To relax.
Otherwise holding a glass of seltzer in your had would do, wouldn't
it? There are other, less toxic ways to accomplish this (and many
of them don't even involve the use of mind or mood altering substances).
Breathing exercises are probably the easiest and most effective.
There are many books written on the subject. Much of yoga science
and certain meditative techniques is based on breath control or
pranamaya (its Sanskrit name). "The Science of Breath" by
Swami Rama is one of my favorites. A newer title "The Art of
Breathing" by Nancy Zi can be quite helpful, too.
The key advantage to using breath strategies and techniques is
that they can be employed anywhere and at any time.
Chi Kung, Tai Chi and yoga practice all help the body/mind deal
more appropriately with stress on an ongoing basis. The results
take a while to develop but they are both profound and powerful.
Incidentally, none of these require strength or stamina to begin
and you can find instruction in most areas of the country or get
a good video tape and book combination from somewhere like Amazon.com.
Chanting and toning can also calm the mind and body and there are
plenty of books and tapes available on these subjects, as well.
As a licensed massage therapist I would be remiss if I did not
recommend massage for stress reduction. Even one full body massage
per month could make a big difference in your ability to deal with
the stress of daily life.
If you want to use mood altering substances that are less potentially
harmful and more natural than drugs or alcohol, there are also herbs
and supplements to help you relax and/or sleep. Kava Kava is one
that is often recommended. Valerian should be avoided if you have
liver concerns (even though it is in most sleep or relaxation formulas).
Find a formula at your health food store that does not contain valerian
and see if it works for you.
For times of intense but not long lasting stress you may want to
try "Rescue Remedy". It is a flower remedy mixture that has
always worked well for me and my family.
Melatonin and GABA are two substances you should ask your
local health food store proprietor about. They may be of help to
you depending on how your tension and stress are manifesting.
I suggest you read "The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine"
by Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND for even more ideas.
Incidentally, clinical tests have recently shown that cigarette
smoking can exacerbate the liver harming effects of hepatitis c.
So, if you are smoking please find a way to quit. It is a matter
of your life. Even if you don't live longer you may live better.
To properly address hepatitis c you need to address your lifestyle.
15. You have information on your site about how to get involved
with issues that affect people with Hep C, politically. Do you get
involved with activities that help some of these groups? What do
you feel impassioned about with regard to these issues?
Helping create http://www.HepatitisActivist.org
and encouraging people to go there and write to congress is the
biggest and best contribution I could think of making for the hepatitis
This website empowers individuals, with the help of technology,
to quickly and easily write to their congressional representatives
(even if they don't currently know who their representatives are
and even if they don't feel comfortable writing a letter).
We have developed an easy and effective way for each of us to make
a difference. Remember, all of us together are certainly more powerful
than any one of us alone. And sending emails from the HepatitisActivist.com
website is so easy you can do it once a month (or week).
16. Is there a certain "liver cleanse" recipe that you go with?
The best way to cleanse your liver is to keep harmful substances
out of your body. The most sensible liver flush I have seen is recommended
by Christopher Hobbs, L,Ac.:
1. Take one cup of fresh squeezed orange juice. Add some lemon to
the point the mix tastes sour. You can water down the final mix
to make it more palatable.
2. Add the juice of 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic (using a garlic press).
Grate in some raw fresh ginger root as well.
3. Mix in 1 tablespoon of high quality olive oil, blend this in
(or shake it well in a glass container) and then drink it up. (Yummy!)
4. Follow up with two cups of cleansing herbal tea. There are many
available at health food stores today.
5. Drink this in the morning after a bit of stretching and deep
breathing, then do not eat or drink anything else for one hour.
The recommendation is to do this for 10 days during every change
of season. Incidentally, I do not like the liver flush that involves
large amounts of olive oil and lemon juice. This can put a real
shock and strain on your liver.
17. If one splurges on things they know are bad for their liver
and then they decide to "clean up" their act, what are the steps
you would recommend, what would be your advice?
Hepatitis C patients have a potentially life threatening disease.
Why would you do something deliberately bad for your liver if you
know it can threaten or shorten your life or quality of life? There
is an inherent psychological problem here.
If you do things that are bad for your liver you first need to
stop doing them and then you need to start doing the good. Most
people know what to do, they just don't bother to make the lifestyle
changes necessary to do it. This involves willpower and consciousness,
thinking differently, eating differently, drinking differently,
dealing with stress differently, etc. It is basically living differently
and most people are more apt to go with inertia and do what they
have always done. That is one of the reasons Thoreau said, "Most
men lead lives of quiet desperation."
You need to be brave to change. You need to want to live differently.
You need to want to live. You need a spiritual connection. Most
people are stuck just getting by. There is nothing wrong with asking
for help. There are professionals who can assist in lifestyle and
behavior modification. Don't be shy. If you need help, seek it out.
18. What is the one thing you want to share with people who
suffer from Hep C that you think might help them over come some
of the difficulties they face?
This disease, like anything else in life, can be a gift. Use it
to examine your behaviors, your relationships, your spiritual connection,
your sense of community, your compassion, your forgiveness, your
love, your death, your values, your dreams, your desires, your fears,
your priorities, your accomplishments, your shortcomings, your hopes.
It is a wake up call. You are mortal, life is fragile, when all
is said and done whether you live ten more years or 100 more, what
really matters to you?
Too many of us live our lives based on old habit patterns, not
deliberate actions. If you look at the word deliberate it is quite
interesting. In its Latin roots it means "of liberation" yet we
interpret it to mean "to think deeply and carefully about". This
is because thinking deeply and carefully about things liberates
you to live your life with clarity and integrity.
Deliberation should be part of all your decisions. Decision, incidentally,
literally translated from the Latin means to cut off from. When
we truly decide to do one thing we are equally deciding not to do
another. A wholesome fulfilling life is not about fence sitting.
Any additional comments? Yes, people should avail themselves of
the information and resources available to them. This includes what
is on the following web sites:
This list is just a few of what I consider the best (and from these
you can find others). I hope all of this information has been, or
will be, helpful to you. May you be well and stay well, my fellow
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