Hope for Hepatitis C

Hope for Hepatitis C

Julian Whitaker, MD

Fifty-nine year-old Ellie, suffering with hepatitis C, arrived at the Whitaker Wellness Institute quite ill and very concerned. Her viral load was high (6,830,000), her liver enzymes were elevated, and her doctor had informed her that even if treatment could hold the virus at bay, she would eventually require a liver transplant.

Ellie is one of approximately four million Americans living with hepatitis C. And although most of them have been given a similar prognosis, this dire outlook is just not accurate as far as I’m concerned. Here’s why.

Marginally Effective Drugs

Conventional physicians usually treat hepatitis C with two drugs: injections of interferon, an immune booster, and ribavirin, an oral antiviral. This duo makes for a rough treatment course. Interferon causes substantial problems that include, but are not limited to, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, thinning hair, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and psychiatric problems such as anxiety, depression, and intense irritability. Ribavirin has serious side effects as well, including hemolytic anemia, which is marked by the destruction of red blood cells and increased risk of heart attack. It has also been linked to headaches, shortness of breath, and cough.

Side effects notwithstanding, interferon isn’t all that effective over the long term. The main goal of treating hepatitis C is to retard the progression of serious problems such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), cancer, and liver failure. However, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine casts doubt on interferon’s prolonged use for the management of this disease. The HALT-C (Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-term Treatment against Cirrhosis) Trial followed more than 1,000 patients for three and a half years and found that those who were treated with interferon fared no better in terms of disease progression than those who were not treated.

Though adding ribavirin to interferon does increase response rates—halting disease progression in approximately 40 to 50 percent of patients—it still leaves at least half of those afflicted to ultimately face liver failure, transplant, or death.

A Safe, Natural Treatment That Works

Fortunately, there is hope for people with hepatitis C—not with a pharmaceutical approach but with an extremely effective natural protocol. More than 25 years ago, my friend and colleague, Burton Berkson, MD, developed a treatment for hepatitis C and other liver disorders. Dubbed “triple therapy,” it features three nutritional supplements: alpha lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium.

All three of these are powerful antioxidants, but each of them has additional unique benefits for the liver. Alpha lipoic acid boosts levels of glutathione, a detoxifying antioxidant that is particularly protective of the liver. Silymarin, an herbal extract derived from milk thistle, also increases glutathione levels, plus it curbs inflammation and rejuvenates the liver by stimulating the production of new hepatic cells. And selenium, a trace mineral, rounds out the trio by slowing the replication of the hepatitis C virus—I like to think of it as “viral birth control.” Together, these supplements thwart the attack on the liver and put the brakes on disease progression.

Predictable Benefits of Triple Therapy

Dr. Berkson found that when patients with hepatitis C followed this protocol, their viral counts improved, they felt better, and they could resume their normal activities. Best of all, they were able to avoid liver transplants. He has treated close to 100 patients to date, with predictably positive results.

That was certainly the case with my patient Ellie. Just six weeks after starting on triple therapy, her liver enzymes stabilized, and two of three fell into the normal range. Her viral load dropped to 1,120,000—an amazing fivefold reduction! Ellie was delighted with the dramatic changes in her lab work, as well as her newfound health and well-being. To maintain these improvements, she will need to continue following this protocol indefinitely, but Ellie feels that taking a few supplements each day is a pretty good trade-off.

The Choice Is Yours

The question arises: Are hepatitis C patients better off taking two powerful prescription drugs that have damaging side effects and little hope of stopping the progression of liver damage—or would they be best treated with safe, nontoxic alpha lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium?

As Dr. Berkson’s published results and Ellie’s story show, triple therapy is obviously the best choice. However, whether you’re given any options at all depends on whom you turn to for treatment. For decades, physicians specializing in the treatment of hepatitis C have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to this effective and inexpensive natural approach. They are like disciplined band members playing music composed and directed by Big Pharma.

I predict that this closed-minded approach to hepatitis C will contribute to an inevitable tidal wave of liver failure, transplants, and death from this disease.


  • The daily doses for the supplements used in Dr. Berkson’s triple therapy protocol are 600 mg alpha lipoic acid, 900 mg silymarin (milk thistle extract), and 400 mcg selenium, taken in divided doses. Look for them in your health food store or order by calling (800) 810-6655.
  • If you or a loved one has hepatitis C or other liver concerns, call (866) 944-8253 to set up an appointment at the Whitaker Wellness Institute.
  • Hepatitis C can lie dormant for years, slowly damaging the liver all the while, before becoming symptomatic. Get screened for this disease if you have a history of elevated liver enzymes, have ever used IV drugs, have had unprotected sex, have had a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, or have had long-term kidney dialysis or treatment with blood products made before 1987. Early detection and treatment are your best bet.


  • Berkson BM. A conservative triple antioxidant approach to the treatment of hepatitis C. Med Klin. 1999;94 Suppl 3:84–89.
  • Di Bisceglie AM, et al. Prolonged therapy of advanced chronic hepatitis C with low-dose peginterferon. N Engl J Med. 2008 Dec 4;359(23):2429–2441.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.

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