The ABCs of Hepatitis
Julian Whitaker, MD
When I began practicing medicine in the 1960s, there were two known types of hepatitis. Hepatitis A, which is transmitted in contaminated food and water, was most often seen in international travelers, and hepatitis B, a blood-borne illness, resulted primarily from transfusions and needles. Since then at least three additional types of this viral disease have been identified, and one of them, hepatitis C, has become a major public health issue in the US.
Hepatitis C affects approximately four million Americans, and most of them don’t even know they are infected. The virus can remain in the body for 10, 20, or even 30 years, slowly damaging the liver. By the time symptoms become evident, as they do in 85 percent of patients who get the virus, conventional treatment is not very effective. Hepatitis C leads to more liver transplants than any other disease and claims the lives of 10,000 Americans every year.
A Patient With No Hope…
MP, who contracted the hepatitis C virus after a blood transfusion during surgery, showed no symptoms of disease for five years. In fact, she didn’t even know she had been infected. Then, over a two-year period, her condition rapidly deteriorated. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis (permanent scarring of the liver that can lead to liver failure), portal hypertension and bleeding from varicose veins within the esophagus.
Fewer than one-third of patients with chronic hepatitis C respond to standard treatment with interferon and other antivirals (which costs $16,000-$17,000 per year), and MP was not one of the lucky ones. Despite receiving treatment, her condition continued to worsen. When doctors found a mass in her liver, she was told that it was probably liver cancer and there was no hope of cure—not even a liver transplant would save her.
…Found Help From an Innovative Physician
Weak and fatigued, with a grossly enlarged liver, MP finally consulted Burton Berkson, MD, a pioneering physician who has achieved miraculous results with patients suffering from a wide range of serious liver diseases. Dr. Berkson started her on his protocol for hepatitis C, which he calls triple antioxidant therapy, as it incorporates three of our most potent antioxidants: alpha lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium—a protocol we’ve been using at Whitaker Wellness for the past 15 years. MP, who had been told by her previous physician that she had only months to live, began this protocol in March 1998. One year later, “the patient with no hope” had made a dramatic turnaround. Today, MP works full time, feels and looks great, and shows no signs of active hepatitis C.
Lipoic Acid Reverses Liver Damage
The first component of triple antioxidant therapy is alpha lipoic acid (or lipoic acid or ALA). While a medical resident in the late 1970s, Dr. Berkson was assigned to the care of two patients who were dying of liver failure after eating toxic amanita mushrooms, which cause death in 60 to 90 percent of all people who accidentally ingest them. Dr. Berkson, who was explicitly told that there was nothing that could be done for these patients, recalled reading an abstract about the use of lipoic acid to treat amanita poisoning. Overcoming the objections of hospital administrators, he treated these “terminal” patients with lipoic acid. Incredibly, their liver damage was completely reversed, and both are alive and well today.
Lipoic acid protects the liver in numerous ways. First and foremost, it’s a powerful antioxidant that disarms the free radicals unleashed by the hepatitis C virus. Lipoic acid also boosts levels of glutathione, the body’s most important intracellular antioxidant. When levels of glutathione are low, liver detoxification grinds to a halt, allowing toxins free rein. For patients with compromised liver function due to hepatitis, raising glutathione levels can help prevent life-threatening complications such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.
This supplement has another remarkable role: it restores flagging energy to the liver by helping usher glucose into the cells. Without sufficient energy, cell division slows or halts, preventing regeneration of the severely damaged liver. Simply ensuring that the liver has adequate energy helps to restore normal function.
Silymarin Regenerates the Liver
There is no drug on the market today, including interferon, that can protect the liver as well as the humble herb milk thistle. And for the liver that has already been damaged, the herb’s active ingredient silymarin has amazing restorative powers.
Like lipoic acid, silymarin is a powerful free radical fighter. Silymarin also boosts glutathione levels by as much as 35 percent, improving the liver’s detoxification processes. It is especially effective in neutralizing toxins that destroy cellular membranes and the genetic material of the liver cells.
However, its most remarkable effect is its ability to stimulate protein synthesis in the liver. This results in increased production of new cells to replace the damaged ones. In effect, it helps regenerate the liver. Remarkably, studies have demonstrated that three to 12 months of silymarin treatment can result in a complete reversal of liver damage.
Selenium Puts the Brakes on Viruses
Finally, there is the mineral selenium. It too has powerful antioxidant properties, and it is especially active in the cellular membranes. This is a vital function, as cell membranes are the sentinels of our cells: they keep the “bad guys” (toxins) from entering the cell while ensuring that the “good guys” (vitamins, minerals and other nutrients) remain inside.
Most important, however, is that selenium appears to act as a “birth control pill” for viruses—it slows down their reproductive mechanisms. By decreasing the replication of the hepatitis C virus, selenium dramatically reduces the viral onslaught to the liver.
Don’t Expect Your Doctor to Know About This Therapy
Don’t count on hearing about this effective therapy for hepatitis C from your conventional physician. Even though Dr. Berkson has published his clinical results in international medical journals, his work remains largely ignored.
With the incidence of hepatitis C expected to skyrocket in the next 20 years, it is important to get the word out about triple antioxidant therapy. It is everything that conventional therapies for the condition are not: effective, safe, inexpensive, noninvasive, and available to all patients who need it.
- You should consider being screened for hepatitis if any of the following pertain to you: a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992, long-term kidney dialysis, treatment for blood-clotting problems with a blood product made before 1987, a history of intravenous drug use or unprotected sex, or chronically elevated liver enzymes.
- Triple therapy protocol, used by Dr. Berkson and the physicians at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, includes 600 mg lipoic acid (orally or, as administered at the clinic, IV), 900 mg silymarin (milk thistle extract), and 400 mcg selenium daily, in two or three divided doses. Other nutrients that may be helpful to support the liver include vitamins C (2,500 mg) and E (800 IU), and coenzyme Q10 (300 mg).
- If you have been diagnosed with the hepatitis C virus, protect your liver by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and other toxins that can hasten the destruction of the liver. Eat organic food whenever possible and drink plenty of pure filtered water to help flush out toxins.
- To schedule an appointment for treatment at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
- Berkson, MB. A conservative triple antioxidant approach to the treatment of hepatitis C. Med Klin. 1999;94;Suppl III: 84–89.
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.