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Hep C Medicine Management: Anxiety

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. November 4, 2013

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Addressing both the emotional and physical aspects of anxiety can help sufferers beat this common Hepatitis C medication side effect.
Hep C Medicine Management: Anxiety

The Hepatitis C community is waiting for an interferon-free treatment protocol – as those who fight the virus now are relegated to regimens that include interferon injections and ribavirin pills. Unfortunately, the side effects from these drugs can be substantial and may even be severe enough to interfere with treatment completion. Incomplete treatment or reduced dosages due to side effects are believed to be the main reasons for treatment failure.

Anxiety is one of those side effects that can make finishing Hepatitis C therapy seem like an uphill battle – but there are a handful of approaches that can effectively ease this unpleasant state.

About Anxiety

Often coupled with fear, feeling anxious during Hepatitis C therapy is relatively commonplace. Experts believe that anxiety is predominantly a side effect of interferon, but it can also accompany the worry and uncertainty elicited when fighting any chronic illness. Although it may be hard to notice, anxiety is best described as:

  • Feeling jittery or “off”
  • Quickened heartbeat
  • Nervousness
  • Feeling tense and restless
  • Being agitated
  • Being unable to sleep due to rapid heartbeat or a mind that won’t turn off
  • Chest tightness
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling short of breath, dizzy or perspiring excessively

Easing Anxiety

Although seemingly well-meaning, someone telling you to relax when suffering with anxiety is typically not very helpful. In general, both emotional and physical factors contribute to anxiety. Combining strategies that address both the emotional and physical aspects are most people’s best bet for anxiety relief.

From an emotional perspective, it is important to confront any fears that might be fueling your anxiety. As such, learn as much as you can about Hepatitis C, join a support group for getting through Hepatitis C therapy, and talk with a therapist about how to improve your emotional outlook.

From a physical perspective, these four strategies help ease anxiety:

  1. Breath-centered practices such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga.
  2. Eliminate caffeine by staying away from coffee, caffeinated tea and soda.
  3. Supplement with anxiety-lowering herbs, vitamins and minerals.
  4. If all else fails and your anxiety persists or worsens, talk to your doctor about investigating whether anxiety management medication is right for you.

More on Supplementing for Anxiety

Natural healthcare providers frequently suggest one, or a combination of the following supplements, to help ease anxiety. In order to make it through the full course of treatment for Hepatitis C, a comprehensive supplement that includes all of the suggestions given below (such as Stress Relief) is a great addition to viral combination therapy for anxiety sufferers:

  • Vitamin B – One of the best vitamins to ease anxiety, the B vitamins help support the nervous system, counteract stress and stabilize the body’s lactate levels which are responsible for some anxiety attacks.
  • Vitamin C – This antioxidant is vital for proper brain chemistry function and adrenal gland health. Scientists believe that supplementing with Vitamin C diminishes the chemical cascade caused by stress which results in alleviating anxiety.
  • Magnesium – This vital mineral can suppress the release of stress hormones and prevent stress hormones from entering into the brain. Several studies have found that chronic stress and anxiety deplete the body of magnesium stores.
  • Valerian – One of the best herbs for anxiety, valerian increases the availability of GABA in the brain, helps with insomnia and has few side effects. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter in the brain.
  • Hops – Although commonly used in brewing beer, hops also has therapeutic benefits thanks to its tranquilization effect. Especially when combined with valerian, hops is a mild sedative and sleep aid.
  • Skullcap – This herb helps relieve anxiety by enhancing the activity of certain inhibitory receptors in the central nervous system.

According to German researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Kliniken Essen-Mitte, anxiety, along with depression and fatigue, occur in 30-80 percent of people who take interferon based, antiviral treatment for Hepatitis C. Thus, anyone who begins Hepatitis C treatment should be aware of this possibility.

By learning about Hepatitis C, getting emotional support, engaging in a breathing practice, avoiding caffeine and taking a supplement like Stress Relief, a majority of those battling the Hepatitis C medication side effect of anxiety will feel better. With this reduction in anxiety levels, the likelihood of completing therapy and beating the Hepatitis C virus improves dramatically.

References:

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/drugs/magnesium, Does Magnesium Work For Anxiety?, Retrieved October 27, 2013, Calm Clinic, 2013.

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20669377_4,00.html, 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety, Retrieved October 28, 2013, Health Media Ventures Inc., 2013.

http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/patient/mental/anxiety.asp, Mental Health, Retrieved October 27, 2013, US Department of Veteran Affairs, 2013.

http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/patient/hcv/treat/side-effects-single-page.asp, Side Effects Guide: Entire Lesson, Retrieved October 26, 2013, US Department of Veteran Affairs, 2013.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/435038-skullcap-for-anxiety/, Skullcap for Anxiety, Shamala Pulugurtha, Retrieved October 28, 2013, Demand Media Inc., 2013.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/525632-link-between-vitamin-c-deficiency-anxiety/, Link Between Vitamin C Deficiency and Anxiety, Jeffrey Traister, Retrieved October 28, 2013, Demand Media, Inc., 2013.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630716, Hepatitis C treatment in patients with drug addiction: clinical management of interferon-alpha-associated psychiatric side effects, Schaefer M, et al, Retrieved October 27, 2013, Current Drug Abuse Reviews, June 2008.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23738221, The Effect of Methylated Vitamin B Complex on Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms and Quality of Life in Adults with Depression, Lewis JE, et al, Retrieved October 26, 2013, ISRN Psychiatry, January 2013.

http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/best-supplements-for-anxiety/2011/03/14/id/389445, 10 Best Supplements for Anxiety, Retrieved October 27, 2013, Newsmax Media Inc., 2013.

http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/natural-remedies/multivitamins-enhance-mood-reduce-stress, Multivitamins Enhance Mood, Reduce Stress, Jessica Girdwain, Retrieved October 26, 2013, Rodale, Inc., 2013.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201106/magnesium-and-the-brain-the-original-chill-pill, Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill, Emily Deans, MD, Retrieved October 28, 2013, Sussex Publishers, LLC, 2013.

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