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Hepatitis C Therapy Aided by Ginger

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. January 20, 2010

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Used as both a culinary flavor and medicinal herb by cultures across the globe, learn how ginger can help many conquer Hepatitis C by improving adherence to combination therapy.

Defeating the Hepatitis C virus with combination therapy is a possibility for approximately half of those infected. These odds improve for those who are able to complete treatment for the full length of time at the originally prescribed dosage. In order to finish Hepatitis C combination therapy at its intended strength for the duration advised, patients must persevere through some potentially severe side effects. Easing one of combination therapy’s most common side effects, ginger can help improve Hepatitis C treatment compliance – thus improving the chances of eliminating this troublesome virus.

Adherence

Currently, the standard of treatment for Hepatitis C is combination therapy consisting of pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Over the past several years, clinical trials evaluating the success of this therapy have all reached a similar conclusion – that those whose treatment side effects prevent them from adhering to a full dosed regimen have a reduced chance of achieving a positive treatment outcome. A positive treatment outcome is universally defined as a sustained viral response, where no Hepatitis C virus can be detected six months following the end of treatment.

A study published in the September 2009 edition of the Korean Journal of Hepatology continues to affirm the link between combination therapy adherence and elimination of Hepatitis C. After analyzing 92 chronic Hepatitis C patients receiving peg-interferon alpha and ribavirin combination therapy, the researchers concluded the following:

  • Adherence to therapy is a key factor in achieving a sustained viral response.
  • Supportive strategies to improve adherence will increase overall sustained viral response rates.

Nausea

Nausea is the most common gastrointestinal side effect of pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy. Originating in the stomach, nausea is a feeling of unease or sickness that gives the urge to vomit. While there are many causes of nausea, the drug-induced inhibition of digestion is likely related to combination therapy. Used in a variety of forms, ginger has been used in many cultures to ease or relieve nausea.

Ginger

The root of the plant of the plant Zingiber officinale, ginger is available in many preparations including raw, dried, candied, pickled, in soda, in a capsule, extract or in a teabag. Classified as a warm spicy herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are many theories explaining why ginger eases nausea. However, most practitioners believe that ginger’s ability to improve digestion is because it prevents food from accumulating in the stomach. Ginger accomplishes this by helping promote the secretion of digestive enzymes in the stomach, relaxing taut stomach muscles and increasing intestinal movement.

Although side effects from ginger are rare, there are some documented concerns. Ginger may:

  • Reduce blood clotting ability – Combination therapy and/or cirrhosis can also interfere with blood clotting, so there may be an increased risk of bleeding if ginger dosage is too high.
  • Some physicians advise that individuals who have had ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, gallstones or blocked intestines should use ginger supplements cautiously and avoid large amounts of freshly cut ginger.
  • Because it increases stomach acid production, ginger may work against the effects of antacids, anti-reflux medications and proton pump inhibitors.

Whether munching on the pickled ginger served next to sushi, sipping some ginger tea, nibbling a gingerbread cookie or drinking ginger ale – ginger can prevent stagnation in the stomach. Without stagnation in the stomach, a major source of nausea is eliminated. As one of Hepatitis C treatment’s most common side effects, nausea could dissuade someone from adhering to the full dosage of combination therapy. Thus, ginger has the potential to help people tolerate pegylated interferon and ribavirin – ultimately increasing their likelihood of a successful Hepatitis C outcome.

References:

http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4588065_ginger-help-nausea.html, How Does Ginger Help With Nausea?, Sabrina Ashley, Retrieved November 1, 2009, eHow, Inc., 2009.
http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/vahep?page=prtop04-cs-01##SnauseaX, Interferon and Ribavirin Treatment Side Effects, Retrieved November 1, 2009, US Department of Veteran Affairs, 2009.

http://hepatitis-c.healthytreatment.com/herbs-that-help-the-side-effects/, Herbs that Help the Side Effects, Retrieved October 31, 2009, What is Hepatitis C Symptoms – Hepatitis C Information and Hepatitis C Advice, 2009.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/HERBS_color.pdf, Herbs & Hepatitis C – 2nd Edition, Lucinda K. Porter, RN, Retrieved October 31, 2009, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2009.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19783883?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=4, Impact of adherence to peginterferon-ribavirin combination therapy in chronic hepatitis C patients on achieving a sustained virologic response, Jeong SW, et al, Retrieved November 1, 2009, Korean Journal of Hepatology, September 2009.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-ginger.html, Ginger, Retrieved October 31, 2009, National Institutes of Health, 2009.

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