Comprehensive Hepatitis C Symptom Management With CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
Yes, it’s a mouthful. But it’s also a powerful approach to managing the many debilitating symptoms associated with hepatitis C.
CAM, which stands for “complementary and alternative medicine,” refers to a widening net of natural therapies and natural remedies tailored to alleviating the symptoms of chronic hepatitis C (CHC). Taking its cues from Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) like aromatherapy, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and heat therapy, CAM is a natural and holistic approach to Western medicine’s lose grasp on hepatitis C.
With the CDC estimating that 3.2 million persons in the U.S. have the chronic form of hepatitis C virus, the demand for CAM is crystal clear (1). And even if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford the out-of-pocket cost of most hepatitis drug regimens, you may get to the end of the treatment cycle and find yourself reeling from side-effects which often include fatigue, diarrhea, dizziness and nausea, depending on the drug.
When we take a macro view of the situation, the American healthcare system could also use relief from the strain that CHC applies on insurance companies and then individual households in absence of an actual cure.
The Familiar Symptoms
First, let’s go over some of the symptoms of hepatitis C before examining CAM to better understand how its techniques can be utilized to address and target specific hepatitis symptoms.
- Low Energy
- Upset Stomach or Abdominal Pain
- Dark Urine
- Grey Stool
- Loss of Appetite
- Unexplainable Weight Loss
- Jaundice or Yellowing of the Skin or Eyes
The CAM Umbrella
Now that we have a good idea of what different hepatitis symptoms look like, let’s dive right into the different techniques that CAM incorporates to help target these symptoms.
Discovery of this technique dates back to ancient Egypt and the use of distilling and extracting oils and aromas from plants for use in the embalming process. Aromatherapy would go on to gain wider popularity in 19th Century Europe, but the exploration of how aromas and scents can affect mood and mental health traces back to China.
More contemporary evidence of aromatherapy’s potency as a natural remedy is easy to find though. In addressing the specific symptoms of hepatitis C we’d like to illuminate those aromas and essential oils that aim to alleviate specific symptoms.
Managing the fatigue and low energy tied to hepatitis is well paired with aromatherapy treatment. Basil, cedarwood, and peppermint are all aromas good for mental stimulation and will also help elevate mood and creativity. For an additional energy and mood lift, throw some eucalyptus oil in the diffuser, and turn to the citrus family of aromas, along with cardamom, bergamot or ginger to help boost appetite.
The idea behind acupuncture is that energy moves throughout the body along 12 main channels known as meridians, and applying pressure at various points along the meridians can redirect the flow of energy through your body to elicit various health benefits.
While acupuncture alone may not be enough to wholly alleviate CHC symptoms, it definitely fills a vital role in CAM by improving liver function, immune health, and inflammatory modulation. In studies investigating acupuncture’s role in liver function, researchers found acupuncture to “normalize liver and kidney function for patients with liver cirrhosis and ascites.”
Research surrounding acupuncture is difficult to unpack, and more is needed, but we also need to acknowledge that clinical trials are often a problematic way to evaluate manual therapies, such as acupuncture, and their results are not necessarily a reflection of the treatment efficacy.
If you’re search for CHC relief finds you on the acupuncture table, the following 3 pressure points may be helpful in targeting some of the most common hepatitis symptoms:
- Lower Sea of Qi – This point is directly below your navel and stimulating this acupressure point can boost energy, kick start your immune system, and stimulate your digestive system for help dealing with the abdominal pain and stomach issues associated with hepatitis.
- The Inner Gate – This pressure point is located on your forearm approximately an inch and a half below your palm. Activating this point on both arms will also improve stomach discomfort while additionally alleviating chest congestion. The inner gate is also thought to be associated with increased blood flow and detoxification which is always a good thing in terms of lightening the load we put on our livers.
- The Liver Median – Located slightly above the webbing of your big toe, this point is directly connected to your liver and kidneys. Hitting this point for a minute or two at a time will promote circulation and aid your liver and kidneys in filtering and detoxing your liver.
Reiki and Meditation
While they are similar, Reiki and meditation are two different examples of energy healing that can both fall under the CAM umbrella. Research data is limited on Reiki, which relies upon a practitioner channeling and directing energy to the places where you need healing, but there is a healthy body of empirical data supporting the benefits of meditation.
In regards to hepatitis and liver function, meditation and Reiki have proven very helpful in combating cirrhosis and liver damage. The principle is that meditating can clear your mind and clear negative energy that’s impeding you and your body. Meditating can also ease muscle tension and release stress in the body which, in turn, improves immunity.
Practicing meditation is free and can offer serious health benefits beyond liver function by broadly improve quality of life. You can also do it anywhere. Just sit down, close your eyes, and try to clear your mind. Even 5 minutes can be beneficial and, at the most basic level, meditating can help manage the depression often associated with CHC and other chronic diseases.
It may be difficult at first, but there’s no wrong way to meditate. Don’t get frustrated if a thought interrupts you. It’s hard to get our brains to slow down, but doing so could be a game changer in terms of managing CHC symptoms.
The active cousin to meditation, yoga harnesses breath control and specific body postures to unlock a host of health benefits. In relation to your liver, certain yoga poses may target and bolster liver function. Below are some of the best poses for your liver but, be warned, some of these postures are more advanced and you should work up to them over time:
- Revolved Half Moon – As an extension of the more familiar triangle pose, revolved half moon will help improve your balance, but also stretch your spine and cleanse your digestive organs, including your liver.
- Seated Spinal Twist – This posture is fairly simple, but packs a huge punch. Take a seat, fold your legs and gently twist your core. Doing so will improve spine health, flexibility, and aid overall digestion, lightening the burden on your liver.
- Marichi’s Pose – Another simple pose that’s great for your liver, Marichi’s pose also massages your internal organs and promotes pique functionality.
A massage isn’t just an excellent gift for your loved ones and significant others, it’s also a very relaxing way to help combat the symptoms of hepatitis. Massage therapy involves the manipulation of the soft tissue of the body with the goal of relieving stress and pain.
These 2 massage techniques are best at managing hepatitis C symptoms:
- Cranial Sacral – Focus here to rebalance the face through gentle, noninvasive stimulation of the cranium, bones of the face and the spine in order to alleviate headaches and dizziness arising from hepatitis.
- Polarity Therapy – This technique uses physical manipulations, rocking movements and specific hand placements to help bring relief from chronic pain, nausea and dizziness, and stress.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal remedies are the cornerstone of any successful CAM routine. Of all the herbs, milk thistle stands out as one of the most popular for helping manage hepatitis C symptoms.
However, according to The Hep C Trust there are a plethora of other herbs that can help target specific CHC symptoms as well.
- Turmeric – Also known as curcumin, turmeric is a spice primarily popularized by its use in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Turmeric can improve liver function by detoxification and is believed to inhibit cell to cell transmission of hepatitis C.
- Dandelion – Known to attenuate oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, it can be found in many forms such as supplements.
- Artichoke – Artichoke is believed to reduce liver toxicity. Also, it’s quite delicious when grilled or roasted, and served with an aioli.
- Aloe Vera – Aloe vera has long been believed to possess antioxidant properties, reduce oxidative stress and help manage blood sugar levels.
- Green Tea – Not just a great coffee alternative, green tea is packed with antioxidants and has long been regarded for its protective effects on the liver. Drinking green tea regularly is healthy and decreases the risk of developing a variety of liver conditions such as hepatocellular carcinoma, cirrhosis and chronic liver disease.
Heat therapy, also known as thermotherapy, is just that – the therapeutic use of heat via an object such as hot cloth, hot water bottle, ultrasound, heating pad, hydrocollator packs, whirlpool baths, sauna, or heat therapy wrap.
The basic idea is that applying heat can induce sweating and help lift and remove toxins out through the skin. Simply put, toxins lifted through the skin means less toxins for your liver to handle, and livers with hepatitis need all the help they can get.
Now that we know what CAM is and how it can be used to manage and address multiple hepatitis symptoms, now comes the hard part of implementation.
CAM opens a whole new world of approaching CHC management and can definitely feel overwhelming. Start slow. Incorporate the CAM techniques that feel are easiest for you and build up from there.
In the same way you wouldn’t dive straight into a difficult yoga position, the same is true for CAM. Our suggestion, start with meditation. It’s the easiest way to start and build confidence, and may set the stage for more CAM integration and growth.
But, remember, always consult with your physician before making any drastic changes to your routine and always be cognizant of what your body and liver are telling you.
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