Jul 13

Hepatitis C Treatment And Alcohol

So after I realised I had Hepatitis C, naturally the first thing I did was to go away and get myself clued up about what I was supposed to do to tackle this disease, thing, condition… whatever it was. What I really wanted to know is what I could immediately start doing in order to prevent damage/further damage to my liver.

Due to having had initial symptoms of jaundiced skin in the past I was able to put an approximate time scale on my infection. At the time of writing I reckon I have had it for between 3-4 years. This of course means that my body did not clear the virus in the 6-12 months after the inital infection. These initial months of infection are known as the acute phase.

During the acute phase of infection approximately 20% of people are able to clear the hep c virus without treatment clearly I was unable to do so. My Hepatitis C infection has now developed into a chronic condition i.e. I cannot clear it myself and it is likely to be a long term disease/condition if I do not have successful Hep C treatment.

For those people lucky enough to discover they have it during the acute phase and can start hep c treatment straightaway, the chances of the treatment being successful are a great deal higher than during the chronic stage.

“Many studies have demonstrated effectiveness in acute hepatitis C using interferon alpha-2b (INF a-2b). Success with this product have ranged anywhere from 75 to 98 percent sustained viro­logic response. The study that demonstrated the most effec­tive virologic response in patients treated the acute hepatitis C group for a total of 24 weeks.” Source

Anyway back to my original question: What could I start doing immediately to prevent damage/further damage to my liver?

After visiting a whole host of different web-sites it became apparent that one of the best things to do to combat the hepatitis C virus is to not drink alcohol. This was not a piece of advice I really wanted to hear. Hepatitic C is a virus that affects the Liver and anything that places extra strain on the liver should therefore be avoided.

It seems that quite a number of scientific studies have proved beyond doubt that alcohol consumption speeds up the progression of the disease, Larry, Siu (2009) in the scientific study report Hepatitis C And Alcohol reports that:

“Numerous studies have demonstrated that alcohol consumption in varied quantities can enhance viral replication, increase oxidative stress, worsen cytotoxicity, and impair immune response. Consequently, alcohol abuse appears to reduce both sensitivity to interferon and adherence to treatment.”

Any thoughts of trying to wriggle out of this were blown out of the water by that little quote. It seems pretty clear that drinking alcohol is pretty much a no no as far as hep c goes. That is not to say I am going to suddenly drop dead if I touch a drop of course. Prior to being diagnosed I was happily going out on the lash fairly regularly.

Previously, being an expat living in Asia (alternating mainly between Japan and Thailand) aswell as doing a fair amount of backpacking around the region; drinking beer and socialising were pretty high on the agenda, as it is of course a great way to meet other expats and local people alike. This meant that I was regularly drinking a few pints a week (probably more) and I never felt any ill affects from this…. apart from hangovers of course 🙂

After realising that I should really quit drinking I went cold turkey and stopped for two months, no alcohol at all, a zero tolerance policy and I stopped drinking completely. I was dry for two months before I started to get a little bored. Thoughts like ‘Surely a few beers isn’t going to hurt me’ and ‘It never did me any harm before I knew so why would should I let it bother me now!?’.

Slowly bit by bit each week I started drinking again. Just the odd one here and there at first, but gradually I was falling back into the same old routine. I knew it was happening but when something is just a habbit…and one you enjoy it is difficult to break (especially when it involves an addictive drug like alcohol).

Incidentally, in the two months when I quit drinkning my ALT levels actually went up!

I guess in the back of my mind I knew I would be returning to the UK at the end of the contract that I had been working on and I think sub-consciously I had decided that I would drink alcohol until I returned to the UK and then quit after that. Of course, I didn’t go mad with the beer during the remainder of my contract but I did have a few with my mates.

As ever, I tried to look upon the challenge of quitting alcohol as a positive thing and focussed on the myriad of health beneifts not just to my liver of stopping drinking. However I only really managed to quit for two reasons:

a) I had a massive change in the people I was hanging around with. Going back to the UK meant I had the ideal opportunity to change my routines and habits away from those which included alcohol.

b) I read a book called: Easy Way To Control Alcohol by Allen Carr. This book undid years of programming that the advertising world and popular culture had done to my brain regarding alcohol and rewired it so that I thought completely differently about the subject of alcohol consumption. Reading that book just once was enough for me to quit permanently, seriously if you want to quit, even if you have tried and failed before like I had that book will do the trick!

The first few weeks after stopping drinking I had the occassional craving for the a few beers but I just thought about what the book said and it was never a problem. After a month or two the craving completely went away and alcohol now has zero hold over me anymore. I have not had a drink for 11 months now and feel this can really only help with my hep c treatment and will certainly prevent me from doing more needless damage to my liver.

And I have recently found that some of the non-alcoholic beers on sale these days actually taste very similar to the real thing…so all is not lost!

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