Daily Living: Alternative and Complementary Therapies - Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease
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Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease

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Daily Living: Alternative and Complementary Therapies

for Veterans and the Public

Alternative and Complementary Therapies: Entire Lesson - Hepatitis C for Patients

Alternative Therapies: Overview

Many people use alternative (also known as complementary) health treatments to go along with the medical care they get from their doctor.

These therapies are called "complementary" because usually they are used alongside the more standard medical care you receive (such as your VA doctor visits and the hepatitis C direct-acting antiviral medications). Complementary therapies cannot cure hepatitis C.

Some common complementary therapies include:

  • Physical (body) therapies, such as yoga and massage
  • Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and visualization
  • Herbal medicine (from plants)

Are they safe?

Generally, physical and relaxation therapies are safe. However, some complementary medicines ("mega" vitamins, herbs, and other supplements) can be dangerous for people who have liver disease. Always talk to your VA health care provider before you take any herb, supplement, or megavitamin, even if you think it is safe.

Cautions to keep in mind:
  • There is no complementary treatment that has yet been proven safe and effective for treating or curing hepatitis C.
  • There are no herbal treatments which have been proven to reduce the hepatitis C viral load.
  • Just because something is "natural" (an herb, for example) doesn't mean that it is safe to take. Sometimes these products can hurt your liver instead of help it, or they might interfere with the medicines you are taking for hepatitis C.
  • Certain herbs, supplements, and "mega" vitamins can be very dangerous for people with hepatitis C. Your liver plays an important role in breaking down these substances after you take them into your body. If your liver is sick, many herbs, supplements, and megavitamins can hurt it even more.
  • Be careful of treatments that claim to be "miracle cures"--ones that claim to cure hepatitis C.
  • Complementary therapies are not substitutes for the treatment and medications you receive from your VA doctor. You shouldn't stop taking your hepatitis C drugs just because you've started an alternate therapy.
  • Many herbs and supplements and complementary therapies come from different parts of the world and thus, there are often differences in the regulation and labeling of these products. This might mean that two herbal products may have very different ingredients and quality.

Do they work?

There is not enough research to tell if these treatments really help people with hepatitis C.

Many people who use alternative treatments report positive results, that they feel better or that their side effects get better. We don't know if those changes are due to their use of alternative treatments or not until better research has been done.

Avoid any alternate therapy that promises to cure hepatitis C.

There are several medications that can cure hepatitis C. Learn the facts about these medications.

If you are interested in learning whether an alternative treatment is safe enough and worth your paying money for and trying, discuss it directly with your provider.

Alternative Therapies: Resources