Two T’s and the liver

Most people who learn they have hepatitis C become more conscious of what they put into their bodies, especially the substances that are good or bad for the liver.

tumeric and tumeric roots

Tumeric powder comes from a root.

Today I’m thinking of one good and one not-so-good substance, both beginning with the letter T: turmeric and Tylenol. I’m thinking of turmeric because I am replenishing my spice shelf and have come to regard the yellow spice as one of nature’s gifts for liver health. As for Tylenol, after having been cured of hep C for two years, I’m thinking of trying it again.

Tumeric powder, which I use as a spice, comes from the root of the turmeric plant. You can grow it in your garden and keep it there through the winter, if it doesn’t get too cold. Tumeric stays hardy in zones 7b – 11. In the summer, it will grow white, tropical-looking flowers.

Studies have shown that turmeric tends to raise HDL (good cholesterol), which reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) and the strain it puts on the liver. A German study in the medical journal Gut concluded that turmeric inhibits the hep C virus from entering liver cells. My hep is gone, but cholesterol threatens my heart, so I will keep using turmeric. Also, I like its taste in cooking.

Tylenol, which has been shown to be safe for the liver in doctor-recommended doses, can injure the liver with indiscriminate use. Tylenol overdose is among the leading causes of liver failure, and the amount that would cause overdose may not be the same for everyone. Before I was diagnosed with hepatitis C I noticed that Tylenol upset my stomach, so I asked my doctor for other drugs for pain relief. That was lucky for me. Even if Tylenol would have done me no harm, I would have been worried about it throughout my treatment.

Now that I’m better and my liver has regressed, my doctor says there’s nothing wrong with Tylenol. For normal aches and pains that I’d rather avoid, I’m considering it.

Occasional alcohol after hepatitis C

Since my hepatitis C cleared after treatment with direct-acting antivirals, my liver went back to normal. My alcohol habits regressed somewhat too. I stopped drinking entirely when I was infected with hep, but now I’ve gone back to drinking a glass or two of wine on the weekend or when guests come by for dinner. Still, I remain wary about alcohol. I usually enjoy my beverage as a spritzer: half wine, half soda water.

circle and slash over beer mugs mean no drinkingFor those whose hep is yet to be cured even that much alcohol can accelerate the rate of liver damage. By how much? It’s impossible to predict. Yet some averages are known:

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the average man who is infected at age 40 or later and drinks a lot can expect a cirrhotic liver in thirteen years. The slowest progression occurs among non-drinking women under 40 who contract the disease early. It can take 40 years before their disease turns deadly.

But again, those are averages and everyone is different. The best bet for anyone who has hep is to drink no alcohol at all. For those who have been cured, be very cautious.

 

Hep history and food for thought

ancient greek buildingThe Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia was one of the first people to write about hepatitis. In the 2nd century AD he wrote that hep weakened “the liver’s power of nutrition.” It’s wise to take heed of that ancient advice. Every bit of nutrition that goes into your body gets filtered by the liver, but if you’ve contracted hepatitis C, it may not be filtered well. Some substances are easy on the liver and some are not.

At the top of the not list are alcohol and all drugs with liver warnings. The good news is that the list of excellent nutrition for the liver is long–and tasty. Here are a few of my favorite liver-good foods. There are many more:

  • Avocados help the body produce glutathione, which the liver uses for detoxification.
  • Walnuts contain the amino acid arginine, which detoxifies ammonia. These nuts also contain glutathione and omega-3-fatty acids.
  • Eggs contain choline, which protects the liver from toxins and heavy metals. Although too many eggs can cause heart disease, the usual problem is not the eggs. It’s the bacon or sausages they are paired with.

 

Making the call on an April Fools hep C viral count

It’s April Fools Day, and it’s the day I call my nurse about my 24-week viral count. Maybe it’s not the right day to do it. Could the virus have fooled me? Will I learn that my gold-plated treatment with sofosbuvir and simeprevir was really worth less than a penny? There are no pennies circulated in Canada anymore, so the result could be worse than the worst for me.

But April Fools can also bring luck. The weather network predicted rain, but I see sunny skies outside my window. I’m crossing my fingers and will be making that call. Life moves ahead, no matter what you do. The best thing to do is to take charge–even if it’s only through a phone call.

Thoughts for the day

I’ve said on this blog that I’ve been cured of hepatitis C, but I’m actually only 98% sure. I’ve had a 12-week SVR, but my nurse says nothing is absolutely certain until 24 weeks after treatment. That is coming soon.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of some sayings that helped me when  my confidence in a cure was way less than 50%. My dear friend Marla gave me a book on mindfulness. It brought to mind some Baby Boomer slogans that helped me through the uncertainty:

Seize the day

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” –Charles Dederich, founder of the Synanon drug rehabilitation program

“Seize the day.” –translation from the Latin “carpe diem” from Quintus Horatius Flaccus, possibly taken from a Babylonian saying

“Be here now.” –Bhagavan Das

In memory of an enthusiastic friend, Alicia Priest

Today I learned that a wonderful friend of mine passed away after suffering from ALS. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the same disease that afflicts physicist Stephen Hawking, can attack the body slowly, as in Hawking’s case, or more quickly, as with Alicia. She was diagnosed in 2012. During her illness Alicia wrote the book A Rock Fell on the Moon. It is the story of her dad, the convicted mastermind of the Great Yukon Silver Ore Heist. Alicia raced to complete the manuscript before her typing muscles withered. The book, which I’m reading now and enjoying immensely, was published last last summer. By that time Alicia was unable to speak. Anna Comfort, managing editor at Harbour Publishing, which published A Rock Fell on the Moon, told me on the phone today that Alicia never lost her enormous spirit, and she never stopped traipsing through the province attending book events. Her husband Ben Parfitt and daughter Charlotte were at her side.

I could tell you a lot about my memories of Alicia. A favorite one happened when we attended journalism school together. We were asked to do a presentation on Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken, and instead of the usual slides and academic talk, we wrote and performed a skit. Alicia was the sarcastic Mencken, and I was his demure wife. We dressed in period costume and drank real wine on the set, to the dismay of our startled instructor. We lost a few marks but we gained many laughs.

What does this have to do with hepatitis C? Maybe nothing, but maybe the fact that despite a daunting diagnosis, we should face life creatively, with enthusiasm. Like Alicia did.