Skeletons in Your Closet? Prevent the Past from Affecting Your Health Today

You may be surprised when your doctor requests you get tested for Hepatitis C (HCV), but it could save your life. Chronic HCV typically goes without notice until it later causes liver disease and/or cancer. Many who have HCV have no idea, because their lifestyle has never matched the “risky” behavior linked to STD’s. However, there are individuals who have been infected because of previous medical practices. Once diagnosed, there are treatment options that you may not be aware of, including the ancient practices of Chinese Medicine. Getting tested is the first step.

Currently part of the recommendations for HCV screening are directed towards individuals born between 1945-1965. This was once a disease that went mostly untreated because the treatment made people extremely ill because patients weren’t screened. Most people have no symptoms, until they are later diagnosed with liver disease and/or cancer.

Additionally, there wasn’t a good treatment option. Interferon and ribavirin were previously the drugs used to treat HCV. The treatments involved the patient going to their doctor for injections of drugs that made them sick. A lot of patients couldn’t complete the treatment plan because of the side effects including flu-like symptoms, fatigue, anxiety, depression, anemia, and more. Even when the patient suffered through treatment there was no promise of a cure.

What Has Changed?

In 2014 the pharmaceutical company Gilead released Harvoni, which radically changed the treatment of HCV. This new drug offers 97% cure rate and is far less toxic, causing minimal side effects. However, this drug comes at a premium, approximately $1,500 per pill. Like most pharmaceuticals that enter the market, the cost is high initially before the patent runs out and generics help bring the cost down. In the meantime Harvoni offers a generous financial assistance program for patients who cannot afford $1,500 per day for the roughly 12-week treatment plan. This financial assistance program has benefited the homeless population in Orlando, FL, where premier gastroenterologist Marlon Ilagan, MD has been able to treat and CURE those with HCV. Interestingly enough, Florida had the highest number of new HCV reported cases in 2013, according to the CDC. This could be in part because Florida is a desirable place for retirees.

How Does Chinese Medicine Fit In?

One of the reasons I love Chinese Medicine is because it addresses imbalances in the body that go untreated in allopathic medicine. For instance, in a patient with asymptomatic HCV it is likely that Chinese Medicine would diagnose and treat a liver imbalance. There are countless studies illustrating the effectiveness acupuncture and Chinese herbs in treating liver disease and cancer. Some of the symptoms that an acupuncturist would address in a patient with a liver imbalance include:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Dream disturbed sleep
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Health problems that worsen in the Spring

Acupuncture stimulates the immune system, which is crucial for defending the body from any virus, including HCV. Initially when an individual contracts HCV they will experience flu-like symptoms which most likely go untreated. With an acupuncture treatment you can clear a virus quicker and with better efficiency. Also because of the subtle symptoms, like those listed above, that would indicate liver involvement. Most doctors wouldn’t see any reason to support liver detoxification during the flu. However an acupuncturist would notice changes in the pulse, the appearance of the tongue, and abnormalities along the liver meridian.

Utilizing acupuncture and Chinese Medicine while undergoing treatment with Harvoni is also advantageous. Everyone responds uniquely to treatments and acupuncture can address symptoms that are experienced. For example, the side effects of Harvoni are: fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea and insomnia. All of which acupuncture has been proven to treat successfully in everyone from children, to pregnant women, cancer patients and so on.

If there is one thing that you take away from this is that patients need to carefully consider the sometimes-unknown ramifications of the traditional treatments for HCV. New treatments such as Harvoni can be life saving, yet are costly. Utilizing ancient practices that are tried and true in conjunction with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can help optimize treatment outcomes.

Amy Gendron, A.P

View posts by Amy Gendron, A.P
Amy is an Acupuncture Physician in the state of Florida where she works in an integrative medicine practice. She has studied abroad in Yunnan China under some of the nations top doctors. In addition she has extensive training in Mei Zen Cosmetic Acupuncture, Reiki, personal training and as a labor and delivery doula. Her experience as a NCAA Champion in field hockey influences how she approaches her personal and professional life- Go big or go home!
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