Hepatitis C: A Silent Baby Boomer Killer
If you were born between 1945 and 1965, I have some tough news to break to you – there’s a roughly 1 in 30 chance you have hepatitis C. That might not sound like huge chance, but it means more than 2.5 million Baby Boomers are infected. What’s worse, many Baby Boomers don’t even know they have it because hepatitis C isn’t predicated by strong, identifiable symptoms. That’s why, especially if you fall into the “Boomer pool”, it’s vital that you get tested immediately. Because, even if you do have it, there are simple, drug-free ways to cure symptoms and prevent the disease from spreading.
What is Hepatitis C and why are baby boomers particularly at risk?
Hepatitis C is a blood borne disease that takes root in your liver. There, it roils your liver’s ability to detoxify your body (your liver’s primary function), causing significant inflammation, which can lead to cancer, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
Hepatitis C doesn’t have a long list of warning signs. And its symptoms are pretty not specific:
- Acute infection
- Loss of appetite or nausea
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
Those symptoms can easily by written off as something else – stomach bug, poor diet, lack of sleep. In fact, you can have hepatitis C for years and not even know it, which gives the disease a running head start to settle into your body before you have a chance to counter it.
And that’s part of why hepatitis C is so prevalent among baby boomers. But why? And how?
A few years ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that until 1992, screenings for common procedures such as injections and blood transfusions were unable to spot hepatitis warning signs. People were getting what they thought was standard (or even exceptional) medical care, and ended up with hepatitis C.
The CDC recently called hepatitis C a “silent epidemic” and it estimates that about 3.5 million Americans have it. Three in four of those 3.5 million were born between 1945 and 1965. Most of them don’t know when or how they got it. And because of that, many people unknowingly spread it before they experienced a single symptom or learned that they even had hepatitis C.
It is most commonly spread through infected blood and other body fluids. Not just unprotected sex but also sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, or other common household items that could have traces of infected blood or fluids on them.
What’s more, hepatitis C progresses rapidly in diabetics, heavy drinkers, and obese people. When you add up all the risk factors, hepatitis C has indeed become a silent epidemic that killed nearly 20,000 Americans in 2014. That’s more than the combined total of 60 other infectious diseases, including HIV, pneumococcal disease, and tuberculosis.
Treatment Can Cure Hepatitis C
You can cure hepatitis C. Yes, I said cure. Early detection and preventative care are the keys.
So first things first: get tested. Get tested if you think you have it. Get tested if you’re not sure if you have it. And certainly get tested if you were born between 1945 and 1965.
If you test positive, I strongly urge that you do the following to stop further liver damage:
- Avoid sugar. Any sugar not used for short-term energy becomes dangerous triglycerides stored in your liver. Breads and starches eaten during the evening are frequent culprits.
- It improves your body’s efficiency and helps clean out toxins.
- Drink more water. Your whole body needs it. It plays a crucial role in flushing out toxins through your urine, which takes some heavy lifting from your liver.
- Eliminate processed foods. They’re among the gravest threats to your liver because they require it to work overtime to remove the battery of toxins. This is especially the case when you eat a lot of processed food in one sitting.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s a prime driver of liver problems.
- Give your liver time off with a cleansing fast once or twice a week. Just 12 to 24 hours of only water or juice will help it repair and rejuvenate.
- Limit common OTC drugs, such as acetaminophen, that can damage your liver
I also recommend a few supplements that help prevent, stop, or reverse liver damage – allowing it to detox the rest of your body without interference.
- Milk thistle: Its active ingredient is a flavonoid called silymarin, which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It also protects the liver and other organs against toxins. It’s been a viable alternative to mainstream pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) that cause liver damage in high doses. Other studies link milk thistle with improved liver function and increased survival rates among people with chronic hepatitis. I recommend 200 mg three times daily.
- Curcumin: The anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and antioxidant properties of curcumin make it a natural hepatitis C fighter. I recommend 500 mg twice daily.
- Phosphatidylcholine: Phosphatidylcholine is found naturally in eggs, soybeans, mustard, sunflowers, and other foods. It’s been shown to help reduce lipids that can lead to a fatty liver while repairing and healing the liver. A supplement can ensure you are getting enough of this valuable, liver-healing nutrient. I recommend 900 IU daily.
- Dandelion: Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases the amount and frequency of urine leaving your body. The thinking: the more you urinate, the more toxins leave your body, which means less stress on your liver.
Treating hepatitis C goes hand in hand with prevention of it. In fact, your treatment goal should be sustained virologic response, which is when the virus drops to undetectable levels and is very unlikely to spread to others.
Understand that nothing I’ve described here will cure hepatitis C. Curing it requires another step – specialized anti-viral medications that your doctor will prescribe if you test positive. And make no mistake, you must take steps to cure it.
But if there is anything to take away from me, it’s that you can ease your symptoms, protect and support your body, and contain hepatitis C to the point where it cannot be spread… just by taking care of yourself better.
How to Prevent the Spread of Hepatitis C
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. For now – and maybe forever – it’s up to you to prevent the spread of it.
Again, this is where early detection and testing is critical. Learning you have it is bad news, no doubt. But finding out years from now that you may have spread it to others is far worse. Preventing others from getting it in the first place is by far the most effective way to contain this silent epidemic.
In addition to living a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent others from getting hepatitis C by taking the following precautions:
- Do not share your personal items (i.e. razor, toothbrush, and nail clippers).
- Do not share needles if you use intravenous drugs such as epi-pens or insulin needles.
- Practice safer sex.
- Encourage your sexual partner or partners to get tested.
How You Treat Your Hepatitis C Could Save Others’ Lives
Hepatitis C is very different from other forms of hepatitis in that it can be cured. It’s unfortunate if you got hepatitis C unknowingly, but a silver lining is that you can play a major role in preventing the spread of it. Perhaps even the elimination of it. Yes, you can save lives by shining a light on this silent epidemic, prioritizing your hepatitis C treatment, and taking preventative precautions.
- “Hepatitis C: Why People Born From 1945 to 1965 Should Get Tested.” Centers for Disease Control. Last Updated October 2016.
- “Find a Vitamin or Supplement: Milk Thistle” Published NA. Last accessed July 5, 2018.
- Cutler, Nicole. “Is Vitamin E Wise for Liver Health?” Liver Support. Published May 19th, 2010.
- McDermott, Annette. “What Is Phosphatidylcholine and How Is It Used?” Reviewed October 5, 2017. Last accessed July 5, 2018.
Daniels, Chris. “Dandelion Root to Remove Toxins.” Live Strong. Updated October 3, 2017. Last accessed July 5, 2018