Module 8: Lifestyle and living with HCV - section 2

In this document:

Enhancing well-being

Activity: Group discussion
Section Time: Approximately 10 minutes

This activity emphasises the importance of commonly discussed lifestyle factors and the contribution they can make to healthy living. Without dismissing special dietary supplements entirely, the activity encourages participants to understand that basic healthy living factors are likely to be most important.

Show Slide 8.6 (Group work) :

Points to emphasise/discuss

  • Good diet, exercise, sleep and stress management are all relevant to general physical and mental well-being and can confer benefits for people with HCV.
  • Although Silymarin and other dietary supplements may provide some benefits to the liver, there is currently no clear evidence that they are beneficial. Other herbal mixtures have sometimes been associated with severe hepatotoxicity, fulminant hepatitis and death. People with chronic HCV infection should always seek advice from their doctor before initiating any herbal preparation.
Supporting content:

When HCV was first identified, effective treatments did not exist. Although this is no longer the case, HCV treatment is still prolonged and inconvenient, often causes side effects that are difficult to tolerate and, in practice, is not available to many PWID due to cost or local guidelines that excludes active drug users. Under these circumstances, it is unsurprising that some people have been keen to explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

An overview of the evidence in this area is provided by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (a body within the National Institute for Health, USA).

They note that an American survey of 1,145 participants in the HALT-C (Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis) trial, a study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that 23 percent were using herbal products at the time of enrolment. Although participants reported using many different herbal products, silymarin (milk thistle) was by far the most common. Study results from small clinical trials on milk thistle for liver diseases have been mixed; however, most of these studies have not been rigorously designed, or they have looked at various types of liver diseases—not just hepatitis C. High-quality, well-designed clinical trials have not proven that milk thistle or silymarin is beneficial for treating hepatitis C. Moreover, they conclude that no CAM treatment has been scientifically proven to successfully treat hepatitis C.

From: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)  CAM and Hepatitis C: A Focus on Herbal Supplements

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