Frequently Asked Questions
I am about to start interferon therapy. What can I do to help with side effects?
In my clinic and in many clinics around the United States, we are using a protocol for assisting with interferon/ribavirin therapy. There is very good success with alleviating side effects and apparently helping to improve bone marrow suppression related to both Pegasys and Peg-Intron pegylated interferon therapies.
Another goal of Chinese traditional medicine and CAM during interferon therapy is to help people to continue on as close to full dose therapy of medications as well as not have to discontinue for any time during therapy for side effect reasons. There is sufficient documentation in studies that staying on a least 80% of the interferon and ribavirin dose at least 80% of the time is crucial to sustained viral response (viral clearance at six months).
Body acupuncture and ear acupuncture, also known as auriculotherapy, is highly effective for treating side effects associated with interferon and ribavirin. It is also used when a person is trying simultaneously to reduce or eliminate drugs such as heroin, morphine, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine.
Herbal medicines may be used safely in conjunction with interferon/ribavirin therapy when one uses a qualified licensed acupuncturist and/or herbalist who is familiar with hepatitis C and any contraindications of herbs or herbal formulas.
For those of you who would like a referral to an HCV-certified acupuncture practitioner in your area please download the full list of Hepatitis C Certified Practitioners in a PDF file.
If I have chronic fatigue, should I exercise? If so, what kind of exercise can I do? I tire easily and cannot do aerobics or anything strenuous or I end up in bed for several days.
When you are symptom-free, the trick is to determine, through cautious experimentation, exactly what is an acceptable level of exercise for you at any given time. The benefits of exercising when you can — even walking counts — are far-reaching and you want to do it as regularly as possible. And remember, your stamina and tolerance for stress can ebb and flow, sometimes quite dramatically, over the course of this disease.
Chinese medicine practitioners often recommend medical Qi Gong, a form of Chinese healing exercises. At Quan Yin Healing Arts Center in San Francisco, Qi Gong master Larry Wong has been teaching classes for people with hepatitis C, AIDS, cancer and chronic fatigue for many years.
The energy conserving, Qi-channeling, practice of Qi Gong is perfectly designed to keep you in shape without causing stress and exhaustion.
Chronic illness can make you feel like you body is beyond your control: appropriate exercise and meditation can help you reassert your ability to shape the quality of your life and the vitality of your mind/body/spirit. The specific benefits include:
- Control cholesterol levels and reduce fat in body
- Keep blood pressure low
- Strengthen cardiovascular system
- Reduce stress
- Reduce depression
- Maintain muscle mass
I am on combination therapy of interferon and ribavirin. What can I do to alleviate side effects of these drugs?
Chinese medicine can be very useful in relieving symptoms associated with hepatitis as well as the symptoms associated with the side effects of anti-viral medications. You can also use acupressure to stimulate the acupoints and help ease disharmonies and strengthen the immune system.
There are many side effects, basically unwanted effects, of the Western medical treatment for hepatitis C. Chinese medicine and other natural therapies are recommended, however you should definitely consult with a qualified practitioner prior to ingesting any herbs or supplements, as there may be interactions with the medications.
One of the major problems that come up for people fairly immediately after beginning Western pharmaceutical treatment is fuzzy thinking or “brain fog.” Depending on other issues, there are supplements and herbs that are appropriate for this problem. Also, in acupuncture and acupressure we use the special points on the ear called Brain as well as the reflexology point on the big toe — you can massage the whole big toe and gain benefit. We also stimulate points on the crown of the head called Du 20 and Si shen cong. Si shen cong has been found in western studies to stimulate serotonin so that may be helpful to alleviate pain and depression as well. If you see an herbalist, she or he may recommend herbal formulas, however it is important that the herbalist understand interactions of herbs and medications.
For depression, you can also use the same acupuncture/acupressure points. Also, acupuncturists stimulate a point directly between the nipples called Ren 17. It is a point that stimulates endorphins as well as being known for the treatment of grief and sadness. It is also used for shortness of breath.
Headaches can be a problem as well during combination drug treatment. For this you can massage the base of the skull at Gallbladder 20 or press on the fleshy part at the base of the area between the thumb and the forefinger, Large Intestine 4. Also, massage to the whole head may be done when using partnered massage techniques or when seeing a professional massage therapist. If you are suffering from headaches, it is also a good practice to eliminate stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate, and medications that contain stimulants.
Often nausea and lack of appetite can be a problem during Western drug treatment. For nausea, press on the point Pericardium 6, which is about three finger widths from the wrist crease on the inner side of the arm between the tendons. You may also press or apply indirect moxibustion to the middle of the abdomen around points known as Ren 12 and Ren 14. These points can be used along with the famous point Stomach 36 for stimulating the appetite. Stomach 36 is found on the outside of the leg four finger widths below the knee.
Foods such as mild soups, barley and rice in the form of Chinese porridge soup called congee, and teas such as ginger and peppermint can also be helpful for these problems.
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