Hepatitis C and Type 2 Diabetes
By Maureen H. Rozenn, LAC, DAOM, PhD (c)
Hepatitis C is an epidemic, both in Santa Cruz County and across the country. Over five million people have hepatitis C in the United States, and approximately 200 million people are infected worldwide. This virus causes chronic liver inflammation which can scar the liver, leading to severe liver disease. Hepatitis C is also associated with a number of other syndromes like autoimmune diseases, thyroid problems, depression and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a complex disease in which the body can not properly regulate its blood sugar levels. People over 40 years old with hepatitis C are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Researchers first reported the association between hepatitis C and diabetes ten years ago. Since then evidence has shown that unstable blood sugar levels lead to chronic inflammation, and chronic inflammatory states, such as hepatitis, can produce erratic blood sugar levels. Further, people with diabetes tend to have trouble with fat metabolism, which besides causing high cholesterol can lead to fat accumulation in the liver. In a person with hepatitis C, fat in the liver can trigger even more liver inflammation, causing serious liver disease.
Chinese medical literature discussing both diabetes and hepatitis dates back over one thousand years. In 752 C.E. Chinese doctor Wang Tao asserted that pancreatic dysfunction is the cause of diabetes. Herbal formulas for hepatitis date back even farther. The Shan Han Lun, which is one of the oldest Chinese medical text books, describes a number of herbal formulas for epidemics. One of these formulas, classically used for liver and gallbladder disorders, has been found by Japanese researchers to inhibit liver inflammation. Traditional Chinese medical theory views hepatitis C as a toxin that enters the blood and disturbs the harmonious interaction between organs, resulting in disrupted organ function. One of the most common relationships that hepatitis C affects is the one between the liver and the spleen-pancreas-stomach organ system. The symptoms caused by this disharmony are often experienced by people with hepatitis C: poor appetite and digestion, fatigue, depression/irritability, and poor blood sugar control.
Asian medical treatment for diabetes and hepatitis C can rebalance the relationship between these organs. Goals of treatment are reduced liver inflammation, improved blood sugar regulation and a reduction in the symptoms of both hepatitis C and diabetes. These goals can be accomplished through a broad range of modalities including acupuncture, herbal therapy, nutritional supplements and diet and lifestyle counseling.