What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Most cases of HBV infection are acute and resolve on their own without medication. However, a small percentage of people infected with HBV will develop chronic hepatitis B, risking serious illness or death from cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure.
HBV can be transmitted via injection or mucosal exposure to infected bodily fluids—sexual transmission and illicit IV drug use are leading causes of infection in the United States. Additionally, the virus can be transmitted from mother to fetus.
Natural interventions such as selenium and green tea may help protect the liver from damage.
What are the Risk Factors for Hepatitis B and HBV Infection?
- Gender – progresses more rapidly in men than women
- HIV infection
- Alcohol use
- Sexual behaviors including multiple or high-risk partners
- Illicit intravenous drug use
- Contact with infected fluids, such as may be encountered by healthcare workers, lab technicians, and patients requiring frequent transfusions
- Parent-to-child transmission
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Note: Most cases of acute hepatitis B are asymptomatic. Symptoms, if present, may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Mild fever
- Dark urine
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Hepatitis B?
Note: Acute hepatitis B usually resolves on its own without treatment. The goal of chronic hepatitis B treatment is to suppress viral replication, which may limit disease progression and lower risk of some complications.
- Immune modulators (eg, Pegylated interferon, Interferon alpha)
- Nucleoside and nucleotide analogs
- Vaccination for prevention
What are Emerging Therapies for Hepatitis B?
- Heteroaryldihydropyrimidines (HAPs)
- RNA interference
- Thymosin α1 (Tα1)
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Hepatitis B?
- Selenium. Chronic hepatitis (B and C) is linked with selenium deficiency. The degree of deficiency relates to severity of the infection. Adequate selenium is also linked to reduced liver damage in HBV-infected patients.
- Coffee. Coffee consumption may be linked to a reduced risk of liver cancer in HBV-infected patients.
- Green tea. Green tea and its major antioxidant component epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) reduced levels of HBV DNA and hepatitis B antigens in isolated liver cells. Some studies also suggest a decreased risk of cancer progression in those who consume green tea.
- Zinc. Clearance of viral infection requires the activity of T cells, which are dependent on zinc. Some studies indicate higher serum zinc levels are linked with better response to interferon therapy.
- Lactoferrin. Lactoferrin, a protein found abundantly in milk, has antibacterial and antiviral properties. In vitro studies indicate lactoferrin can inhibit HBV replication and prevent infection.
- Vitamins C and E. Vitamin C and vitamin E levels are reduced in patients with chronic HBV. Several small studies suggest a role for these antioxidants in clearing HBV DNA.
- Phyllanthus. Phyllanthus is a genus of plant used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to treat chronic liver disease. Several clinical trials indicate some Phyllanthus species can help improve response to conventional HBV medications.
- Other natural interventions that may help patients with HBV include B vitamins, curcumin, N-acetylcysteine, resveratrol, whey protein, and others.