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Photo by Hugo Jehanne on Unsplash - Oeschinen Lake, Kandersteg, Switzerland
First published on Hepatitis Australia's website in January 2020
“Detox diets”, supplements and Traditional Chinese Medicine are marketed as beneficial for the liver, but do they work?
First let’s look at where the liver is and what it does.
Its functions include:
Also known as a liver cleanse or flush, some people believe a detox diet helps remove excess waste after too much alcohol, unhealthy foods, or just for daily liver health. The first days may begin with fasting or drinking fluids only. Most detox diets take out processed food from your diet and may include commercial products, such as herbal supplements.
Some people feel better on these diets, often simply due to eating more healthily. This might cause them to believe that the liver cleanse works, but it’s important to consider the following:
For most people following a healthy lifestyle, the liver is well equipped to remove day-to-day toxins and you don’t need to do a detox.
Some studies in animals show milk thistle decreases liver inflammation, and turmeric protects against liver injury. However, there haven’t been enough studies done on humans to recommend their use in prevention of liver disease .
The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) advises that milk thistle can cause allergic reactions in some people or low blood sugar in people living with diabetes .
We should also remember that detox products and liver supplements may not be standardised. Products could have different strengths and be of varying quality. Some may interact with medication or have side effects including causing liver damage.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the liver in terms of vital energy (qi) and the storage of blood (xue). Together with the scheme of Yin Yang, TCM practitioners may diagnose liver disorders, and offer treatments like acupuncture or herbs .
There is no evidence that acupuncture helps people with liver conditions. However, it is relatively safe if performed correctly .
Because there have been very few good quality studies, we have no strong proof that Chinese herbal products work for liver health. Some products have also been found to have been contaminated with plant or animal material, drugs like the blood-thinner warfarin, and heavy metals like arsenic. Some products can even contain the wrong herbs, which may damage the liver .
Therefore, it is very important that you are confident of what is in the Chinese herbs you buy. If you decide to use Chinese herbs or other supplements, it is advisable that you talk to your doctor, especially if you have hepatitis B or C, or other chronic diseases.
Finally, the best way to look after your liver is maintain a healthy weight, follow a balanced diet, exercise regularly, minimise alcohol intake, and avoid smoking.
First published on Hepatitis Australia's website in September 2019.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with hepatitis B, it might help to know you’re not alone.
In 2018 there were 226,612 people in Australia (257 million people worldwide) living with hepatitis B.
After being diagnosed with hepatitis, people can experience a range of reactions including shock and uncertainty, even if they had been expecting a positive test result.
It’s not uncommon to feel depressed, anxious, fearful, or worry about possible stigma. In addition, there may also be self-blame, guilt, or embarrassment.
Take your time working through difficult thoughts and emotions. Try to be patient and have self-compassion. Sometimes talking things through with your doctor or a counsellor can help.
Stigma can arise in society or even within yourself. It can isolate you or interfere with you receiving treatment. For instance, a person may feel apprehensive about being seen attending an infectious diseases clinic if they are worried about what others might think.
A great way of reducing stigma is by learning more about hepatitis B. This will empower you to manage your condition together with your doctor, plus it’s helpful if you want to educate others.
The learning process
Be open to learning about hepatitis B at your own pace.
Feel free to explore the huge range of resources available such as via Hepatitis Australia. Information is available in other languages, audio/video formats including podcasts. There are also personal stories here and here about real people living with hepatitis B.
Having the right support is invaluable. Who you share your diagnosis with is a very personal decision. No matter who your trusted person(s) is; you should reflect on the pros and cons of disclosure to each one.
You can also join a support group through your local hepatitis organisation or online forums like Hep Forums. Do keep in mind that forums may include people from other countries who have differing access to healthcare and medications, and that any health information should be discussed with your doctor.
Finally, these tips might be useful when you see your doctor.
Being prepared will help you get the most out of your appointment. Having a set of questions ready is a great way for you to get the information you need.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Here are some common questions others ask:
Make notes for later
Research shows that people who are anxious or stressed are more likely to forget or incorrectly recall information later. So, it’s good to make notes during the appointment. Alternatively, ask your doctor for a written list of what you will both do after the appointment.
The right doctor for you
Because hepatitis B can be a lifelong condition, it’s ideal if you have a good and honest relationship with your doctor. Consider the following:
If you answered no to a few of these questions, then seeking a second opinion might be reasonable. If you need help to find a doctor with experience treating hepatitis B, you can call the National Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222.
Dr Alice Lam
I'm a doctor who is passionate about writing quality health content.