What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A often abbreviated to hep A is a liver infection caused by the HAV or hepatitis A virus. It is a self limiting, one time only disease which unlike other forms of hepatitis, very rarely results in serious damage or disease to the liver.
Hepatitis A is often associated with poor hygienic conditions and the virus is far more common in countries and regions where sanitation is poor and hygiene practices are inadequate. It is usually spread via food or water contamination as well as through close personal contact with children being a major transmitter of the virus.
Over recent decades, major improvements in public health policy, water supplies and hygiene have significantly reduced the incidence of hepatitis A in most parts of the world.
As well as major improvements in sanitation, the number of cases have also fallen as a result of immunization which became available in 1995 and now form part of children’s immunization schedules.
Some Facts about Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis A is most often transmitted through close person-person contact but is not spread by casual contact.
- Since the vaccine became readily available, the rates in the USA have dropped by a massive 96%.
- It is the most common disease among travelers that could have been prevented by vaccine.
- The hepatitis A virus is among the most common causes of food related sickness. Just about any type of food may be contaminated but it is especially prevalent in vegetables and shellfish.
- Waterborne outbreaks are uncommon in most developed countries.
- Vaccinations and improvements in sanitation are the best ways to prevent and combat the virus.
- In developing nations where sanitation and hygiene practice is poor, around 90% of the people have been infected before they reach ten years of age.
- How severely the disease affects an individual is most often determined by a person’s age. People over the age of 50 are more at risk of long term adverse effects.
What are the Causes?
The hepatitis A virus gets excreted in feces of people infected with HAV. It is usually transmitted from one person to another via what is known as the fecal-oral route. This is when a person who is not infected with the virus ingests water or food contaminated by the feces of an already infected individual. In the vast majority of cases, a person becomes infected from close contact with a family member or a sex partner.
As well as personal contact, there are also sporadic outbreaks of food related HAV in developed countries. These outbreaks are usually the result of an infected person handling food for social events with many guests like weddings. Just a single food handler infected with the virus can transmit it to tens or hundreds of other people.
The hepatitis A virus remains infectious for a long time. It is often still able to cause harm a month or more after being left on an environmental surface. Good water chlorination is recommended in many countries including the US because it kills all trace of HAV that may have entered the water supplies.
What are the Risk Factors?
- Traveling overseas is the most common risk factor reported in the USA. International travel accounts for up to half of all cases of hepatitis A with Central America and Mexico being the places where most people contract the virus. Any person that has not previously been infected or given a vaccination can be infected.
- Personal contact with a household member or a sexual partner who has the virus.
- Children and people who work in day centers.
- Residents or staff of a community residence.
- Male homosexual activity.
- Sharing needles for intravenous drug use.
- Exposure to infected water or food.
Children began getting routine vaccinations in the year 1999 and a few years later in 2006, the CDC recommended that vaccinations were expanded to all children aged between 12 and 23 months. This has resulted in a huge drop in HAV cases of around 90%. Nowadays infections are far more likely to occur in adolescents that missed their vaccinations and other high-risk individuals.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A
The typical time between the point if exposure to the virus and the onset of any symptoms is around 30 days. After that, symptoms come on very suddenly and can range in severity from mild to very severe. After the onset of symptoms, they can last for up to eight weeks.
A person with hepatitis A will experience a range of symptoms including the following:
- Appetite Loss
- Abdominal Pain
- Joint Pain
- Muscle Soreness
- Dark urine
- Pale colored stools
Around 75% of all adults will experience some or all of these symptoms however when a child under the age of 2 is infected, the number of infants who experience symptoms is much lower – around 10%.
Unfortunately, there is no specific medical treatment for the hepatitis A infection and any treatment is focused on preventing complications like exhaustion, fatigue and dehydration. It is important to stay well hydrated and avoid alcohol. You should also get plenty of rest and take time off work or school.
There is no quick fix but around 85% of all people infected have made a full recovery within three months and nearly all infected people have fully recovered within six months.
Long term complications resulting from hepatitis A are quite rare and the vast majority of those who are infected will make a full recovery. Some people may require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous fluids especially if they are suffering from vomiting or experiencing nausea.
Natural ways to Treat and Prevent Hepatitis A
As well as taking over the counter pain killers and staying hydrated, there are several ways to deal with the pain of hepatitis and to prevent yourself from becoming infected.
One of the best ways to treat the symptoms of the illness is to eat a clean, balanced and anti-inflammatory diet. The word hepatitis actually means liver inflammation so eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory food can help boost the immune system and speed up the healing process.
These healthy foods are also a great source of minerals, vitamins and natural antioxidants as well as healthy fats essential for your recovery.
These are the foods you should be incorporating into your diet and eating as often as possible to help you recover quickly from your infection.
- Fresh vegetables like cabbage, beets and celery and leafy green veg like spinach and kale
- Root vegetables
- Fresh fruit especially citrus fruit and berries
- Wild-caught fish
- Organic meat and nutrient rich bone broth
- Nuts like walnuts
- Seeds like flaxseeds and chia seeds
- Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil and avocado
- Anti-inflammatory spice such as turmeric, ginger and cayenne
- Probtiotic rich fermented food like kefir, sauerkraut and yogurt
- Gluten free grain products like brown rice and quinoa
Avoid processed and sugary foods. Also avoid any packaged food and those containing refined carbs. These types of unhealthy products can harm the immune system and cause further inflammation.
2) Stay Well-Hydrated
To help treat the symptoms of hepatitis A, it is essential that you stay well-hydrated by consuming lots of water and other healthy fluids like juice throughout your day. Many people with hepatitis A suffer from vomiting and diarrhea in which case it is doubly important to stay hydrated because you are losing fluid so quickly.
Eating hydrating fruit and veg is also a great help. Some of the best are watermelon, berries, kiwi, cucumber and spinach.
3) Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil can help relieve many of the common symptoms of hepatitis A. It can help relieve nausea, give your energy levels a boost and help relieve sore joints and muscles.
Peppermint essential oil is often used to deal with nausea following surgery and during pregnancy and could equally help people suffering nausea as a hepatitis symptom. Peppermint essential oil should not be ingested but when it is applied to the skin (diluted) or inhaled, it does not have any unwanted side effects.
You can inhale your oil through a diffuser or directly from the bottle. Alternatively, rub a few drops onto the bottom of the feet or the neck. Anther effective method of using your oil is to add a few drops to a cold compress and apply it to your neck and forehead.
As well as peppermint essential oil, lemon and ginger oils can have a very positive effect on feelings of nausea. Read more about essential oils for nausea by clicking the following link –essential oils for nausea.
4) Rest and Reduce Stress
To help fight the hepatitis A virus, your body will need to get adequate amounts of rest. You need to get plenty of good quality sleep every night and try to get stress under control. Research suggests that sleep is an essential factor in a strong immune system.
If you are having trouble sleeping, there are plenty of natural aids that can help including:
- Herbal teas like lavender, lemon balm, chamomile and passion flower.
- Essential oils like lavender, vetiver, bergamot and ylang ylang.
- Gentle exercise such as yoga.
These essential oils and herbal teas can also have a significantly positive impact on your stress levels. Read more about natural remedies for stress.
Ginger has a great many health uses and can be a great benefit to people suffering from hepatitis A. Ginger helps to boost the immune system and helps clean the body’s lymphatic system while helping eliminate toxins and other waste from the body.
Drinking ginger root tea can help to ease an upset stomach and relieve the nausea suffered by many people with hepatitis A. It can also improve digestion and help your body to absorb the nutrients it relies on to heal. There is also evidence that ginger helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation while it is also effective against many types of infection.
6. Protect Yourself from Getting and Spreading the Virus
The major leading cause of hepatitis A is poor sanitation and poor hygiene practice. Make sure that your personal hygiene routine is good to prevent the disease from spreading. It is important to wash your hands regularly especially after you use the bathroom and change a diaper and before you prepare or eat food.
To avoid contracting the virus, you should avoid raw or undercooked shellfish especially in areas where the sanitation is likely inadequate. Travelers – especially those traveling to the developing world should avoid drinking the tap water and make sure that they drink bottles water instead.
You should also avoid eating any inflammatory, packaged and processed fold and you should completely avoid alcohol as this can make the condition worse and slow down the healing process considerably.
We hope that this article helps you to better understand the illness and will help you to avoid getting ill in the first place. If you are unfortunate enough to have contracted hepatitis A then hopefully some of the natural remedies will help to ease your symptoms and speed up your recovery.