Hepatitis C and Supporting Lymphatic Health
The lymphatic system is an integral player in our overall health. Unfortunately, its importance is commonly overlooked by health professionals. Confirmed by research in 2007, people with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) are more susceptible to serious lymphatic system disorders than those without the virus. Thus, maintaining a healthy lymphatic system is especially important for those with chronic HCV. Despite hepatologists’ common omission of encouraging lymphatic health, there are several relatively simple approaches for accomplishing this goal.
About the Lymphatic System
One of the more poorly understood components of our body, the lymphatic system serves as one our most significant defense mechanisms against infection. Closely related with blood circulation, the lymphatic system is comprised of a network of tiny vessels and nodes that filter out disease-causing organisms, produce certain white blood cells and generate antibodies.
While arteries, veins and capillaries transport blood throughout our bodies, the lymphatic vessels carry a clear fluid called lymph. Lymph originates in the bloodstream and seeps through capillary walls to bathe and nourish the body’s tissues, then collects in the lymphatic vessels for an eventual return to the bloodstream.
Along the lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes are the collection sites that kill and remove harmful toxins and pathogens. In addition to helping the body clear infections, lymph glands also trap cancer cells to reduce their spread through the body. After capturing toxins and wastes, the lymph fluid is reabsorbed into the blood where it is then filtered out by the liver and kidneys.
The circulatory system is driven by the pumping action of the heart; however, the lymphatic system has no pump to move lymph fluid. Instead, lymph movement is powered by muscle contraction accomplished by either deep breathing or exercise. As more attention is turned toward how the lymphatic system manages our immunity, more medical professionals are recognizing the connection between a lymphatic network overload and chronic disease. Thus, discouraging lymphatic stagnation is becoming increasingly identified with disease prevention.
Hepatitis C and Lymph Problems
Even though the exact role of the lymphatic system in managing Hepatitis C remains unclear, scientists have acknowledged an increased likelihood of lymph problems in those with HCV. Due to a suspected link between lymphatic cancer and Hepatitis C, researchers from Houston, TX compared nearly 150,000 American veterans with HCV to over 500,000 without the virus.
In May 2007, their findings confirmed a definitive link between HCV and lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system). The investigators concluded that HCV-infected individuals demonstrate a 20 to 30 percent higher chance of developing lymphoma compared to those not infected by the virus.
Since those with HCV are more susceptible to lymphoma than others, their lymphatic systems are easily congested. Because of this disposition, individuals with chronic Hepatitis C must make their lymphatic health a priority.
Supporting Lymphatic Health
To prevent lymphatic stagnation, lymph flow must be encouraged. When lymph is able to move unobstructed through its network, the nodes can drain properly. Much to the benefit of someone with Hepatitis C, this healthful draining allows the lymphatic system to cleanse itself of pathogenic organisms, toxins and even cancerous cells.
Four commonly suggested ways to encourage lymphatic circulation include:
- Physical Activity – While all types of exercise aid lymphatic movement, jumping or jogging on a trampoline is reputed as one of the most beneficial activities for the lymph system. According to Morton Walker, DPM in the July 1995 issue of Townsend Letter for Doctors, being propelled into a state of weightlessness at the top of the bounce and then landing with twice the force of gravity creates hydraulic pressure that moves lymphatic fluid.
- Lymph Circulating Herbs – Known by herbalists from all different cultures, certain herbs have the ability to influence the circulation of bodily fluids, including lymph fluid. Dominated by herbs that encourage circulation, supplements like NutriCology’s Lymph-Immune helps maintain movement within the lymphatic system, thus minimizing stagnation.
- Lymphatic Drainage Massage – A specialized kind of massage therapy, lymphatic drainage massage uses a light touch to stimulate stagnant or sluggish lymph fluid. Advocates claim that this technique can enhance the flow of lymph up to 20 times its natural capacity, thereby aiding detoxification and immune strength.
- Avoid Constrictive Clothing – Pressure on a lymph node can prevent it from properly draining. Therefore, health professionals advise avoiding restrictive clothing and tight-fitting undergarments such as bras, underwear and pantyhose.
Living with chronic Hepatitis C increases the demand to take care of your lymphatic system. Especially because HCV magnifies the body’s detoxification load and the risk of developing lymphoma, preventing lymph congestion is essential. By prioritizing exercise, supplementing with lymph supportive herbs, avoiding constrictive clothing and receiving a periodic lymphatic drainage massage, even those most vulnerable can protect themselves from lymph node and vessel stagnation.
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