Overlooked Reason That Physical Activity Fights Hepatitis C
Regardless of a person’s specific health concerns, experts seem to universally proclaim that exercise is the solution to just about everything. This is especially true when it comes to battling the Hepatitis C virus. While there are several reasons that exercise is beneficial to those with Hepatitis C, its function of encouraging movement in the lymphatic system is often overlooked.
Most people have a general understanding of what the cardiovascular system is and how it functions. This is not the case for the lymphatic system. Despite its importance to our health, a majority of us have little to no concept of the lymphatic system – including where it is, what it does and how it relates to Hepatitis C.
A Brief Overview of the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels, nodes and organs for circulating lymph fluids. While it helps maintain fluid balance and transport fats and nutrients to the circulatory system, its most important function is to support immune function.
Considered to be one of the most important aspects of our immune system, the lymphatic system carries cellular waste, toxins and pathogens away from the tissues. It can accomplish this seemingly impossible task, because lymphatic fluid:
- bathes every one of our cells
- collects unwanted substances
- removes unwanted substances by transporting it away in its own network of lymph vessels
Connecting the lymphatic system together, the lymph vessels are akin to a microscopic, fine net laced throughout the entire body.
Blood vessels and lymph vessels are often next to one another. However, blood and lymphatic fluid’s movement through their respective vessels is very different. Blood courses through its vessels because it is pumped by the heart. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no pump.
Lymph fluid depends on skeletal muscle contractions to move through lymph vessels. Thus, physical activity is the best way to transport cellular debris, pathogens, cancerous cells and toxins away for removal. Without adequate movement, the cells are left stewing in their own waste products and starving for nutrients, a situation which could only worsen chronic Hepatitis C infection. This is especially problematic for those who lead a relatively inactive lifestyle, such as those who sit in a vehicle driving all day or are parked in front of a computer screen for a majority of their waking hours. In contrast, vigorous exercise has been reported to increase lymph flow by 15 to 30 times more than inactivity.
Applied to Hepatitis C
For those individuals who must manage Hepatitis C infection, one of the goals is to help the liver process its toxic load in any way possible. Aiding the circulation of lymphatic fluid is one small way to accomplish that goal.
Because the livers of those with Hepatitis C may have some degree of impaired function, this organ may not be as effective in its role of detoxification. Thus, those with liver damage commonly have a backup of cellular waste and toxins in their bloodstream – a situation that can lead to more liver damage, cancer or hepatic encephalopathy.
Hepatic encephalopathy occurs when toxic substances normally removed by the liver accumulate in the blood and impair the function of brain cells. Hepatic encephalopathy can lead to decreased cognition, coma and can ultimately be fatal.
By keeping active, those with chronic Hepatitis C can help their liver manage the continual onslaught of waste and toxins. Physical movement is necessary for moving unwanted debris along lymph vessels. This is just one reason why exercise helps reduce demand on the liver and helps keep the immune system healthy – a benefit for anyone regardless of his or her Hepatitis C status.
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