Four Ways to Beat Cirrhosis Fatigue
Fatigue is a problem frequently experienced by those with chronic hepatitis. Fortunately, there are several different kinds of approaches that can help mitigate fatigue.
by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
As the most common symptom of chronic hepatitis, fatigue is also one of the hardest ones to address. Likely because of the complex combination of cellular and chemical processes involved in producing energy, battling fatigue is best accomplished through a variety of different approaches.
There are a range of mechanisms that may be responsible for the fatigue characteristic of chronic hepatitis – and just as many potential solutions. Some of the theories explaining why fatigue is the number one complaint of people with chronic, viral hepatitis are described below:
• Mitochondrial damage – Understood to be inflicted by either the medications used for treatment or a direct impact from the virus, experts believe that chronic hepatitis viruses damage the cell’s mitochondria.
• Energy storage – The liver converts food into glucose, stores it for later use and releases it when the body needs energy. A liver with advanced disease from viral hepatitis is impaired in its ability to produce and store glucose.
• Immune dysfunction – When the body is under physical or emotional stress, such as is often the case in chronic hepatitis, the immune system is weakened. Understood to be due to a reduction in neurotransmitter release and a depletion of the adrenal gland, a weak immune system is frequently a factor behind profound fatigue.
• Depression – Whether due to living with a chronic disease, a side effect of medications or some other reason, those with hepatitis are especially prone to depression. According to a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers found that people who are depressed are more than four times as likely to develop unexplained fatigue as those who are not depressed.
A physician should always be consulted first to rule out another medical condition responsible for severe tiredness. Even if no other cause of fatigue can be found, there is still hope to increase energy levels in those with chronic hepatitis. Spanning several different energy restoration approaches, the following four practices are just a small sampling of what can help a person with chronic, viral hepatitis beat fatigue:
1. Avoid caffeine overload – While many people turn to caffeine to boost their energy levels, too much can cause blood sugar fluctuations and adrenal gland depletion, both of which increase one’s vulnerability to stress. In addition, a caffeine overload can cause severe sleep difficulties – a definitive recipe for fatigue.
2. Supplementing with Siberian ginseng – Siberian ginseng helps normalize bodily functions by inhibiting the adrenal stress response and stimulating the immune system. It is particularly useful for fighting the effects of stress and depression, two known sources of fatigue. In addition, Siberian ginseng may be helpful to those with chronic hepatitis because it aids the liver in the detoxification process.
. Lipid replacement therapy – Lipid replacement therapy helps prevent mitochondrial cell membrane damage, thus averting the loss of energy on a cellular level. By replacing the damaged lipids with phospholipids and fatty acids essential to the structure and function of biological membranes, lipid replacement therapy helps restore the mitochondria’s boundaries. This strategy has been shown to be extremely effective in restoring energy levels of those with chronic disease.
4. Reduce stress levels – According to Paul Baard, PhD, a sports psychologist at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY, one of the biggest energy zappers is stress. Including more relaxation activities into one’s day helps reduce stress, which consequently improves energy levels. Stress relief is highly individual and may be achieved through exercise, listening to music, reading a good book, meditating or socializing. “Whatever is relaxing for you will reduce tension and that will help increase energy,” says Baard.
The source of fatigue in anyone, including someone with chronic hepatitis can have many different sources. Assuming there is not another medical solution for a person’s fatigue, practices like avoiding caffeine overload, supplementing with Siberian ginseng, lipid replacement therapy and stress reduction can have a profound impact on restoring a person with chronic hepatitis’s energy levels.