Liver Disease in itself is hard enough to cope with but, if we think about the notion of liver disease and exercise together, it is like a minefield of where to start.
It was only the other day that I saw a piece on the news about how a lady managed to cure herself of having a fatty liver by changing her diet and exercising. Her hard work and effort were rewarded and upon seeing her liver consultant she was told that she no longer had a fatty liver. She has now become a fitness instructor.
However, is liver disease and exercise that simple? Having a fatty liver is just one liver disease among many and, a lot of liver diseases are debilitating to the point that you cannot even attempt to exercise.
As mentioned in the website www.livestrong.com, right now we know that continued aerobic exercise strengthens your heart muscles and allows it to pump blood with less effort. As this occurs, your pulse slows down and blood flow improves, making it easier for your heart to get blood to the liver and for your liver to send filtered blood back through your blood system. Building lean muscle mass through weight can delay severe muscle wasting that becomes apparent during advanced stages of liver disease.
So, when is a good time to start exercising and does exercise help all types of liver diseases? I think more research has to be undertaken to answer this question. However, from my own experience of living with an autoimmune liver disease, liver disease and exercise went hand in hand right up until I had my transplant.
Firstly, for me, it was about finding something that I could participate in that was not too strenuous but, at the same time was enough to get my heart pumping and something I could participate in that used all of my muscles. For the most part, I used to practice yoga which you can take part in no matter what your level of fitness is. My class had many different people at various fitness, skill levels and ages. Later on, and closer to the time of having my transplant I did a lot of walking.
One thing that personally sticks out in my mind is how from the minute I was diagnosed with my liver disease, there was never really any advice given regarding participating in some form of exercise or specific diets to follow and why to follow them. Is this because the information is not known in full or just something that, in the beginning, is not seen as a big part of keeping the illness under control?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I knew what I knew today, I would have started exercising from day one not a few years down the line. Furthermore, even though I have always tried to eat healthily, I would have also changed my diet to make sure my liver was under as little stress as possible a lot earlier.
In conclusion, and from my experience, I think that managing a long-term illness with medication is only one part of living with a long-term illness and not enough emphasis is put on what we as the patient can do for ourselves. This includes both mentally and physically.
Thanks for reading.
Peace, love and light x