Managing your energy
Energy levels vary from person to person; they also vary over time and are affected by a wide range of factors. Simple things like the weather can affect energy levels. More importantly, especially to a hepatitis C sufferer, is the impact the virus can have on the body’s ability to produce energy, as well as the psychological symptoms of the virus and its impact on energy production.
In order to manage your energy it is essential to understand that it will change over time. There may be days or periods of time when you appear to have very little energy followed by periods when you are able to do much more than usual.
Pacing yourself, including setting realistic goals, listening to your body and finding a balance between what has to be done and what can wait are useful and practical measures you can take to ensure you don’t overstretch yourself. Over time you are likely to get to know how much you can do without exhausting yourself.
Getting enough rest and/or sleep is also important for managing energy. This may mean taking an afternoon nap, in addition to a good night's sleep. This may not be necessary all the time, but when it is, it may be wise to listen to your body and take additional rest.
Gentle exercise often stimulates energy. This may seem strange, but the relationship between exercise and energy production is widely acknowledged. The other benefits of taking regular exercise are also well known. These benefits are not only felt physically but mentally as well.
Exercise strengthens muscles and bones, gets your system moving and boosts energy levels. It can contribute to the development of a positive attitude by lifting your spirits and stimulating brain function. It has also been proved to help the functioning of the immune system as well as helping you sleep better.
Naturally, some of the physical and mental symptoms of hepatitis C will affect your motivation to engage in any exercise. But gentle exercise such as a walk, gentle swim, even gentle stretches will help to relieve stress, fatigue, depression and aches.
Incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine reduces the likelihood of slipping into a negative or depressive mood. However, don’t try and do too much exercise, especially if you have not exercised for a while. Instead listen to your body and start off gently. If it begins to hurt or you become tired, out of breath or feel faint or dizzy you should stop. Gradually build up your exercise, setting yourself realistic goals, either by gradually increasing the intensity of the exercise or the time spent exercising.
You may also want to consider low impact exercise such as swimming and cycling, since people with hepatitis C often have joint problems. Yoga has proven beneficial in developing physical strength, reducing stress and easing muscle tension. Yoga classes are often run by local education authorities and can be an excellent introduction to a non-stressful regime that can be undertaken at home.
Sleep and rest
It may seem obvious, but getting enough rest and sleep is very important. People with hepatitis C often experience disturbed sleep patterns and night sweats.
Lack of sleep or a disturbed sleep patterns can make you feel irritable, tired and depressed. It can also affect mental function and increase your stress levels. In fact, there is a definite relationship between depression, stress and insomnia (inability to sleep).
Lack of sleep affects your energy levels and how well you cope with things and how well you cope with things can affect your ability to sleep. This is a vicious circle that sometimes can be difficult to break.
Getting a good night's sleep may sound simple, but many people have difficulty attaining it. There are a number of simple measures you can take to improve the chance of a good night's sleep.
- Only go to bed when you are tired.
- Try to get into a regular sleep routine by going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning.
- Near to bedtime do something that takes your mind off any problems you have, such as listening to music, reading or taking a warm bath.
- Avoid doing anything stimulating, like watching a good TV programme before you go to bed.
- Avoid eating large meals late in the evening.
- Avoid consuming any stimulants such as tea, cola, alcohol, cocoa or coffee near to bedtime.
- Avoid naps in the afternoon unless they are really necessary.
- Take regular gentle exercise throughout the day.
- Try to ensure your room is conducive to sleep, i.e. comfortable temperature, dark and quiet.
- Make sure your bed is warm enough when you go to bed. For example have a hot water bottle or the central heating on until you go to bed, rather than a load of blankets that could make you wake up sweating later in the night.
- If you wake in the night and no longer feel tired, it is better to do something mundane like reading until you feel sleepy.
- As night sweats can be a problem, wear natural rather than synthetic material in bed.
Remedies for insomnia include herbal teas that are taken just before bedtime.
Camomile tea is a well known sedative. Lavender pillows are also known to help. If you continue to have difficulty sleeping, then speak to your doctor.
Coping with your temperature
Often people with hepatitis C have difficulty in maintaining their body temperature. Generally this manifests itself in feeling cold, and once cold finding it very difficult to get warm again. It’s good therefore to try and prevent getting too cold in the first instance.
To keep warm
- Wear lots of thin layers that can be discarded if you get too hot
- Take hot baths
- Use hot water bottles
- Keep feet and hands warm.
People with hepatitis C who are overweight increase the likelihood of fatty deposits in their liver. In some instances they will be advised to reduce their weight in order to avoid or improve fat-related liver abnormalities.
In addition, it is evident that patients with a normal weight have a higher response rate to interferon therapy for hepatitis C.
Overweight patients with a fatty liver who subsequently reduce their weight are likely to experience an improvement in fat-related liver abnormalities. Consequently, people with chronic hepatitis C should try to maintain a normal weight in order to avoid additional stress of their liver.
In fact, people with hepatitis C often find it difficult to maintain their weight, especially if they are experiencing the gastro-intestinal symptoms of nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhoea.
These symptoms can get worse on interferon treatment and weight loss can become a problem. If you do find it hard to maintain weight, it can help to eat little and often and try to incorporate complex carbohydrates in the diet.
Below are the suggested weights for adults based on height without shoes and weight without clothes and shoes. Within the ranges the higher weight is more applicable to men, who tend to have more muscle and bone and the lower ends of the ranges to women.