When you exercise, your muscle cells need more oxygen than they do when you're at rest. However, previous studies have shown that the bodies of people with ME/CFS don't distribute oxygen like they should, leaving muscles exhausted and unable to perform.
This new study measured oxygen extraction (the amount of oxygen taken from the blood as it flows through your capillaries) in 440 people with ME/CFS to figure out why extraction is low in this condition. They found irregularities that suggest the problem is in the mitochondria - tiny structures inside your cells that produce energy.
What's more, researchers say the participants did not show signs of deconditioning, which some have suggested could be behind low exercise tolerance and poor performance in ME/CFS.
In addition to low oxygen extraction, researchers noted a higher cardiac output than in healthy controls.
Researchers concluded that exercise intolerance in ME/CFS is due to abnormal metabolism at the mitochondrial level.
What this means for you is that, essentially, it's as if your exercising at a higher altitude than what your body is used to. Ask any athlete who's had to compete under those circumstances - it's tough! Your muscles are deprived of oxygen and can't function. Your cells simply don't have the proper ingredients to make energy.
You already know what over-exertion means for your body and how important it is to stay within your limits. You don't need studies to tell you that. However, as we get more evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction, it'll become a bigger target for research on how to correct it. This study, and those that came before it, could lead the way to treatments that target the cause of exercise intolerance, which is considered by many researchers to be the hallmark symptom of ME/CFS.
Learn more about mitochondrial dysfunction and how it's treated:
What does exercise do to you? How much exertion can you handle? Have you been treated for mitochondrial dysfunction? If so, how did it work? Leave your comments below!
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