Eating Right to Fight Cancer Fatigue
Cancer-related fatigue is often made worse if you are not eating enough or if you are not eating the right foods. Maintaining good nutrition can help you feel better and have more energy. You may not always be able to eat perfectly, but the following are some goals:
- Meet your basic calorie needs. The estimated calorie needs for someone with cancer is about 15 calories per pound of weight if your weight has been stable. Add 500 calories per day if you have lost weight. Example: A person who weighs 150 lbs. needs about 2,250 calories per day to maintain his or her weight.
- Eat plenty of protein. Protein rebuilds and repairs damaged (and normally aging) body tissue. The estimated protein needs are 0.5-0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Example: A 150-pound person needs 75-90 grams of protein per day. The best sources of protein include foods from the dairy group (8 oz. milk = 8 grams protein) and meats (meat, fish, or poultry = 7 grams of protein per ounce).
- Drink plenty of fluids. A minimum of 8 cups of fluid per day will help prevent dehydration. (That's 64 ounces, 2 quarts, or 1 half-gallon). In hot, dry climates increase your fluid intake to 12 cups of fluid, or 3 quarts or 96 ounces. Fluids can include juice, milk, broth, milkshakes, gelatin, and other beverages. Of course, water is fine, too. Beverages containing caffeine do NOT count and neither does alcohol. Keep in mind that you'll need more fluids if you have treatment side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea.
- Make sure you are getting enough vitamins. Take a vitamin supplement if you are not sure you are getting enough nutrients. A recommended supplement would be a multivitamin that provides at least 100% of the recommended daily allowances (RDA) for most nutrients. Note: Vitamin supplements do not provide calories, which are essential for energy production. So vitamins cannot substitute for adequate food intake. As with all medications, your should check with your doctors or nurses before taking vitamins or other supplements.
- Make an appointment with a dietitian. A registered dietitian can provide suggestions for dealing with eating problems that may be interfering with proper nutrition (such as early feeling of fullness, swallowing difficulty, or taste changes). A dietitian can also suggest ways to maximize calories and include more nutrients in smaller amounts of food (such as powdered milk, instant breakfast drinks, and other commercial supplements or food additives).
Exercise and Cancer Fatigue
Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of cancer or cancer treatment, can lead to tiredness and lack of energy. Scientists have found that even healthy athletes forced to spend extended periods in bed or sitting in chairs develop feelings of anxiety, depression, weakness, fatigue, and nausea.