The Role of Good Nutrition in Fighting Fatigue
Cancer-related fatigue is often made worse if you are not eating or drinking enough or if you are not eating the right foods. Maintaining good nutrition can help you feel better and have more energy. The following are strategies to help improve nutritional intake:
- Meet your basic calorie needs. The estimated calorie needs for someone with cancer is 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 2250 calories per day to maintain his or her weight; active people need 20 calories per pound of weight to maintain their body weight.
- Include protein in your diet. Protein rebuilds and repairs damaged (and normally aging) body tissue. The estimated protein needs are 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Example: A 150 lb. person needs 75 to 90 grams of protein per day; active people need 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. 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 eight cups of fluid per day will prevent dehydration. (That's 64 oz., 2 quarts or 1 half-gallon). Fluids can include juice, milk, broth, milkshakes, gelatin, and other beverages. Of course, water is fine, too. Beverages containing caffeine do NOT count. Keep in mind that you'll need more fluids if you have treatment side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea. In warm climates, 96 ounces of fluids should be the minimum daily intake.
- 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.
- Make an appointment with a dietitian. A registered dietitian provides suggestions to work around any 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 proteins in smaller amounts of food (such as powdered milk, instant breakfast drinks, other commercial supplements, or food additives).
The Role of Exercise in Fighting 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.