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Colorectal Cancer and Fatigue

How Does Nutrition Impact Fatigue With Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal 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. The following are strategies to help improve nutritional intake:

  1. 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 2,250 calories per day to maintain his or her weight.
  2. Get 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).
  3. Drink plenty of fluids. A minimum of 8 cups of fluid per day will prevent dehydration. (That's 64 ounces, 2 quarts or a half-gallon). Fluids can include juice, milk, broth, milkshakes, gelatin, and other beverages. Of course, water is fine, too. Beverages containing caffeine or alcohol do NOT count. Keep in mind that you'll need more fluids if you have treatment side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea.
  4. 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. Also, be sure to tell your doctor about any vitamins or supplements you're taking.
  5. 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, and other commercial supplements or food additives).

How Does Exercise Impact Energy Level?

Decreased physical activity, which may be the result of colorectal cancer or its 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.

Regular, moderate exercise can decrease these feelings, help you stay active, and increase your energy. Even during cancer therapy, it is often possible to continue exercising. Exercise also improves the outcome of patients with colorectal cancer.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
  • A good exercise program starts slowly, allowing your body time to adjust.
  • Keep a regular exercise schedule. Exercise at least 3 times a week.
  • The right kind of exercise never makes you feel sore, stiff, or exhausted. If you experience soreness, stiffness, exhaustion, or feel out of breath as a result of your exercise, you are overdoing it.
  • Most exercises are safe, as long as you exercise with caution and don't overdo it. The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, and low impact aerobics (taught by a certified instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury and benefit your entire body.

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