Feeling fatigue or weakness is a common side effect of cancer treatment. In this blog, we have gathered five tips to help you feel more energized throughout treatment.
What Causes Cancer Fatigue?
Cancer fatigue can happen after cancer treatment when your body is trying to repair itself. Cancer treatment is good at going after cancer cells, but it cannot distinguish between cancerous and healthy cells. Unfortunately, the fast-growing cells in your body like hair follicles and intestinal cells can become damaged. This is one of the reasons you may experience hair loss as well as GI side effects like diarrhea, nausea, dehydration, and unwanted weight loss.
Other potential causes of cancer fatigue are anemia, lack of sleep, depression and stress, poor nutrition, certain medications, lack of exercise, and hormonal changes.
Not everyone will experience the same level of fatigue because each person's body is different and responds to cancer treatment differently, however, it always good to be prepared with an arsenal of tools to help reduce fatigue.
Here are five tips you can add to your daily routine to help minimize fatigue:
Drink 8-12 Glasses of Fluid- Dehydration is major contributor to fatigue. Treatment like chemo can stay in your system for days and even weeks which can continue to affect your body. Cancer treatment can cause side effects like vomiting and diarrhea which can contribute to your inability to stay hydrated. In some infusion clinics, patients will receive IV fluids to help minimize dehydration. Try incorporating an electrolyte replacement drink which is better than just using water alone.
Check your Vitamin D and Iron Levels- You get Vitamin D from sun exposure and in some of the foods you eat. A Vitamin D deficiency can cause depression which can add to your exhaustion. Additionally, vitamin D is important in the absorption of calcium in the intestines. If you are not absorbing enough calcium your body will begin to take calcium from your bones which can cause osteoporosis and bone pain. Vitamin D deficiency is also related to fatigue, weakness, and high blood pressure.
Some cancer treatments can cause anemia, and one of the main symptoms of anemia is weakness and fatigue. Try to add iron rich foods to your diet like dark leafy vegetables, beans, meat, iron fortified cereals, bread, and pasta.
Talk to your doctor about checking your Vitamin D and Iron levels and if taking a supplement is right for you.
Find Foods and Drinks That You Can Tolerate- Your taste buds may change during cancer treatment, and it may take some trial and error to find foods and beverages that you can tolerate. If this means you can only take down pudding, then keep eating pudding. Here are some tips to help make foods and drinks more tolerable.
- Add flavoring or lemon to water to help mask any metal taste that some patients report.
- Blend up fruits and vegetables to make a smoothie (try adding protein powder) or turn your smoothies into popsicles (this can also provide comfort from mouth sores).
- Eat smaller snacks throughout the day instead of eating three larger meals.
Slowly incorporate more nutrient and protein-rich foods. These types of foods will help you sustain more energy and help your body rebuild faster after treatment.
Exercise- Even though we don't always enjoy exercising, it is crucial for maintaining our overall health. Exercise provides many benefits more than just physical; it can help with your mental and emotional health thanks to the release of endorphins. Endorphin is a hormone that your body produces to naturally make you happier and more energetic. When adding exercise into your daily routine, start simple. You do not have to start lifting heavy weights or going for runs. A walk around your neighborhood will do just fine. Ask a friend to walk with you to help keep you committed and motivated. Always speak and get approval from a doctor before performing anything strenuous.
Recharge Your Body Battery- Getting a good night's sleep is one of the best suggestions for combating fatigue, but it can also be one of the hardest to achieve. Things like stress and pain can keep you awake all night or prevent a deep sleep. Here are tips you can try to help with sleep:
- Avoid anything with caffeine before bed.
- Our bodies love routine. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
- If you are restless in bed, go to your living room and try reading a book or lay somewhere else. Your mind and body will start to associate your bed as stressful if you continue to let your mind race.
- Engage in relaxing activities. Turn off the TV and put the phone down, reading a book, listening to calming music or doing some yoga can relax your mind and body before sleep. These activities can help to take your mind away from your stressful thoughts.
Try these tips to help re-energize your body and let us know in the comments which ones worked best for you!
Disclosure: These are recommendations only. If your side effects are affecting you, it is important to talk with members of your healthcare team.