Ask Registered Dietician Esther Trepal- resolutions- cook for your life- detoxifying

Dealing with Severe Fatigue

by Esther Trepal MS RDN on February 1, 2016


What can I do about severe fatigue? Are there specific foods I can eat or things I can do to help get through it?

This is a tough one. Frequently, people undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy feel extremely fatigued. One of the most effective ways of increasing energy is, believe it or not, exercise.  The amount you can exercise will vary but this is a proven strategy for beating fatigue. To the extent you are able, aim for 30 minutes per day (doesn’t have to be all done at the same time). Having a friend who accompanies you and supports you in this will be extremely helpful in keeping you on target. One woman I talked with said her husband got her up off the couch every night for a short walk and it did her a world of good.

As for diet, you want to make sure your body is not only getting the fuel it needs, but is also able to use that fuel. That means a well-balanced diet with adequate fluids:  protein helps in repair, starches provide energy, and fruits and vegetables allow you to tap into that energy.  If you’re not able to eat three full meals per day, you can split them up into frequent, small meals. Notice that there isn’t any one specific food that will do the trick. This is a team effort!

Don’t underestimate the need for adequate rest. You may need a nap during the day to keep you going. Along the same lines, reducing stress and experiencing joy is a wonderful way to stay energized. Stress reduction can be achieved with meditation, prayer, play, yoga, exercise, socializing, or whatever makes you happy.

Lastly, some alternative practitioners consider supplementation. Co-enzyme Q10, L-carnitine and a multivitamin are sometimes recommended. However, use of supplements during cancer treatment is highly controversial. You would not want to take something that interferes with the effectiveness of your treatment. Before taking these or any other supplements, check with your oncologist.

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