On a crisp, clear fall day shortly after my first bone marrow transplant, I walked up a small hill to watch my daughter’s soccer game … and cried. I couldn’t believe how much effort it had taken to simply walk up a hill. I had always been athletic. To find myself winded after such minor physical exertion was frustrating, to say the least.
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints during cancer treatment, especially in the first year of recovery. But it can linger much longer than that, as this post on a cancer discussion board shows:
“I’m 40 years old & 2-years past my diagnosis date of stage 3 colorectal cancer. I’m still experiencing periods of exhaustion. There is some energy-level improvement, but when I get tired I am down — sometimes for days. I thought this would improve by now.”
In the months after my transplant, I needed frequent blood transfusions because of a severely low red blood cell count (a condition called anemia). I knew my body well enough to sense that the anemia was causing my fatigue. To make it easier to deal with, I would walk around town with my mother repeating in my best vampire voice, “I need blood.”
Occasionally, I would even need an injection of Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa), a man-made protein that helps the body produce red blood cells.
Not drinking enough liquids can also cause fatigue, so it is important to drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day. And that means water — not soda or sugary drinks.
Poor nutrition can also cause fatigue, and while it can be difficult to eat in the immediate aftermath of treatment, small portions at meals and snacks throughout the day helped me maintain my strength as I slowly regained my appetite.
Here are some natural energy boosters that can increase your energy during cancer treatment, or any other time:
· Dark chocolate. Besides caffeine, dark chocolate is also rich in the compound flavanol, which helps increase blood flow to the brain. That extra blood will improve your mental focus and help fight brain fatigue. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants, iron, and magnesium.
· Almonds. Raw, unsalted almonds are a good source of healthy fats and protein to balance blood sugar levels.
· Bananas. Rich in potassium and B vitamins, bananas help slow digestion and can keep blood sugar levels stable.
· Bran. It’s full of energy-producing B vitamins, iron, and magnesium.
· Salmon. High in essential omega-3 fatty acids, salmon aids in energy production, brain activity, and circulation, as well as maintaining heart health.
· Eggs. High in iron and protein.
· Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and other legumes. Can help prevent a midafternoon crash by stabilizing blood glucose levels.
· Whole grains. Contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, B vitamins, and iron.
· Ginger tea. Get a lift from ginger-infused tea, which is filled with antioxidants and other nutrients.
· Quinoa and kale. These trendy foods are great energy producers. Quinoa is contains complex carbohydrates and protein, while kale is high in vitamins and minerals.
While I, personally, have not been able to make either kale or quinoa taste good, I’ve been told it can be done — and they’ll give you that extra gusto you need to make it through the day.
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