Energy fuels the body's internal functions to help us perform at optimal levels. When energy is low, everything takes longer to accomplish and seems more difficult.
Unfortunately, cancer fatigue is a common side effect during treatment. Feeling tired, weak or exhausted can result from the treatment or the cancer itself, as well as the emotional and physical stresses that may accompany this time in your life.
To boost your energy and feel more like yourself, consider the following strategies:
Hydration. The American Cancer Association recommends drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day unless advised otherwise by your doctor. “I always emphasize the benefits of hydration when I meet clients who are in treatment,” says Kathy Venezia, a cancer survivor and Holistic Health Coach and owner of Bella Wellness, in Buffalo, NY.
Remember to pay extra attention to the quality of what you eat and drink, says Venezia. "Opt for organic/local whenever possible. Keep your water as pure and clean as possible. Even a simple Brita filter system can make a difference.” In addition to water, Venezia recommends cold or hot herbal teas as well as energy building bone broths (recipe follows). Recently branded, “the new coffee” by Epicurious Magazine, bone broths are easy to digest and rich in protein and minerals that support the immune system and contain nourishing healing compounds.
Nutrition. “I am a big advocate for checking in and listening to what appeals to your body,” says Venezia. “Are you craving something savory, sweet or a healthy fat? Blended drinks can deliver phytonutrients that can offer you that added boost. Keep some leafy greens (kale, spinach, parsley) on hand to blend with frozen bananas or organic berries. Add in a little fresh ginger for gastrointestinal support, and 1/2 avocado for healthy fat and creamy texture. Add water and blend for a nourishing and easy drink,” says Venezia.
Even if you’re appetite challenged, try to inspire yourself with new food ideas that will boost your energy. Venezia recommends "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen," by Rebecca Katz, a cookbook that includes 150 science-based, easy to prepare, nutrient-rich recipes designed to stimulate appetite and address treatment side effects including fatigue.
Exercise. The American Cancer Association recommends regular, light-to-moderate exercise as well as fresh air to help improve energy and reduce fatigue. Additional benefits include improving self-esteem, lowering anxiety and depression and reducing nausea. You may need to build your strength slowly, but keep in mind that the goal is to be active at whatever level is right for you. Exercise can include everyday activities such as gardening, walking, engaging in active games with kids, or using the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
Reduce stress. Removing or reducing stress in your life may also help you feel more energized. Make time for hobbies and other activities that give you pleasure, or try stress-relieving practices such as yoga, qigong, guided mediations or deep breathing and visualizations. On days when you feel low energy, pick just one thing to complete and don’t overwhelm yourself.
Remember to pay attention to your emotional energy, says Venezia. “Keep clear of energy bandits, relationships or situations that drain you emotionally. This is the time to surround yourself with people who help replenish your energy. It may be a old friend who you laugh with over silly things or someone who you enjoy walking with quietly.”
Accept help. Consider pointing your friends, family or co-workers towards one of the many free websites designed to set up schedules for meal preparation, grocery shopping or other helpful tasks, such as CaringBridge, CareCalendar, Mealtrain and lotsahelpinghands. Knowing that you have a few less things to do can offer you peace of mind and provide you with extra energy to allow your body to heal.
Bone Broth Recipe
Used for healing by many cultures for centuries, bone broths have recently surfaced as a trendy beverage to improve sports performance, as well as promote anti-aging and weight loss. It’s even been declared one of the three pillars of the LA Lakers' official team diet! Best of all, it’s easy to prepare and keep on hand for when you need something soothing and nutritious that’s easy on your digestive system.
Bone broth may promote healthy digestion, reduce joint pain and inflammation, help you sleep better, and promote strong, healthy bones, healthy hair and nail growth. Whether you're using chicken or beef, try to use bones from organically-raised, pastured or grass-fed animals.
This recipe calls for beef bones, but you can also make bone broth using whole organic chicken, whole fish (including the head) or fish bones, or pork. Each will render a different flavor.
4 pounds beef bones, preferably a mix of marrow bones and bones with a little meat on them, such as oxtail, short ribs, or knuckle bones (cut in half by a butcher)
2 medium peeled carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium leek, end trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces (optional)
1 medium onion peeled
1 garlic head, halved crosswise
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
6-quart (or larger) stockpot or a large slow cooker
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place beef bones, carrots, leek, onion, and garlic on a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Toss the contents of the pan and continue to roast until deeply browned, about 15 minutes more. Fill a large (at least 6-quart) stockpot with 12 cups of water (preferably filtered). Add celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar. Add the roasted bones and vegetables into the pot along with any juices. Add more water if necessary to cover bones and vegetables.
Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook with lid slightly ajar, skimming foam and excess fat during the first hour of cooking. Continue to simmer for at least 8 but up to 24 hours. The longer you simmer it, the richer your broth will be. Add more water if necessary to ensure bones and vegetables are fully submerged. Alternately, you can cook the broth in a slow cooker on low for the same amount of time.
Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly. Strain broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard bones and vegetables. Cool until barely warm, then refrigerate in containers overnight. Remove solidified fat from the top of the chilled broth. Broth can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.