In addition to all the other problems they face, over 70 percent of people receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy for their cancer suffer from severe fatigue. This fatigue is most often ignored.
But it is not enough to simply prolong life. It is important that life also be enjoyable. The good news? You don't have to choose. Those things that improve quality of life may also improve survival.
So got cancer fatigue? Here are four steps to optimize your energy. Let me state that these treatments are not for treating your cancer, but rather for optimizing your health if you have cancer.
1—Optimized Nutritional Support. Some doctors advise people with cancer not to take nutritional support. The rationalization? That the antioxidants might decrease the effectiveness of the chemotherapy and radiation, (which are oxidative).
Although this concern is not unreasonable, the overall research data suggests that giving nutritional support improves outcomes, while decreasing chemotherapy toxicity. In addition, nausea caused by the chemo and increased metabolic needs from cancer can leave people dramatically malnourished, with the RDAs being woefully inadequate.
What I recommend for the people I treat is to take the following:
A. It should include optimal amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. I use the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder. This one drink daily supplies virtually all of the vitamins, minerals and energy cofactors that the diet should be supplying (except the calories) at optimal levels, with the exception of iron and essential oils. To be on the safe side, I have them leave it, and other antioxidants, off for two days before and three to seven days after radiation or chemotherapy.
B. If using chemotherapy that can cause nerve damage, I also will add acetyl l-carnitine 1000 mg twice a day until three months after the chemo is done to help protect the nerves. This has been shown to be helpful in supporting nerve health (with the exception of people taking vinorelbine). The powerful antioxidant Lipoic acid 300 mg twice daily can also support nerve health and healing.
C. Other nutrients can also be helpful in supporting health while being treated for selected types of cancer. For example, Glutathione has been demonstrated in the research to decrease cisplatin toxicity and coenzyme Q10 helps keep the heart healthy when taking doxorubicin. Powerful antioxidants, including alpha lipoic acid (300 mg) that work to recharge your system at the cellular level.
D. A cup of coffee or two each day also supplies helpful nutrients, and at this level the caffeine can be a healthy stimulant. E. Meanwhile, don't forget to go for walks in the sunshine. Walking has been shown to help cancer-related fatigue, and sunshine (the source of vitamin D) has been shown to strengthen your immune system!
2—Get pain relief. Chronic pain drains energy, and virtually all pain can be effectively treated. The problems is that physicians are simply not trained in pain management, and oncologists are often no exception. Ask your oncologist to refer you to a physician who specializes in pain management (called a physiatrist or PM& R specialist). In addition, there are herbals that can help support overall health. A special highly absorbed curcumin (I recommend one called CuraMed in my practice) is being tested in numerous cancer studies, and is showing dramatic benefits in protecting health. Meanwhile, it can dramatically augment the effectiveness of pain medications.
To help tip the scales in their favor and support their body staying healthy, I recommend that all of my patients being treated for cancer also take CuraMed 750 mg 2 caps twice a day to support optimal heath and immune function. If pain is an issue, I use Curamin ES 1 cap 3 times a day along with the CuraMed one twice a day.
In addition, a technique called Frequency Specific Microcurrent (see www.frequencyspecific.com) can also be very helpful for pain—with no side effects.
3—Sleep. I can't overemphasize the importance of getting your eight to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep is critical not only for energy, but also for decreasing pain and optimizing immune function. There are two herbal mixes that are excellent for sleep, and which can be taken together or combined with any sleep medications. These are the Revitalizing Sleep Formula and Terrific ZZZZ.
4—Hope. One of the big energy drainers is a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. However, when I review the medical literature for the people I treat with cancer, I routinely find a good number of studies showing that low-cost natural therapies can be very effective for their specific cancer type. But because of a quirk in our regulatory system, the research on these low-cost remedies cannot even be talked about without paying $400 million per treatment in regulatory costs. Because these treatments cost pennies, it is unlikely that the cancer specialist will hear about the research, and therefore presumes it doesn't exist.
But your holistic health practitioner can look into these and guide you. By combining the best of natural and standard medical care, the "average" statistics become meaningless, with your odds for improvement and recovery being much higher. So that the statistics no longer apply to you.
Meanwhile, don't forget to harvest the silver lining of your condition. Your diagnoses may have taught you to stop and notice what's important to you, and to get a clearer view of your priorities. And to learn to, as the world-renowned anthropologist Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss!"
By following the steps above, not only can you support your health, but you can also feel great and have a life worth living!
Jacob E Teitelbaum, MD
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, is a board certified internist and Medical Director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and Chronicity. He is author of the popular free iPhone application "Cures A-Z," and author of the best-selling books
- The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
- From Fatigued to Fantastic!
- Pain Free 1-2-3
- Three Steps to Happiness: Healing Through Joy
- The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction
- Beat Sugar Addiction Now! Cookbook
- Real Cause, Real Cure: The 9 root causes of the most common health problems and how to solve them
Dr. Teitelbaum knows CFS/fibromyalgia as an insider — he contracted CFS when he was in medical school and had to drop out for a year to recover. In the ensuing 25 years, he has dedicated his career to finding effective treatments.