The importance of proper nutrition cannot be underestimated. Everyone needs it – everyone especially people living with cancer. While there are no specific dietary recommendations for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, some diet patterns may give your energy a boost and support recovery. Eating a diet rich in nutrients can enhance recovery after chemotherapy and other treatments.
You can hire the services of a registered dietitian who will guide you on how to plan your diet.
This article highlights some diet tips for chronic lymphocytic leukemia to add to your treatment plan.
Limit your intake of processed foods
Studies have shown that excessive consumption of processed foods and processed meats increases your risk of developing some cancers, including breast cancer and colon cancer.
Processed meats are meats that have been treated by curing, salting, or smoking. The essence of treatment is to preserve its flavor. Commonly processed meats include ham, bacon, and hot dogs.
A 2018 study established an association between chronic lymphocytic leukemia and the western diet. 369 CLL patients participated in the study alongside 1,605 control participants. The study compared the incidence of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in people who followed either the Mediterranean, Prudent, or Western diets.
The Mediterranean diet includes a high consumption of fruits, fish, vegetables, legumes, boiled potatoes, vegetable oils, and olives. The Prudent diet emphasizes on consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, juices, and whole grains. The Western diet focuses on refined grains, processed meats, high-calorie drinks, sugar, and processed dairy.
Data gotten from the study found that the risk of CLL was higher among those who ate the Western diet. No link was established between CLL and Prudent or Mediterranean diets.
Eat vegetables and fruits
Fruits and vegetables are essential components of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia diet. A plant-based diet or a Mediterranean diet contributes efficiently to cancer prevention and is also healthy for people with existing cancer cases. A plant-based diet is one that contains a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also limits the intake of red meat while encouraging the consumption of legumes and fish.
Vegetables and fruits are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which offers a great deal of protection against cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that you consume at least 21/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily. You’ll get adequate vitamins, minerals, and fiber by eating vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. Pumpkin, carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, and beets also contain lots of nutrients.
Focus on healthy fats
Several studies have found a link between olive oil and a low risk of cancer. For instance, a 2011 meta-analysis of epidemiological studies found that a high intake of olive oil reduced the risk of several types of cancers as compared to heavy butter consumption.
Also, animal studies have shown that fatty acids in flaxseed and fatty fish protects from cancer.
Reduce alcohol intake
Heavy intake of alcohol is associated with a high risk of some types of cancers, such as breast, colon, liver, and mouth cancers. This explains why it is excluded from the recommended chronic lymphocytic leukemia diet.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men should take no more than two drinks daily, while women should limit their intake to just one drink per day.
Also, some prescription or over-the-counter medications can interact with alcohol. You’ll have to discuss these with your doctor before you drink any alcohol.
Manage any side effects that you may experience
Some treatments may have side effects that make it hard to get adequate protein and calories.
For example, chemotherapy is associated with side effects like:
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Dry mouth, or sore throat and mouth sores
Your doctor will advise you on how to manage these side effects using medications so that you can still get adequate nutrition to strengthen your body. Most side effects can be managed with soft foods that won’t give you any trouble chewing or swallowing.
Such foods include:
- Egg scrambles or omelets
- Milkshakes, and smoothies made with low-fat dairy, soy milk, tofu, or yogurt.
- Minced fish or chicken in a sauce
- Strained or pureed soups that contain a lot of beans and vegetables.
- Brown rice
- Pureed fruits
You can make some changes to your diet depending on what symptoms you’re experiencing.
For instance, if your taste sense seems to change, you can add more spices and herbs to your meals. Good examples include garlic, onion, turmeric, basil, thyme, and parsley.
These ingredients will make your food more palatable, but not only that. They also contain a lot of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
Drink a lot of water
Proper hydration is essential for good health. It prevents side effects due to treatments, such as dry mouth and constipation.
If your cancer treatment causes you to have diarrhea, ask your doctor about electrolyte drinks. The electrolyte level in your body must be balanced for your cells to function at optimal levels.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia diet recommendations are not enough to fight the disease. However, having the right nutrition can make a huge difference during treatment and recovery and boost your overall quality of life. Nutrition is a bit complex, so there’s no general approach to diet. Further research is needed, but for now, you’re better off sticking to healthy fats, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while striving to manage any side effects caused by your treatment.