Good food can help you feel stronger and healthier when you’re undergoing cancer treatment. Whether you’re currently going through treatment, or have just finished up, implementing the right diet will help build your immune system.
Let’s take a closer look at what foods to include in your leukemia diet and which leukemia foods to avoid. Remember — when you’re putting the right things into your body, your body will thank you!
Leukemia: An Overview
Before we dive into ideas for your leukemia diet, let’s discuss a brief overview of this type of cancer. Many patients want to know answers to questions like what causes leukemia, how is leukemia diagnosed, and what are early signs of leukemia.
Leukemia is a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. This includes bone marrow and the lymphatic system as well. There are many different types of leukemia. These are the four main types of leukemia:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Some are found more commonly in children while others are mostly diagnosed in adults. Symptoms vary depending on the type of leukemia, but sometimes include fever or chills, persistent fatigue, easy bleeding or bruising, as well as petechiae. If you’re wondering what do leukemia spots look like, petechiae are tiny red dots found on the skin (often in a cluster). 2
If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic or acute leukemia, or are in recovery, a wholesome diet filled with foods that fight leukemia is key.
Fruits and Vegetables
Like any healthy diet, a leukemia diet should include a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Add fruit to a whole-grain cereal, make an afternoon smoothie, or enjoy a bowl of berries for dessert.
Whole grains are chock-full of nutrients. They’re also a versatile ingredient that can be added to a wide range of dishes or eaten on their own. Brown rice, quinoa, oats, bulgar, and buckwheat are all wonderful things to implement into your leukemia diet.
Protein helps keep the body strong and it can be found in a wide range of food items. Poultry or lean meats are a good place to start. If too much flavor doesn’t appeal to you, try eating your protein plain or adding it to soup. You can also go for nuts (or nut butter), seeds, and eggs.
Probiotics give your stomach healthy bacteria and help your body to better handle food. You can find probiotics in things like yogurt and kefir, which are also easy to eat or drink if you’re not feeling up to indulging in a big meal. 1
Make sure you’re getting enough fluid in your daily routine. For healthy people, and people who are battling diseases, staying hydrated is crucial for many reasons. It regulates body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, and keeps your organs functioning. It also prevents infections and delivers nutrients to your normal blood cells. It can improve your sleep quality and your mood, too. Consult with your healthcare practitioner about creative ideas that will help with hydration — like slices of cucumber or lemon. 2
Leukemia Foods to Avoid
When it comes to leukemia foods to avoid during treatment, it’s important to eliminate foods that might cause food poisoning. These include cold hot dogs and cold deli lunch meat, dry-cured uncooked salami, raw milk products, raw or undercooked beef and shellfish, unpasteurized fruit juice, and undercooked eggs. 3
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to implementing foods that fight leukemia, it’s also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition, when combined with positive lifestyle choices, will make you feel better and stronger overall.
For adults, aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This will ensure you wake up rested and ready for the day ahead.
Life can be stressful, especially when you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis. As part of your healthy diet and wellness routine, you must find ways to manage your stress. This is different for everyone; for some of us, this means finding time to read a good book, go for a leisurely walk, or make a cup of afternoon tea.
Similar to finding the right foods that fight leukemia, finding the right exercise is important, too. Depending on your energy level, your desire to exercise might fluctuate from day-to-day. On a warm summer day, a slow swim might feel good — on other days, stretching and yoga may do the trick.
The key to your leukemia diet and wellness plan is to find your own unique routine. Talk to your doctor about what does leukemia pain feel like for you, and find a regiment to help you heal from the inside out.
Remember, food is medicine, too.
Immunity Therapy Center is a holistic cancer treatment facility focused on alternative therapies. We focus on methods for each patient that are not as harsh as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other traditional cancer treatment.
If you have any other questions about acute or chronic leukemia — like what are the symptoms of end stage leukemia or how can you test for leukemia at home, feel free to contact the ITC team. We’re always here to help.
Written By: Dr. David Alvarez
Dr. David Alvarez is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Xochicalco and Certified by the American Heart Association (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support).
Dr. Alvarez has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista as an Assistant Medical Director at the Immunity Therapy Center for over 6 years. He provides daily on site patient care and participates on the medical board on research and development of patient treatment plans and programs. Dr. Alvarez is a knowledgeable and compassionate Doctor committed to helping patients get to where they want to be health wise through a more holistic and comprehensive approach.
- Suszynski, Marie. “Cooking and Eating to Fight Leukemia.” everydayhealth.com, January 4, 2011, https://www.everydayhealth.com/leukemia/cooking-and-eating-to-fight-leukemia.aspx. Accessed May 29, 2020.
- “The Importance of Hydration.” hsph.harvard.edu, (no publish date), https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-importance-of-hydration/. Accessed May 29, 2020.
- Bauer, Amber. “Foods to Avoid During Cancer Treatment.” cancer.net, April 24, 2014, https://www.cancer.net/blog/2014-04/foods-avoid-during-cancer-treatment. Accessed May 29, 2020.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.