Nutritious Food Choices When You Have Leukemia

Nutritious Food Choices When You Have Leukemia

Last update: 02 November, 2018

Leukemia is one of the most-feared cancers out there, but there are many kinds of treatments and therapies available today to fight it.

Leukemia is a cancer of the tissues that make up blood, including bone marrow and the lymphatic system. There are many varieties of this cancer. Some are more common in children and others in adults.

It usually affects white blood cells, which are powerful infection-fighters. Generally, they divide and grow in an orderly way, depending on what you body needs. However, in people with leukemia, bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells that do not work correctly.

Symptoms of leukemia

Leukemia symptoms vary by type, but the most common ones are the following:

  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness
  • Frequent or serious infections
  • Weight loss
  • Inflamed lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
  • Bruising and bleeding easily
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Small red spots on the skin
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Bone pain or sensitivity


Generally speaking, leukemia appears when the DNA of blood cells mutate. (DNA is the information found inside each cell that directs its function.) There may be other changes at the cellular level that are not fully understood yet but may trigger leukemia.

Abnormalities make the cell grow and divide more quickly. It will also live longer than normal cells. Over time, the abnormal cells may displace healthy bone marrow blood cells, which reduces healthy platelet, white blood cell, and red blood cell counts, causing leukemia symptoms.

Medical classification of leukemia

Neck pain in leukemia

Classification depends on the speed of development and types of cells involved. The first type focuses on the speed of development:

Acute leukemia

In acute leukemia, the abnormal blood cells are immature cells (blasts). They can’t do their job like they should and they multiply quickly. Therefore, the cancer gets worse very quickly as well. Acute leukemia requires early, aggressive treatment.

Chronic leukemia

There are many types of chronic leukemia. Some produce too many cells, and other too few. Chronic leukemia involves more mature blood cells. They replicate and accumulate very slowly, and may function normally for a time. Some forms of it have no symptoms at first, making it easy to miss for years.

Chronic leukemia can be categorized by the type of white blood cell affected:

  • Lymphocytic leukemia: affects lymphocytes that make up lymphatic tissue, part of the immune system.
  • Myelogenous leukemia: affects myeloid cells, which form red blood cells, white blood cells, and cells that produce platelets.

Nutritious food choices when you have leukemia

Your food choices when you have leukemia matter a lot. Here are some general guidelines:

Fiber-rich foods

  • Rice and whole grain bread
  • Oats
  • Beans of all types and colors
  • Corn
  • Lentils
  • Flax seed

These foods help your body speed up intestinal movement and remove any carcinogenic substances that may be in your digestive system, thus preventing them from being absorbed by your body.

Regular consumption of fruit

The most fiber-rich and antioxidant-packed fruits include:

  • Watermelon
  • Avocado
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Pomegranate
  • Grapes
  • Mangos
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges

As for avocado, it’s an excellent source of fiber as well as mono and polyunsaturated fat (good fat). It helps reduce your risk of heart disease and lowers your cholesterol.

In addition, for most fruit it’s best to consume the skin as well to get the most out of it.

Pomegranate is very highly recommended because of its citric acid (which has a disinfecting effect and also alkalizes your urine and enhances the power of vitamin C).

Must-have vegetables

Food choices when you have leukemia

Some of the best vegetables for cancer prevention are:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Tomatos
  • Eggplants

Lettuce and spinach also contain a lot of luteolin, a flavonoid that plays an important role in cancer prevention.

Cruciferous vegetales help protect cell DNA and deactivate carcinogens, among other things. Add these to your diet:

  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Leafy greens (radish, kale, rutabaga, turnips, wasabi, watercress)
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