Diet for blood cancer (leukemia) patients

Diet for blood cancer patients – this contains list of food to eat to help fight leukemia and foods to avoid that increases symptoms.

Leukemia, also known as blood cancer is a type of cancer that results in the body making too many abnormal white blood cells. Leukemia begins in the bone marrow where white blood cells are produced and where all the blood-forming cells reside.

White blood cells are a vital part of your immune system. They protect your body from invasion by bacteria, viruses, and fungi, as well as from abnormal cells and other foreign substances.


This uncontrolled production of abnormal white blood cells results in an excessive amount of white blood cells that may be immature (acute leukemia) or mature (chronic leukemia. The leukemic cells may not function well to fight infection and may interfere with the production of red blood cells and platelets. Without healthy and functioning white blood cells, the body is at risk of developing severe and sometimes fatal infections. The presence of these abnormal white blood cells crowds out and prevents normal blood-forming cells to do their jobs. Normal blood cells die after a while and are replaced by new ones which are produced in the bone marrow, but the abnormal white blood cells do not die so easily and accumulate occupying more and more space, causing less and less space for the normal white blood cells to grow. This makes the sufferer becomes ill. That is to say, the bad white blood cells crowd out the good white blood cells.

Diet for blood cancer patients

Types of leukemia

Leukemia is divided into two groups which are acute and chronic leukemia, and under these two groups, there are four types of leukemia according to the type of cells.

  • Acute leukemia: this develops within days to weeks and a large number of immature cells build up. These cells can’t function as well as normal white blood cells, so people with acute leukemia are at a higher risk of infection because the body is so busy producing immature cells.
  • Chronic leukemia: this progresses over the course of months to years, which involves overproduction of mature white blood cells that cannot function like normal white blood cells.

Leukemia is classified into four according to the type of cells. They include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): this is the most common form of leukemia in children. This is as a result of an uncontrolled production of lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell. Production of lymphocytes causes a buildup of immature forms. The high numbers also interfere with the production of red blood cells and platelets
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): this occurs mostly in people over the age of 55 and it is the most common type of leukemia. It occurs about twice as often in men as in women. It develops at a slower rate than ALL. Gradually, the leukemic cells outnumber the normal functioning cells in certain tissues in the body, including the bone marrow where other white blood cells are made.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): this causes the uncontrolled production of another type of white blood cells called myelocytes, and this causes an overgrowth of their immature cells called myeloblasts. This interferes with the levels of functioning red blood cells, platelets, and normal white blood cells. It is the most common form of acute leukemia in adults.
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): this occurs more slowly than AML and has less effect on the development of other cell types. The chances of getting CML are very low for children but increases with age.

Symptoms of leukemia

  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Frequent infection
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Red spots on the skin
  • Abnormal bruising or excessive bleeding
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Pain in the bone and joint
  • Headaches
  • Visual changes
  • Abdominal discomforts
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness

Causes of leukemia

  • Down or low syndrome
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Smoking
  • Benzene and some petrochemicals
  • Hair dyes
  • Blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome which is sometimes called preleukemia
  • Maternal-fetal transmission (rare)
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation
  • Viruses such as HTLV-1 (human T-lymphotropic virus) and HIV
  • Alkylating chemotherapy agents used in previous cancers

Diet for blood cancer patients

  • Fruits and vegetables properly washed before consumption. Eat 10 fruits and vegetables a day
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, cereal, and quinoa
  • Protein like fish, lean meats (chicken), nuts and seeds, eggs

Note: eat every two to four hours because people with leukemia tend to lose weight due to loss of appetite and nausea, but it is very important to maintain a healthy weight to stay strong. Eat a healthy diet, get exercised, manage stress, and get enough sleep.

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Foods to avoid

  • Wheat (gluten)
  • Dairy products
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Food additives
  • Fried foods
  • Refined foods such as white bread, pasta, white rice, and sugar
  • Trans fatty acids which are commonly found in processed foods
  • Coffee
  • Tobacco, alcohol, and other stimulants

While this diet for blood cancer patients helps you fight the disease, it does not stop the need for you to see your doctor.

Diet for blood cancer patients

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