Nutrition can make a huge difference in the outcomes of treatment of lymphoma (both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's) and the various forms of leukemia, including acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Diet is usually not enough to defeat the disease. You also need to work with a doctor who makes good choices among all the other treatments available for you. However, with the right nutrition, you can feel better for a longer time and you'll also achieve remission sooner and stay in remission longer. It's too much to say that nutrition "cures" lymphoma or leukemia, but it is extremely helpful.
What kind of diet makes a different in lymphoma, both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's?
- For all kinds of lymphoma, but especially for B-cell lymphoma, grilled foods seem to make the disease worse (and increase your chances of getting lymphoma if you do not have it already). Consumption of pizza has also been linked to higher rates of lymphoma.
- For classical Hodgkin's lymphoma, eating a high-meat diet results in 3 to 11 times greater risk after the age of 50. The effects of eating too much meat (a pound/450 grams a day or more) are cumulative.
- For all kinds of leukemia, a study in Taiwan found, drinking more tea reduces the risk of any type of the disease. Peking, oolong, and green tea were all helpful. "More" tea translated to 550 cups a year, which is more than one but not necessarily two cups of tea a day, of any kind. These benefits were significant only for adults, and did not improve the symptoms of leukemia in children. There was no benefit of drinking tea in children, possibly because children typically don't drink lots of tea.
- For chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in the United States has been running a test of green tea extract treatment for seven years. They use a relatively large dose of green tea extract, 2000 mg twice a day (4000 mg a day), which more than 10 times what you would get in a green tea diet supplement, and they use a very specific formulation of green tea extract called Polyphenon E. However, nearly 70 percent of participants in the clinical trial measurably improved after taking the product.
- For chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and blastic NK cell leukemia, a chemical called sulforaphane activates two anti-cancer genes called Bax and p53. Sulforphane is found in cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and turnips. The greatest amount of sulforaphane is found in raw, lightly steamed, or, oddly enough, microwaved cruciferous vegetables. Eating these vegetables reduces the risk of getting these forms of leukemia. Whether eating these vegetables treats leukemia is an open question, but it probably isn't necessarily to eat them in huge amounts. A serving a day should be enough.
- For chronic lymphocytic leukemia, vitamin D protects against (but does not absolutely always prevent) development of the disease. You can get vitamin D from sun exposure, but if you are overweight, it tends to accumulate in the fat underneath your skin rather than circulating throughout your body. If you are overweight, you may need either to get a strong, natural source of vitamin D like cod liver oil in your diet, or to take a supplement.
- For non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, vitamin E is preventive. People who get all of the eight forms of vitamin E in their diets tend to have lower rates of the disease. Because of the way grains are processed, North Americans tend to get more than enough of the form of vitamin E known as gamma-tocopherol, but Europeans do not. Many vitamin E supplements contain just one of the eight forms of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol. It's best to take a daily dose of a supplement (just 100 IU a day is enough) that contains multiple forms of vitamin E.
- People who eat cured meats (cold cuts, sausage, ham, or bacon) or smoked fish every day tend to have higher risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, due to the nitrates and nitrites in cured foods.
- Among people of African descent, dairy and cereal products have little effect on the risk of non-Hodkin's lymphoma, vegetables and fruit tend to protect against it, and meat and sweets tend to increase the risk dramatically. Meat and sweets are as big a risk factor for people who are not African descent.
- Beta-carotene (found in carrots), lutein (found in green leafy vegetables but best absorbed when they prepared with a least a little fat), zeaxanthin (found in yellow vegetables), and zinc (found in shellfish and nuts) in food lowers the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is best to get these nutrients from food and also to take a supplement. Do not take more than 30 mg of zinc a day on a long-term basis.
What about juicing and green foods powders used to make beverages? Some people actually do go into remission after trying them, and not just for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The most successful strategy, however, is to do both nutrition and traditional medicine, conferring with your doctor to make sure you are given the lowest dosage of toxic medications that can help your body defeat the disease.
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