What Is the Best Diet for CLL?

Medically Reviewed on 4/8/2021

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is cancer in which the bone marrow (spongy part of the bone) makes abnormal white cells (lymphocytes). According to recent research, the Mediterranean diet is considered the best diet for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is cancer in which the bone marrow (spongy part of the bone) makes abnormal white cells (lymphocytes). According to recent research, the Mediterranean diet is considered the best diet for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

According to recent research, the Mediterranean diet is considered the best diet for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Although this finding needs to be backed by robust scientific studies, healthy eating is always a good practice.

Patients with CLL may need more protein, antioxidants and fiber. They should consider a plant-based vegan diet. Patients may need to avoid coffee, red meat and sugar-based products. Minimize the intake of eggs. As per research, people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean sea live longer and are at low risk of cancer or cardiovascular ailments. Research also suggests that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern may help with improved weight loss, better control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and reduced risk of cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses on

  • Olive oil rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and other vegan oils
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fish (at least a couple of times a week)
  • Chicken
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Flavorful herbs and spices
  • Occasional poultry, eggs, red meat and a glass of wine
  • Cheese and yogurt in moderation

Below are a few tips to follow the Mediterranean diet

  • Switch to olive oil: Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that may improve high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or the good type of cholesterol. HDL cholesterol removes bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles out of the arteries. Olive oil may also be used in homemade salad dressings and finished dishes such as fish or chicken to boost flavor.
  • Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel supply good protein and are rich in heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Vegetables: A good way to eat veggies is to eat one serving at snack time, such as crunching on bell pepper strips or throwing a handful of spinach into a smoothie and one at dinner. Aim for at least two servings per day. More is better. At least three servings can help reduce stress.
  • Whole grains: A hot bowl of oatmeal is perfect for breakfast. Popcorn is a whole grain, but eat it without butter. Supplement intake with other whole-grain products such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, which are beneficial.
  • Nuts: Almonds, cashews or pistachios can make for a satisfying snack. They are lower in calories, added sugar and sodium. They contain more fiber and minerals, such as potassium, than processed snack foods.
  • Fruits as dessert: They are a good source of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. Reach for fresh fruit if you want to indulge your sweet tooth.  They are healthy snacks if you are hungry.

What is CLL?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is cancer in which the bone marrow (spongy part of the bone) makes abnormal white cells (lymphocytes). There are two types of lymphocytes: B and T lymphocytes. These white blood cells are an important part of the immune system. They help fight infection. More than 90 percent of CLL cases affect the B cells. CLL may affect the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Because CLL develops slowly, many people don’t have any symptoms. Possible symptoms may include

  • Anemia, due to a lack of sufficient red blood cells causes persistent tiredness, dizziness, paleness or shortness of breath when physically active.
  • Increased or unexplained bleeding or bruising and/or the appearance of red or purple flat pinhead-sized purple spots on the skin, especially on the legs initially, due to a very low platelet count.
  • Frequent or repeated infections and slow healing, due to a lack of normal white blood cells.
  • Pain or discomfort under the ribs on the left side, due to an enlarged spleen.
  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) in the neck, underarms or groin, which is usually a result of lymphocytes accumulating in these tissues.
  • Excessive sweating at night.
  • Unintentional weight loss.

Treatment options: Five types of standard treatment are used

  1. Watchful waiting: This is also called observation. During this time, the doctor treats problems caused by the disease such as infection.
  2. Radiation therapy: This is the use of high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
  3. Chemotherapy: This uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
  4. Surgery: Splenectomy is the surgery to remove the spleen, which is usually recommended for CLL.
  5. Targeted therapy: This uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

  • Chemotherapy with stem cell transplant: This is a method of giving chemotherapy and replacing the blood-forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or donor and are frozen and stored. After chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These re-infused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body’s blood cells.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or biologic therapy.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/8/2021
References
Medscape Medical Reference

CLL Society