Nutrition therapy for leukemia
Many leukemia patients experience symptoms that may impact their nutrition intake and ability to tolerate treatment. Our dietitians are available to work with you and the other members of your care team, including your gastroenterologist and naturopathic clinician, throughout your treatment. Together, they may recommend supplements and other therapies to support optimal digestion and nutrition, and help you manage side effects.
For example, since vitamin D is important for leukemia patients, our dietitians may work with your doctor to have your vitamin D levels checked and may recommend supplements if needed.
For leukemia patients who undergo a stem cell transplant, nutrition may play an essential role in your care plan. After the transplant, your blood cell counts, including infection-fighting white blood cells, will likely drop, increasing your risk of infection. A strict adherence to food safety is important at this time. For a period of time following the transplant, your nutrition therapy plan may include a neutropenic diet. Diet recommendations may include avoiding raw/undercooked foods (e.g., meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables or unpeeled fruits) or unpasteurized dairy products.
Managing side effects of leukemia treatment
Leukemia treatments may cause side effects, such as weight loss, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, low blood counts and increased risk of infection. By providing proper nutrition for cancer patients, our nutrition therapy team strives to reduce the impact these side effects may have on your and help you avoid delays or interruptions in your treatment.
Our dietitians use a number of leukemia nutrition interventions to combat side effects like:
- Weight loss: Our dietitians may want to monitor you closely to determine whether you are maintaining a healthy weight, since weight loss may delay or interrupt your leukemia treatment.
- Fatigue: Our dietitians may recommend small, frequent meals and nutrient-dense foods to boost your energy levels.
- Nausea: Our dietitians may recommend a low-fat, bland diet of cold foods, ginger products, peppermint or sea bands to help combat nausea. An hour before treatment, they may suggest you eat a high-protein, bland meal.
- Anemia: Our dietitians may recommend iron and folic acid supplements to help boost your red blood cell count.
- Constipation: Our dietitians may recommend you increase your fiber intake and stay hydrated to help prevent or address constipation.
What is nutrition therapy?
Many cancer patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms. The nutrition therapy team works with our patients to help restore digestive health, prevent malnutrition and provide dietary recommendations during treatment. Our goal is to help you stay strong and nourished, so you can continue with your cancer treatment.
Every patient has the option of meeting with a registered dietitian. During this visit, one of our dietitians will give you a comprehensive nutritional assessment to identify daily goals for calories and protein. The dietitian will look at your health history, disease type and treatment plan to recommend nourishing foods during your cancer care.
The dietitian will monitor your nutrition status from the beginning to the end of your cancer treatment, making modifications as needed to help address side effects and prevent treatment interruptions before they arise.
Our dietitians communicate regularly with the oncologists and the other members of the patient's cancer team. Working together in close proximity allows for a fully integrated approach to treating cancer. Your dietitian is able to alert other members of your care team, such as your medical oncologist, to specific nutrition challenges you may be experiencing. Everyone works together to identify solutions designed to meet your individual needs.
We also provide information and classes about healthy eating habits to your caregivers and family members, so you can continue a healthy lifestyle at home.