Nutrition therapy for leukemia
Many leukemia patients experience symptoms that can impact their nutrition intake and ability to tolerate treatment. Your dietitian will work closely with the other members of your care team, including your gastroenterologist and naturopathic clinician, throughout your treatment. Together, they will 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, your dietitian may work with your doctor to have your Vitamin D levels checked and may recommend supplementation with Vitamin D if needed.
For leukemia patients who undergo a stem cell transplant, nutrition plays an essential role. After the transplant, your blood cell counts, including infection-fighting white blood cells, will be lower, making you more susceptible to 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 can 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, we can minimize these side effects and avoid delays or interruptions in your treatment.
Your dietitian may use the following leukemia nutrition interventions to combat side effects throughout your treatment:
- Weight loss: Your dietitian will monitor you closely to ensure you are maintaining a healthy weight, since weight loss can delay or interrupt your leukemia treatment.
- Fatigue: Your dietitian may recommend small, frequent meals and nutrient-dense foods to give you more energy.
- Nausea: Your dietitian may recommend a low-fat, bland diet of cold foods, ginger products, peppermint or sea bands to combat nausea. An hour before treatment, he/she may suggest you eat a high-protein, bland meal.
- Anemia: Your dietitian may recommend iron and folic acid supplements to boost your red blood cell count.
- Low blood counts: Your dietitian may recommend a well-balanced, protein-rich diet to help your blood counts return to a safe level.
- Constipation: Your dietitian may recommend you increase your fiber intake and stay hydrated to relieve constipation.
What is nutrition therapy?
Many cancer patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms. The Nutrition Therapy team helps 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 is scheduled to meet with a registered dietitian during the first visit to CTCA. During this visit, you are given a full assessment to identify daily goals for calories and protein. Your dietitian will look at your health history, disease type and treatment plan to recommend nourishing foods during your cancer care.
Your dietitian will monitor your nutrition status from the beginning to the end of your cancer treatment, making modifications as needed to minimize side effects and treatment interruptions before they arise.
Your dietitian communicates regularly with your oncologists and the other members of your cancer team. Working together in close proximity allows for a fully integrated approach to treating cancer. Your dietitian is able to share any specific nutrition challenges with other members of your care team, such as your oncologist. Everyone works together to find solutions that 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.
Video: Nutrition Therapy at CTCALearn about the goals of our nutrition therapy program at CTCA, as well as how nutrition therapy is personalized and integrated into our patients’ cancer treatment plans.