World Leukemia Day 2022: Diet tips for leukemia patients to aid recovery
World Leukemia Day 2022: People with leukemia have a very poor diet mainly because of side-effects from the treatment. Here are some nutrition tips by a dietician.
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer where body's blood forming cells or tissues are affected including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Leukemia can affect people of all age groups; while some types are common in children others affect mostly elderly and young too. The therapy for leukemia differs from patient to patient and depending upon the side-effects, the diet for leukemia patients can be designed in consultation with a dietician. Symptoms of leukemia differ depending on its type but some of the common ones are fever, chills, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, easy bleeding or bruising, nosebleeds, excessive sweating, bone pain among others. (Also read: What is leukemia and why it happens; warning signs to watch out for)
People with leukemia have a very poor diet mainly because of side-effects from the treatment. It is important to include a variety of fluids in their diet to compensate for electrolyte loss while nutrient dense foods are suggested for those who have lost a lot of weight. It is advised to eat lot of colourful veggies and fruits when suffering from leukemia as it helps supply the body with essential antioxidants.
"We need to look at a holistic approach while considering diet for leukemia patients. Such patients have a very poor appetite. More so because their treatment is so intense that they undergo cycles of chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies. There are likely to have side effects," says Dr Varsha Gorey, Senior Clinical Dietitian, HOD, Dietetics Departments, Apollo Hospitals Navi Mumbai in a telephonic conversation with HT Digital.
NEED FOR HYDRATION
First and foremost, hydration is the most important aspect in nutrition for cancer patients. Liquid foods are most helpful.
"The cells of leukemia patients are dehydrated and need a lot of nourishment. We can ensure good hydration through as simple as coconut water, lime water, watermelon, dal soups, chicken broth. We should provide food in form of fluids so as to fulfill the electrolytes requirement," says Dr Gorey.
Cancer patients also have side effects in form of digestive issues like constipation. One can provide probiotics. It is to be noted that many people overuse laxatives for constipation but reliance on laxatives is not good as they lead to decreased absorption of vitamins and minerals, as per Dr Gorey. She instead suggests a diet hat is fibre-rich.
CAUTION DURING NEUTROPENIC DIET
Patients undergoing chemotherapy are prescribed neutropenic diet which is a diet for weakened immune system and many foods items are prohibited like raw foods such as fruits and vegetables so that the chances of infection can be greatly reduced. Even dairy, fresh fruit juices, eggs, meats, nuts are avoided in this diet.
"Raw chutney or mayonnaise (may contain raw eggs) must be avoided in neutropenic diet. Almond milk, soya milk, peanut butter, coconut milk can be considered as alternate foods sources rich in fats and protein," says the dietician.
COLOURFUL VEGGIES AND FRUITS
Dr Gorey says a lot of colourful fruits and veggies should be added to the diet of leukemia patients as they help provide various antioxidants in many forms. Vitamin C and E are very important. It is important to provide a balanced diet to the patient and calorie-dense foods must be added for people who have lost weight during treatment. Whole banana, sweet potato, are good snacks for cancer patients.
The expert says diet should be tailormade specifically for the patient depending on the therapy they are taking and how much they are eating.