6Nutrition and CLL by Janet Kipps, R.D.

Although no specific diet is indicated in the treatment of CLL, nutrition can play an important supportive role in the following ways:


There are a myriad veggies and fruits! Find the one you like and don’t be afraid to try something new!

with plenty of phytonutrients, which are protective nutrients found in foods of plant origin. Many studies suggest antioxidant, antiinflammatory, anticancer and cardioprotective components in deeply colored fruits, vegetables and wines, as well as in tea, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. The effect of green tea (EGCG) on CLL is being studied at the Mayo Clinic, with Phase II now in progress. A derivative of gossypol (from cottonseeds) and its effect on CLL continues to be studied here at UCSD.

SUPPORT YOUR IMMUNE FUNCTION and ability to resist infection by consuming adequate calories and protein, along with ample phytonutrients and food sources of zinc and vitamin C. Include a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement, especially if meals are inconsistent. If poor appetite is a challenge, try six small meals or a daily walk. Probiotics (good bacteria) found in yogurt may help support digestion and immune function. Attention to sanitary food preparation and thorough cooking methods can help prevent bacterial exposure.

SUPPORT YOUR RED CELLS by consuming vegetables, meat, legumes and grains. Folate, found in greens, beans and fortified cereals, is needed to make red cells—and can run low after several weeks of poor diet. Reserves are small, so an additional amount of folate is often prescribed to ensure adequate intake. Vitamin B12 is also important for red cells, and attention to B12 is especially important if vegetarian, or over the age of 50 when there can be absorption issues. The daily value may be obtained from foods of animal origin, fortified breakfast cereal or supplements; more than the daily value may be indicated. If you have had blood losses, foods such as meat, beans and fortified cereals are good sources of iron.

SIMPLIFY MEALS, enlisting help with shopping/chopping/cooking and cleanup. Enjoy convenience foods when you need to. Try six smaller meals if your appetite is poor. Enjoy simple recipes with few steps and motions, such as dropping several ingredients into a crockpot. The microwave can add food to your menu in minutes, and is a quick method for cooking such foods as fresh spinach, a baked sweet potato, frozen vegetables, etc.
Look for recurring patterns suggested by nutrition research when trying to understand what to eat. Much nutrition research is inconclusive and ongoing. Many nutritional supplements have drug interactions, and there is limited oversight of safety, or proof of efficacy in the multi-billion dollar nutrition supplement industry. Eating with cardiac health in mind (decreasing consumption of saturated fats/sodium, and enjoying such foods as fish, olive oil, red wine and foods of plant origin) as well as bone health (additional calcium and vitamin D may be recommended) are always important. Websites to help answer your nutrition questions include medlineplus, where supplements are rated according to available scientific evidence, and, for a schedule of nutrition lectures, as well as cooking classes in the Healing Foods Kitchen, Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

For cooking and nutrition classes, FREE through the Moores Cancer Center, click ” Eating Healthy at UCSD” for more information.

Leave a Reply